Rosemary called the meeting to order. “Hens and Roosters, I have terrible news. The humans all believe us to be cowards.”
Reginald stood and clucked in dismay. “But we are mighty hunters who keep their insect population down.”
Sally waved a wing, “I slept through the whole dog-in-the-henhouse thing. I’m obviously not skittish.”
Reginald puffed out his chest. “I rise with the sun and announce the dawn to the world. I’m not hiding in fear.”
Hannah tilted her head to one side. “What exactly are they saying about us?”
Rosemary cleared her throat. “I overheard the human children speaking to each other. Humans, when they wish to say someone is afraid, call them a chicken. To the humans, our very species is synonymous with cowardice.”
Sally fluffed up her feathers in outrage. “That’s it! I say we break free from this prison and let them know that we aren’t afraid of anything.”
“How are we going to get out?” Hannah asked.
Reginald crowed. “I’ll dig us out. Just watch me work, ladies.” Reginald began to scratch at the dirt at the edge of the pen. An hour later, his feet hurt and he hadn’t dug very far.
Sally clicked her beak in irritation. “I’ll get a running start and fly out. This is taking too long.” She backed up and ran across the pen, flapping her wings. She got a few feet of lift, but couldn’t clear the edge of the pen. “Let me try again,” she said.
Her next three tries didn’t go any better. “Ouch,” she said. “I’ll just let Reginald dig.”
“My feet hurt,” Reginald said. “Rosemary, Hannah, do you have any ideas?”
“Maybe we can climb the chicken wire,” Hannah said. She put her feet through the holes and tried to pull herself up. She struggled for a moment, flapping her wings and squawking. Finally she let go and fluffed herself up. “Nope.” She groomed her feathers.
“All right, I have a plan,” Rosemary said. “If someone will stand right here, I’ll fly onto your back and launch from there onto the nesting box. I think that from there I can glide over the edge of the pen.”
“Right here?” Reginald said. He moved to the right spot and crouched, wings out to brace himself. “Watch your nails and try not to scratch me.”
Rosemary backed up and flew, launching off Reginald and then the nesting box. She glided over the edge of the pen. The other chickens all cheered.
“Go tell them for us,” Sally said.
“Show them we’re not scared,” Reginald said.
“Be careful,” Hannah said. “The neighbor’s dog sounds mean.”
“Hannah,” Sally said, “We’re trying to encourage her to be fearless.”
“Fearless doesn’t mean foolish,” Hannah said.
“I’m going now,” Rosemary said. She turned and hurried over to the house. It was a beautiful day with a little breeze blowing. The humans were sitting at their outside table eating together.
Rosemary tried to walk up bravely. The neighbor’s dog started barking. It sounded far away. She tried to ignore it. The humans hadn’t seen her yet. Rosemary fluffed up her feathers and pushed her wings back. She stood tall and strutted closer, just as she had seen Reginald do.
The humans still hadn’t noticed. She clucked loudly. One of the human children turned. “Look mom,” he said. “Rosemary is out of the pen. Should I go get her?”
“I’m faster than him,” the other child said. “I should be the one to catch her.”
Rosemary clucked again. The children were arguing and ignored her. The human mother stood up and walked over, her shadow blocking out the sun. Rosemary managed to stand her ground.
One of the children knocked something over and it landed noisily on the stone patio. A breeze caught a napkin and it fluttered over, flying at Rosemary’s face. It was the last straw. She ran back to the coop in terror. The children chased her, screeching in delight.
As she approached, the other chickens were waiting. “What’s happening?” Sally asked.
“Run, Rosemary! They’ll catch you,” Hannah said.
“Be brave,” Reginald said.
Rosemary, cornered at the coop door, turned and faced the children. She widened her stance and fluffed her wings. One of the children scooped her up and held her tightly as she struggled. The other opened the pen. She was tossed in and she fluttered her wings to right herself as the pen door closed.
The children raced off again, laughing.
“I think you showed them,” Sally said.
“You were so brave,” Hannah said.
“It was a great day for us chickens,” Reginald said. He crowed.
“I need a nap,” Rosemary said.