A Mangonui family are struggling to understand why anyone would kill a child's pet chicken, and leave its body hanging from their gate.

Cherie Tatai said Cheeka had been part of the family, and her 8-year-old son Tohe's best mate for more than three years. She had a pen, but preferred to live in a tree next to the deck.

Very much a free-range chicken, she had been well known in the area, and would occasionally invite herself into a neighbour's house and take a seat on the couch in front of the TV. When she went missing one night she was found to have had a sleep-over in a child's bedroom down the road.

That all came to an end on Sunday morning, when Ms Tatai went to feed the pets and found Cheeka hanging lifeless from the gate. She bundled Tohe inside and went to investigate, finding that a chain had been wrapped tightly around the bird's neck.

Advertisement

"She was a well-loved chook. For someone to do such a cruel thing, I just can't understand it," she said.

Tohe was upset, she added, and had had "a few cries."

The incident has been reported to the police, and Constable Tim Murdock, at the Mangonui station (phone (09) 406-2060) would be grateful to hear from anyone who has any information.