Authors: Judy Cox
He dived at Peepers and caught him. He settled the still angry rooster under his arm and carried him home.
Dad stood on the front steps. “What's going on?” he asked. “I heard noise.” His eyes widened when he saw Peepers. “She's a rooster!” he exclaimed. Then he looked at Daniel. “Son,” he said. “We need to talk.”
Miss Clay had called the police to complain. After the police left, Dad had a long talk with the Secret Chicken Society. Even Tyler.
“It was wrong of you to try to keep Peepers a secret,” Dad told them.
“We're sorry,” said Daniel. “Are we grounded?”
“I think this is punishment enough,” said Dad. He put his hand on Daniel's shoulder. “The police have given us just fourteen days to find another home for Peepers.”
Daniel tried to talk his parents into letting him keep the banty rooster. But it was no use.
“We can't break the law,” said Dad. Daniel thought he looked a little bit sad.
“Besides,” said Mom kindly, “this isn't the best place for a rooster. He needs a new home.”
Daniel put posters up around town:
He called friends and relatives. He advertised in the newspaper. He even called Mrs. Lopez. Maybe she'd like to have Peepers for her classroom in the fall. But no one wanted a rooster.
All too soon the fourteen days were up. The whole family watched as the two officers pulled up in the police car. The tall one got out, carrying a wire cage.
, thought Daniel.
. His throat tightened.
He felt Dad's hand on his shoulder. “Do you want to get him? Or do you want me to?” he asked.
“I'll do it,” said Daniel.
Emmy held Mom's hand. She was crying. Kelsey's face was red. She cried, too. Even Tyler had nothing snarky to say.
The whole family and the policemen followed Daniel out back to the chicken coop.
Peepers scratched the dirt, looking for bugs. He cocked one eye at Daniel, and went back to scratching. He clearly had no idea what was coming.
Daniel sat down next to him in the dirt. He stroked his golden brown feathers. “I'll miss you,” he said. Tears pricked his eyes. His vision blurred behind his glasses. He blinked. And saw Poison, a few feet away. Hiding in the bushes. Twitching his tail. Daniel's pent-up feelings burst loose.
“STUPID CAT!” he yelled, jumping up and waving his arms. “GET OUT OF HERE!”
Poison hissed. He sped under the fence. Daniel turned back to Peepers. “Well, this ought to make Mr. Gruffalo happy, anyhow,” he grumbled. He picked up his rooster. He wished Mrs. Grafalo could say good-bye. At least she liked roosters.
“Wait a minute!” he yelled. He turned to the policemen. “Can I make one phone call?”
They looked at each other. “Please?” Daniel pleaded. “Even the bad guys on TV get one phone call.” The stout officer shrugged.
Daniel put Peepers back into the chicken run. He grabbed Mom's hand and pulled her into the house.
That afternoon the whole family went to Willowdale Care Center. Soft music still played. It still smelled like boiled cabbage and cleaning stuff.
Mom and Dad brought blackberries from the garden. Emmy brought more wildflowers. Kelsey brought banana bread. Tyler just brought himself.
Mr. Grafalo was there, too. He stood behind Mrs. G.'s wheelchair. He'd brought a cake for Mrs. G.'s birthday. He looked surprised to see Daniel carrying Peepers. He started to frown, but Mrs. G. held out her arms. Daniel handed Peepers to her. She cuddled the rooster. He fluffed his feathers. He sat in her lap just like a little dog.
“You brought the rooster!” said Mrs. G. She stroked his feathers.
“I talked to Ms. Benton this morning,” Daniel told her. “She said Peepers can live here now. She said it
would be good for all of the people at Willowdale to have a pet rooster to care for and love.”
Mrs. G. set Peepers on the floor. The other residents came over to see. Peepers strutted around like he owned the place. He puffed out his chest. He fluffed his feathers. He did his funny little shuffle.
“He's doing the chicken dance!” said Mrs. G. Her eyes crinkled with laughter.
Peepers pranced over to Mr. Grafalo. He tugged on Mr. G.'s shoelace, and everyone laughed.
“He thinks it's a worm!” laughed Mrs. G. “Thank you for bringing him!” she said to Daniel.
“You get to keep Peepers here,” said Daniel. He looked warily at Mr. Grafalo. What would he say? Would he say roosters belong in stew pots? But Mr. Grafalo wasn't looking at Daniel. He was watching Mrs. G.
DANIEL'S EGG JOURNAL
Do you know which came firstâthe chicken or the egg? Neither do I, but in Mrs. Lopez's class, the eggs came first.
Here's how to hatch eggs:
You need eggs and you need an incubator. Mrs. Lopez strongly recommends buying one that turns the eggs automatically. Then you don't have to go to school on the weekends and do it. If you don't get an incubator with an automatic turner, mark an X on one side of the egg and an O on the other so you can turn them properly. You must turn the eggs side to side, not end to end. Keep the small end pointed the same way every time. Do not turn the eggs after day eighteen. Set up the incubator one week before the eggs arrive. Follow the incubator instructions to set the temperature and humidity.
You can't hatch eggs from the grocery store, because they aren't fertile. You must buy fertile eggs from a science supply company like Carolina Biological Supply (
) or a local farm store. You can choose eggs of all one breed of chicken or mixed breeds like we did. Be careful with the eggs when they arrive. Eggs with cracked shells will not hatch.
Put the eggs in the incubator as soon as they come. It takes twenty-one days for chicken eggs to hatch. Check the temperature and humidity twice a day and record them in your egg journal.
After eight to twelve days of incubation, you can “candle” the eggs to see the embryo. Hold the egg up to a flashlight or projector light. At first it just looks like a dark spot, but later you will see the heart beat. Cool!
The eggs will start to hatch in twenty-one days. You will hear a little tapping noise and see the egg rocking back and forth. Then the beak pokes out. This is called pipping. Lower the
incubator temperature to 95 degrees. Lift the lid occasionally to let moisture out so the chicks can dry.
A brooder is a structure for keeping chicks safe and warm. You can buy one, or make one out of a cardboard box. Move chicks to the brooder as soon as they are dry. The brooder should have a heat lamp. Cover the floor with straw or moss. The chicks don't need any food or water for a while, and then you can put in food trays and a water dish.
Giving the chicks a good home.
Plan for where the chicks will live after the three weeks are up. They must not ever be released into the wild. A good home provides shelter, food, water, fresh air, exercise, and protection from predators. Never neglect, abuse, or abandon any animal.
Vocabulary Words You Need to Know:
Albumenâthe white part inside the egg
Embryoâthe unborn chick
Membraneâthe thin covering inside the eggshell
Pippingâwhen the chick's beak pokes through the shell
Yolkâthe yellow part inside the egg