Gather around kiddies and I’ll tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a large farm where many farmyard animals lived. It was a very special ‘Animal Farm’. The farmer loved all his animals, but most of all his big flock of chooks. The farmer loved chooks so much he collected them from all over the country. He had hundreds of them. The more types of chook he had, the happier he was. Because he was ‘green’ farmer, he allowed his chooks to wander all over his farm to eat what they wanted, and scratch around where they liked. They were his pride and joy. He even had some that were rather thin and some that were lame. He was a kind farmer. He made sure they had plenty to eat. Every day he fed them grain and scraps.
He had run his farm for many years, and enjoyed watching how his chooks got on with each other. Sometimes they seemed to get on well; sometimes they quarrelled. Some were kindly chooks, but others always seemed to be angry and ready for a fight.
He noticed how there was always the boss chook, the Top Chook who was in control. The other chooks showed respect and seldom dared to challenge his authority. For a long while the top chook was a male, a rooster. He was a fine buff-coloured Orpington. Strangely, he didn’t have the most beautiful feathers, and he was not the biggest chook. He just looked important though, so important that he stayed Top Chook for over eleven years.
There was another chook who was always with the Top Chook. He helped him sort out the scraps that the farmer threw into the paddock every day. He was an Orpington too, but he was larger and white.
Secretly, he wanted to be Top Chook, but the other chooks didn’t like him that much. He always had a peculiar look on his face, and tilted his head to one side, as if he thought himself wise and clever. Although all the other chooks knew he wanted to be Top Chook, and some said he should have a go, he never plucked up enough courage to challenge Top Chook, so eventually he went off to another farm. He still thinks he ought to have been Top Chook, and occasionally comes to the other side of the fence to give advice to the other chooks.
All the time Top Chook ruled the roost, there was another chook who wanted his job. He had different ideas about how the scraps and the grain the farmer threw about should be divided up. He was a big and friendly Sussex with fine silver and black feathers.
He puffed up his chest but never bullied. But he let Top Chook bully him. So every time he tried for the Top Chook job, Top Chook came out on top. Eventually Silver Sussex’s friends decided he could never win. They decided instead that another chook, a much younger one, should have a go for the Top Chook job. He was a Silkie. He had a rich white colour and a fine crest of feathers. He was particularly proud of his crest and often tossed his head to keep his feathers in place.
Silkie decided that to beat Top Chook for the job he would pretend he was almost the same, only better. It worked. The other chooks were tiring of Top Chook. So was the farmer, and even the farmer’s wife and children thought it would be nice to have a different Top Chook after all this time. So when there was a contest, Silkie won and became Top Chook. His friends were delighted and gently pecked his plumage. He became the most popular chook since as long as anyone could remember. He did lots of good things and his friends and the farmer were very happy. But he became very cocky. He thought he was the smartest chook in the farm. He didn’t ask anyone else about what to do, because he though he knew it all. He looked down his nose at the other chooks and often kept them waiting when they wanted to talk with him. They got more and more angry, but he was so popular with the farmer they couldn’t do much about him. The farmer took him to chook shows where he did well, so he stayed the farmer’s favourite. But eventually Silkie became so cocky that his popularity fell and fell, and his friends got so fed up with him they decided they didn’t want him as Top Chook any more.
Instead, they wanted someone different to be Top Chook. Who do you think it was? Here’s a surprise. Top Chook had always been a rooster – now they wanted a hen. Imagine that – a hen. A hen had never been Top Chook before. But this hen was special – she was a Rhode Island Red. She was popular and clever.
She had been a helper to Silkie, had done a great job helping him, and had lots of admirers. Then one day, all of a sudden, the other chooks banished Silkie and made Rhode Island Red Top Chook. It was big shock to all the other chooks and to the farmer too. Although Rhode Island Red was popular, some didn’t like how she became Top Chook so quickly.
But then something nasty happened. Silkie still thought he was the best one to be Top Chook, and so started telling spiteful tales about Rhode Island Red. The tales worried the other chooks and the farmer and his wife and children. This nastiness went on and on for years. Rhode Island Red became less popular. Silkie tried to become Top Chook again and again, but failed every time.
All this time there was another chook who wanted to be Top Chook. He was a scrawny fellow that ran around the farmyard continually clucking the whole time. He never actually said much, but he crowed a lot and made a lot of noise. He was a strange chook, one you don’t often see - an Australian Pit Game. He had dark feathers but just a few on his head, and his red crest was small. He was very lean.
He kept on saying that Rhode Island Red should not be Top Chook. He said he should be. He had become ruler of the roost in his part of the chook pen by knocking off an opponent who also wanted the Top Chook job, a stylish, aristocratic rooster, a White Leghorn with lots of tail feathers.
So with White Leghorn out of the way, it became a contest between the Rhode Island Red and the scrawny Australian Pit Game. He said he would do anything to become Top Chook, anything. He just wanted the job.
So there was a big contest and something strange happened, something that had never happened before – at the end of the contest it was a draw! Rhode Island Red and the scrawny Australian Pit Game had the same number of friends. But there were some other chooks around who were not friends to either of them, and so they had to decide who would be Top Chook.
First they asked Rhode Island Red how she wanted to run the chook yard, and then they asked scrawny Australian Pit Game. The Red said she wanted to make sure that all the chooks got their fair share of the grain and the scraps. She had noticed that the big fat bossy chooks got the biggest share leaving only what they couldn’t eat for the smaller, thinner chooks, and those that were lame. So they stayed thin and their feathers stayed dull. She wanted to give them their own pile of scraps. Scrawny Australian Pit Game said he too was concerned about the lame chooks, but felt the thin ones didn’t deserve their own special scraps unless they put more effort into finding food. He felt everyone should work for what they wanted and not rely on others. He preferred to hang out with the bigger chooks, the bossy chooks, the fat ones that could look after themselves.
Guess how long it took the other chooks to decide who should be Top Chook – seventeen days! And which chook did they pick? You might be surprised – they picked Rhode Island Red to be Top Chook. Scrawny Australian Pit Game was furious. He wanted to be Top Chook and to sit on the Top Perch. He told the others that he would do anything
to be Top Chook, anything at all. But they knocked him back. He was so angry and grumpy that he decided he would do whatever he could to push Rhode Island Red out, to throw her off the Top Perch. He started to call her names. He told everyone she told lies, broke promises and could not be trusted. The farmer and his family began to listen to him and her popularity fell. They began to wonder if she was the right person to be Top Chook. No matter what she did to help the other chooks, grumpy scrawny Australian Pit Game told everyone she was no good at her job, that she made too many mistakes. Like Henny Penny, he went round telling everyone that the sky was about to fall down because of her mistakes. He accused her of paying too much attention to the thin chooks. Her popularity fell and fell.
Then along came Top Fox. The farmer knew there were sly foxes around looking for an opportunity to take his chooks and kill them, not so much to eat them, but just to kill them. That’s what foxes do. Top Fox set out to kill Top Chook.
He had lots of fellow foxes that would do what he wanted, but the farmer had put a high fence around his chook yard to stop the foxes, so Top Fox had to wait for a chance to get her. He tried and tried. He too told everyone that Rhode Island Red was an untrustworthy liar and that she was so bad at looking after the chook pen that she was ruining it, and should be thrown out. He never ever talked about the good things she was doing. Scrawny Australian Pit Game was delighted. He crowed loudly and told anyone who would listen that he would soon be on the Top Perch.
But time went by and Rhode Island Red clucked quietly and went on looking after all the chooks, making sure the thinner ones and the lame ones got enough to eat. She smiled at Top Fox and his troop of foxes through the fence and ignored all their nasty talk. The other chooks took less and less notice of them and even laughed at them. This made Top Fox mad and he tried even harder to get through the fence.
All the while scrawny Australian Pit Game got even madder. He hated losing to females, he always had, and now he was losing again. She was Top Chook, not him. He made fun of her because she was ‘only a hen’. Hens were for laying eggs and looking after chickens, and here she was strutting around as Top Chook. She had no chickens, and had never even hatched any. He called her all sorts of names and so did the foxes, who were friends with scrawny Australian Pit Game. Then one day Rhode Island Red had had enough abuse from scrawny Australian Pit Game. She stood on the Top Perch and told him off in no uncertain fashion. She said he was anti-hen and should be ashamed of himself. He sat there very crest-fallen and looked much smaller than he was. Hens everywhere flapped their wings in delight. They too had had the same nastiness from roosters, and they were glad someone had finally stood up to a bullying rooster.
But with all the awful stories the foxes and scrawny Australia Pit Game were putting about, the farmer and his family began to believe them, became more and more worried, and wondered if Rhode Island Red was really the best one to be Top Chook. Her popularity fell even further. Eventually the farmer decided he might have to get rid of her when there was an opportunity. Her fate seemed sealed. No matter how well she managed the chook house, he felt that she might have to go because she was becoming so unpopular.
Then a funny thing happened. It really was funny because a flock of kookaburras came along. You know their nickname is Laughing Jackass. They sit on a tree branch and laugh and laugh and laugh.
They laughed at scrawny Australian Pit Game, and at Top Fox and his company of foxes too. The foxes became so mad they barked and screamed at the kookaburras and jumped up to catch them. But they always sat on high branches, too high for the foxes, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
They told the foxes they were sly and nasty and should stop telling lies about Rhode Island Red, and should be nice to her when she was doing such a good job in the chook pen. But the foxes didn’t want to listen, and said the kookaburras were ignorant and stupid and had no right to tell them what to do. They said foxes knew more about chook pens than ‘amateur’ kookaburras. But the chooks and the farmer’s family took more and more notice of the kookaburras and less and less notice of the foxes. The more they were ignored, the angrier the foxes became, and the louder they screamed. They were not used to being ignored. They had never ever been ignored in the past, and to make matters worse, the kookaburras were taking over from them. The chooks and the farmer enjoyed the laughing of the kookaburras and were getting sick of the screaming and barking of the foxes.
Kiddies, this is not the end of the story. How do you think it ended? Did they get rid of Rhode Island Red as Top Chook? Did scrawny Australian Pit Game become Top Chook and get to sit on the Top Perch? Well, we don’t know. We don’t know because there’s more to the story. The contest between Rhode Island Red and scrawny Australian Pit Game is not for another four months. He tried and tried to have the contest sooner, but no matter what he tried, he failed, which made him madder and madder.
The farmer was a fair man. He realized that he couldn’t throw out Rhode Island Red while she was doing a good job. His wife wasn’t so certain, and the children were split – one sided with Dad and the other with Mum. They all agreed though that scrawny Australian Pit Game couldn’t expect to waltz into the Top Chook job and sit on the Top Perch without telling all the chooks how he would make the chook pen better. He often said he would be much better than Rhode Island Red. He said she was hopeless, and was always running around like a ‘chook with no head’, but he never said how he
would do a better job. The chooks that were friends with Rhode Island Red said: “Come on scrawny Australian Pit Game, tell us what you
would do”. So did the kookaburras. Even some of the foxes said the same. But he wouldn’t say – he said “I’ll tell you later”.
So kiddies, you will have to wait. You will have to wait for scrawny Australian Pit Game to tell us what he
will do. The farmer and his family and the other chooks wonder why he’s keeping it a secret, and some of the foxes are beginning to complain about the few things he did say he would do. Scrawny Australian Pit Game is beginning to look worried.
All the chooks, and the farmer and his family too, are asking when will he tell everyone what he intends to do to make the chook pen a better place? And if he does eventually, will the farmer’s family and the other chooks like it?
Isn’t it exciting kiddies! Only four months to go to the big contest. Then the feathers will fly in ernest. The Top Fox and his troop of foxes are getting madder, scrawny Australian Pit Game is frowning a lot and crowing very little now, but Rhode Island Red goes on calmly doing her job, trying to make the chook pen better, and the kookaburras go on laughing and laughing and laughing.