BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) -- It could be a case of foul play for three chickens that travel the country's state-fair circuit playing tic-tac-toe against humans at 25 cents a game.
Tic, Tac and Toe -- ``educated poultry'' whose owners say have never been beaten by a human -- have been missing for a week and a half after they were apparently removed from their cages at the Pennsylvania Fair in suburban Philadelphia.
``We haven't seen so much as a feather of them,'' says owner and trainer Steve Boger, who also trains racing pigs and helps run the family's traveling 150-animal petting zoo.
The chickens draw long lines of visitors who want to face off with a chicken over tic-tac-toe. The chicken always starts the game. Boger won't reveal the secret to training tic-tac-toe birds, though he says it takes several months and includes a special diet.
``I've seen a chicken beat somebody 25 games in a row,'' Boger says. ``If chickens can laugh, they really think this is funny.''
The second-string replacement chickens have an equally perfect record as their missing predecessors -- no losses, though sometimes they tie -- but apparently are slightly slower.
``I can't say they're not as good, since I can't even tie them,'' says fair spokeswoman Carole Morganti. ``They are just not as fast. My 12-year-old daughter has tied them.''
The Bogers, who have a farm in Springdale, Ark., travel to fairs with their animals about 10 months out of the year. At last year's Pennsylvania Fair, the Bogers lost a piglet, but it was returned to the local humane society a few days later.
Since the three light-brown chickens disappeared, the fair has received more than a dozen calls with tips and chicken sightings, Morganti says. Among them was a person reporting that her neighbor had a suspicious number of chickens in his back yard and a high school where several chickens were released in the hall as a prank.
``I don't know why chickens are all of sudden running around the area,'' Morganti says. ``Evidently there are chickens all over and I just never heard about it.''
Boger has urged the community to search for chickens reading the newspaper -- ``They're pretty smart,'' he says -- or playing games.
Asked if the intelligent fowl could have opened the cages themselves and made a run for it, Boger is doubtful:
``They're not Houdini,'' Boger says, ``they're just Tic, Tac, Toe.''