It’s no fun to want a dog more than anything else in the world and end up with a silly chicken. But that’s what happened to Peter.
“Poor little thing,” Aunt Helen said when she gave the poult to him. “A great big rat got into the coop and almost killed it. I told Mr. Raines I knew a boy who would love to take care of it.”
Peter mumbled, “Boy! Thanks a lot.”
“You’ll learn to love it, dear,” Aunt Helen said. “You’ll love it just because it belongs to you.”
“I could love you a lot more if you belonged to somebody else,” muttered Peter to the bird as he filled a can with fresh water.
The chicken stretched out its neck and pecked at the freckles on the back of Peter’s hand. “Ouch!” he yelled. “Talk about dumb.”
The chicken made a noise like a squeaky hinge. Peter poured some of the purple medicine his father had bought into the wound in the chicken’s side. After a few days, the chicken did look a little better. But it still walked like one leg was shorter than the other. That purple stain doesn’t help its looks much either, Peter thought.
“I can’t even give you a proper name,” Peter grumbled, “because I don’t know whether you’re a hen or a rooster. I guess you’ll just have to be plain Chicken.”
He put some food in another dish and sat down to watch it eat. “Boy, are you ugly,” he said. “It wouldn’t be so bad if you were a dog. An ugly dog would be better than no dog at all.”
Peter’s best friends Dick and Andy had dogs. Would they ever laugh if they found out about the chicken! But Peter was determined that they’d never find out. The old toolshed where he kept it was behind the garage, and they never went back there.
Then one day Peter’s father said, “You can’t keep that chicken penned up in the shed all the time. It needs to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. And it needs bugs and worms and gravel.”
So every day Peter took Chicken out for a short time and dug worms while the poult scratched around in the dirt. He was careful to keep Chicken in back of the shed though.
It wasn’t long until the bird began to wait for Peter. When the shed door opened Chicken half-flew to the shovel Peter was carrying and perched on top of the blade.
“Hey,” Peter would laugh. “That’s pretty clever.” But when Chicken tore after a butterfly and smashed headfirst into the fence, Peter would groan, “What a dumb chicken.”
When Chicken flew onto Peter’s shoulder and picked at the cracker he held in his mouth Peter said, “Not bad, Chicken.” But when Chicken swallowed one of Peter’s marbles and almost choked to death, Peter said, “Serves you right, stupid bird!”
As Chicken grew bigger and bigger, Peter had to spend more and more time exercising the bird. The chicken’s wound healed and it no longer limped.
Whenever Peter heard his friends Dick and Andy calling him from the front of the house, he hurriedly locked Chicken in the shed and ran to answer them. Then the three of them would take off on their bikes with Dick’s and Andy’s dogs running behind. Toby and Duke are sure swell dogs, Peter thought. How I wish I had a pet I could be proud of instead of an ugly, dumb chicken I have to keep out of sight.
One Saturday morning Peter hurriedly carried fresh water and feed out to the shed for Chicken. Dick and Andy would be along soon. The three of them were taking a picnic lunch down to the river on their bikes.
But when Peter got to the shed he found the door open, and the peg that held the hasp closed was lying on the ground. He had failed to push it in all the way the night before. Chicken was nowhere in sight, and Peter’s heart jumped to his throat. Maybe Chicken was out all night and wandered into the street and was run over! he worried.
Peter ran all around the yard, calling, “Here, Chicken! Here, Chicken! Where are you?” He was still on his hands and knees, crawling by the flower bed, when Dick and Andy rode up. “What in the world are you doing, Pete?” Dick asked.
Peter felt his face get hot. “I’m—I’m looking for a—a chicken,” he stammered.
“Looking for what!” the boys exclaimed.
“My pet chicken,” Peter answered, turning his head away.
The boys started laughing. “You mean you have a chicken for a pet?”
A surge of anger went through Peter. “Well, not an ordinary chicken!” he defended hotly.
Then he told them all about Chicken—how he had nursed it back to health, and how it rode on the shovel when he dug for worms, and how it ate a cracker out of his mouth.
“And besides,” he added, “Chicken is mine.”
“We’d better find your chicken before something happens to it,” said Dick.
The three boys rode around the neighborhood searching everywhere. “Here, Chicken! Here, Chicken!” they called.
Suddenly there was a loud squawking and a flutter of wings. Chicken flew clumsily from under a laurel hedge and landed on the handlebars of Peter’s bike.
“Chicken!” Peter cried. “You’re all right!”
The chicken stretched out its neck, looked into the boy’s face, and made a loud, squeaky noise that sounded like static.
The boys laughed and the chicken made the noise again, louder.
“You crowed!” exclaimed Peter. “You’re a rooster! I won’t have to call you Chicken anymore. And whether you’re a hen or a rooster doesn’t matter. From now on your name is Lucky, because it was lucky for both of us that I learned to love a chicken.”