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DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines police responding to complaints about a stench coming from a south side house found something unexpected: 55 chickens living at the vacant home.

Neighbor Rochelle Smith says it was unbearable. “Very very stinky. Just, you know, I got dogs but I keep them..keep it cleaned up. And the wind on the wrong day it was bad. It was very bad.”

The chickens were seized by the Animal Rescue League. About half were found inside the house in 75 gallon glass tanks. The couple who owns the house run a business called “Sovereign Farmstead,” and, according to their website, sell chickens and pigs out of the East Kenyon street home. The couple tells police they moved out about two weeks ago, taking the pigs but leaving the chickens behind.

Carrie Spain with the ARL says the birds were in rough shape. “They were dirty. Matted with dirt. Very very hungry. Pretty scared. Very skittish,” Spain said.”They were lacking the natural instincts they have for being outside and scratching around in the dirt and sitting on perches and chicken things.”

Police investigated this as a case of animal neglect, but it’s not clear whether the couple was charged.