Authors: Judy Cox
He pointed to Peepers. She looked pleased with herself. “Peepers. She isn't a hen. SheâI mean
âis a rooster. We should have known. That's why sheâI mean
âhas a bigger comb. That's why sheâI mean
âbosses all the other chickens. That's why sheâI mean
âis starting to crow. Peepers is a rooster!”
Peepers cocked his head at them, as if to say
I've got it now, fellows!
He stretched out his neck again. And crowed and crowed and crowed.
“This is terrible!” said Daniel as he watched Peepers crow.
“Why?” asked Kelsey. “Now we can have baby chicks.”
“Roosters are illegal. If Mr. Gruffalo finds out, he'll call the police.”
“Will they lock Peepers in jail?” asked Emmy. Her eyes were big.
“Worse,” said Daniel. “We've got to save him. Protect him!”
“I know! We can disguise him!” said Kelsey.
“Put a pink bow on him. Then everyone will think he's a girl chicken,” said Emmy.
“We need a chicken club.” Kelsey sat up. The
hens scratched for worms in the dirt. Peepers stood on top of the henhouse. Alert and tall. Watching for danger.
“A club? You and your old clubs.” Daniel put his arms around his knees and laid his head against them. “We've got real problems. Big problems. If the neighbors complain, the police will take Peepers away. What could a club do?”
“Keep Peepers a secret,” said Kelsey. “A secret club. For keeping secrets.”
“I want to be in the club, too,” said Emmy. Daniel stood up so suddenly the tree house rocked. “Wait a minute. That might work.” He chewed his lip in thought. “But not a secret
! A secret
! The Secret Chicken Society.”
“With passwords and secret handshakes and maybe a secret code,” said Kelsey, pleased.
Daniel nodded. The Secret Chicken Society. Mission: To keep Peepers a secret. So nobody would find out that he was a rooster. So nobody could take him away.
“We have to take an oath. A secret oath. A double secret oath. A blood vow!” said Daniel.
“We can't use blood anymore. Mom said,” Kelsey reminded him.
“A spit promise, then.”
“Eww,” said Emmy. “I'm not doing blood or spit. That's gross.”
“Okay, okay,” said Daniel. “A pinkie swear.”
“No swearing,” said Kelsey. “Mom said.”
Daniel sighed. It was hard to take a double secret oath without blood or spit or swearing. “Okay. A pinkie promise.”
Kelsey nodded. She held out her hand and hooked pinkie fingers with Daniel. “Repeat after me,” said Daniel. “I solemnly swearÂ .Â .Â .”
,” Kelsey said.
Daniel started over. “I solemnly
Â .Â .Â .”
“Wait! Wait!” yelled Emmy from beneath the tree. “I want to be a secret chicken, too.”
Daniel sighed again. He and Kelsey climbed down. Daniel and Kelsey hooked pinkies. Emmy slid her little finger on top of theirs.
“Repeat after me,” Daniel began again. “I solemnly swearÂ .Â .Â .”
said Kelsey and Emmy together.
Â .Â .Â .”
“Hey!” said Tyler. He came out the back door. His hair was rumpled. He bit into an apple. “What'cha doing? A pinkie swear?”
!” yelled Daniel, Kelsey, and Emmy.
Daniel and Kelsey traded glances. “We'll have to tell him. He'll find out soon enough.”
Daniel gave Tyler a stern look. “Okay, but you have to promise not to tell.”
So Daniel explained, with help from Kelsey. About Peepers being a rooster. About Mr. Grafalo threatening to call the police. About the Secret Chicken Society, dedicated to keeping Peepers a secret.
Tyler shook his head when they were done. “This will never work,” he said.
“Well, you don't have to be in the Secret Chicken Society if you don't want to help,” said Daniel. “But you still can't tell.”
Tyler hooked his pinkie with Daniel's and Kelsey's. Emmy put hers on top again. They swore
to keep Peepers a secret. But how?
Over the next few days, the Secret Chicken Society tried to carry out its mission: Keep the rooster a secret. Daniel kept track of their attempts in the back of his egg journal.
Attempt #1: Hide Peepers
First, Daniel locked Peepers in the chicken coop. He put food and water inside. He hoped no one would notice Peepers wasn't outside. But after breakfast, Dad came back from watering the garden. “Don't we have five chickens?” he asked. “I only see four. Is one missing? Better find her, Daniel. We don't want them loose in Mr. Grafalo's garden again.”
Luckily, Dad didn't hear Peepers' happy crow when Daniel let him out of the coop.
2: Keep Peepers Quiet
Daniel woke up early the next morning.
Pale gray light shone through his curtains. He put on his glasses and peered at his alarm clock. It was only 4:30
.! He groaned.
Daniel slipped out of the house. The grass felt cool and damp under his bare feet. He opened the wire gate to the chicken run. The chickens were all asleep inside the Hen Hotel. Daniel could hear their soft clucks.
Peepers crowed again. “Shhh!” hissed Daniel. He opened the door to the coop. He just wanted to tell Peepers to be quiet. A shaft of sunlight lit up the inside of the coop.
As soon as the door opened, the henhouse exploded with noise. What a ruckus! All the hens squawked. They flapped their wings. Maybe they thought they were under attack.
Foxes! Coyotes! Wolves!
they seemed to say.
Cats! Run for your lives!
Peepers protected his hens bravely. He flew down from his roost and danced around, pecking Daniel's bare toes.
“Ouch! Stop! It's just me!” Daniel yelled. He retreated and slammed the door.
“Daniel! What on earth?” Mom stood at the back door in her bathrobe. “What are you doing? Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Sorry, Mom. I thought I heard something.” Daniel didn't add that he'd heard his rooster crow.
3: Stop Peepers from Crowing
Next, Daniel tried putting a muzzle on Peepers. He'd read about that on the Internet. “It isn't really a muzzle,” he told the members of the Secret Chicken Society (except for Tyler, who had baseball practice). “It's more like a harness. A rooster can't crow if he can't stretch his neck. This cloth holds his head down a little bit.”
“Will it hurt?” asked Emmy.
Daniel shook his head. “I don't think so. And he can breathe and drink and eat just like usual.”
Emmy and Kelsey watched Daniel struggle to get the cloth on Peepers. The rooster flapped his wings. He squawked. He didn't want to wear a muzzle. Finally Daniel gave up. “It didn't work in the video, either,” he said sadly.
4: Put Peepers in the Dark
The next day Daniel did some more research. “I've got it!” he told Kelsey and Emmy. “Roosters crow only in daylight. So if we can keep Peepers in the dark, he won't crow.”
Kelsey made a face. “We can't keep him in the dark all the time,” she pointed out. “It would be cruel.”
“I'll let him out at eight o'clock every morning,” said Daniel. “There'll be other noises by then. Cars. Lawn mowers. Stuff like that. No one will hear him.”
He explained that they would put Peepers in a box every night. Daniel would hide the box in the storage cupboard in the garage.
“There's plenty of air in there, but it's dark. So he won't crow.”
At dusk Peepers and the hens headed to the coop to roost, just as they did every evening.
The Secret Chicken Society hid in the bushes to watch. Daniel parted the bushes. Kelsey leaned against him. She peered over his shoulder. Emmy lay flat on the ground. She looked out between Daniel's feet. (Tyler was at the skate park with friends.)
The hens went up the ramp to the henhouse. First came Primrose, the white silkie. Her topknot bobbed up and down. Violet waddled behind her. Next was Twinkie, the tall leghorn. She clucked softly as she went inside, as if to say good night. Last in line was T-Rex. She was a Plymouth Rock hen. Her black-and-white feathers reminded Daniel of the chickens on Dad's kitchen towels.
Peepers stood guard. He was a bantam rooster, smaller than all his hens. It was clear that he was the
boss. He waited until every hen was safe inside. Then he started up the ramp.
Daniel pounced. He grabbed Peepers. Kelsey opened the box. But Peepers had other ideas. He must have sensed something was wrong. Usually he let Daniel pick him up. But tonight he squawked and flapped and pecked.
“Ow!” yelled Daniel, dropping the rooster.
“Grab him!” yelled Emmy. Kelsey reached for Peepers, but he raced away.
“Gosh,” said Emmy. “He runs fastâfor a chicken.”
Daniel and Kelsey raced after him, but the rooster was too quick. Finally, with a pleased squawk, he flew into the tree. He perched on a high branch.
“Great,” said Daniel. “What do we do now?”
“Climb the tree,” said Kelsey.
Daniel sighed and started up the tree. But every time he got within reach, Peepers flew higher. Finally Daniel was on the same level as Peepers. “Come here,” he whispered. “Come on. Come to Daniel. Pretty Peepers. Nice chicken.”
Peepers cocked his head. He eyed Daniel suspiciously. His red comb flopped over to one side. He edged away. Daniel stretched out his hand, but he couldn't quite reach.
It was nearly dark. Daniel could see Peepers in the twilight. He looked quite pleased with himself.