All About Animals: STORY 4. Adapted from Omelette: A Chicken in Peril, by Gareth Owen.
Suitable for Key Stage 1 & 2
Before he was even born Omelette had two pieces of pure luck. And thats more than most chickens get in a lifetime. The first was that when he fell tumbling out of the sky that foggy November morning, he made a soft landing on a pile of yellow hay. The second piece of luck was that he landed on the Westmorelands farm. Mr and Mrs Westmoreland didnt believe in killing and eating animals. As Mr Westmoreland was fond of saying, My animals are my friends. How you could look a turkey or a hen or a sheep in the face and then see him roasted amongst potatoes, peas and sprouts of a Sunday lunch, I shall never know.
So all the animals on the Westmorelands farm lived safe, secure and happy.
On this particular morning, Mrs Westmoreland was walking from the orchard with a heap of windfalls in her pinafore when she heard something landing in the hayrick. When she looked closer she saw a brown egg nestling there undamaged. She knew it hadnt been laid by one of her own hens.
Where you come from? she asked.
She heard an angry chattering above her and, looking up, saw a magpie furious at losing his breakfast after flying with it in his beak for so many miles.
You stole this from somebody elses nest, didnt you? called Mrs Westmoreland to the magpie. The farmers wife slipped the egg, with the windfalls into her pinafore and walked across the farmyard to the house, smiling. Make a nice omelette for my old mans breakfast, she said to herself.
But when she cracked the shell over the bowl, instead of a golden yoke, a bedraggled bantam chick stuck his head out!
Well, I never! exclaimed the farmers wife. Fancy that now. A baby cockerel. Must be your lucky day, my love. If I hadnt had my wits about me, youd have been inside my old mans stomach before you could say omelette.
And that, of course, is how Omelette came by his name.
His feathers were damp and scrawny and his eyes big with wonder. He stared round about him, and then slid out of the rest of the egg. He tried to walk across the kitchen table but he had only tottered a step or two when he trod on a spoon, wrapped both legs around each other and fell flat on his face in a bowl of custard.
The farmers wife carefully dried him with a towel, then made a bed for him in an old cardboard box and kept him warm by the stove. Three times a day she fed him on warm milk from a teaspoon. Because she was the first moving thing Omelette had ever seen, Omelette decided that the farmers wife must be his mother. Thats how it is with chicks. As he grew older and stronger, he would follow her around the kitchen, his little wings held out for balance. When he found his voice he learned to cheep whenever she spoke to him.
The farmers wife would laugh. Were going to get you good and strong, then well put you out in the yard with the other creatures. We never had a bantam cockerel before.
From outside in the yard came the hysterical clucking of hens, turkeys and geese, followed by the thunder of hooves. The farmer looked out of the window and cursed. Ill be blowed, its that there Eric after them hens again.
He ran outside, waving his stick.
Omelette bounded on to the windowsill and peered through the window. What a sight met his eyes. Four glossy brown hens scuttled clucking about the yard chased by Eric the goat who in turn was chased by the farmer. Omelette bounced up and down, beat his wings and sang for joy. He had never seen such a proud, handsome creature in his life. How fine and brave he looked with his curved horns and beard waving in the breeze. In that instant Omelette decided thats what he wanted to be when he grew up. What could be finer or more exciting? For the next few months he dreamed of being a goat and chasing hens.
But his days in the warmth and comfort of the farmhouse kitchen were numbered. He was soon big and strong enough to go out into the farmyard and so, one bright and sunny morning, out he went. Omelette blinked in the cold sunlight and gazed about him. The door slammed and he was on his own in the outside world. A tractor roared by throwing dust fumes into the air. Two large sheepdogs ran past yapping at a couple of stray sheep. Over by the pond the geese honked and flapped their wings.
Two large hens strutted over to inspect the new arrival. To Omelette, who was only a few months old, they seemed very large and imposing. They looked down their beaks at him. Omelette shivered. He had got used to the cosy ways of the kitchen where the farmers wife did everything for him. He thought everybody was like her. He looked at the largest hen.
Good morning, he said gravely. Im rather cold; could you bring me some milk?
What did your last slave die of? Jasmine asked, not unkindly. Where did you come from?
Omelette pointed straight up in the sky.
Was your mother an aeroplane then, asked Uriah, a turkey. Turkeys are known for their naughty sense of humour.
Omelette looked round seriously. No, I dont think my mothers an aeroplane.
Well, who brought you up?
The farmers wife.
The farmers wife? So shes your mother then?
I thought she was, said Omelette, but Ive changed my mind. I saw somebody else I thought could be my mother.
Oh, who would that be? asked Jasmine, who by then was finding it difficult keeping a straight face.
Omelette tried hard to remember what the farmers wife had called the handsome creature who had chased all the hens, but he couldnt, so he tried to describe Eric. Well, its not as big as a horse and not as small as you. It had horns and a white beard and it was extremely handsome.
The hens and turkeys looked at one another puzzled, murmuring amongst themselves. Horns and a beard?
I know who it is, said a pretty hen. Its Eric.
Is it? said Omelette. Well, thats what Im going to be when I grow up, an Eric.
An Eric! Uriah ran in circles with tears pouring down his face while the two ducks just lay on their backs in the dust, beaks gasping for breath, their wings spread, their little stomachs heaving.
Ladies and gentlemen, said Jasmine a little sternly. Please! She turned to Omelette. You do know its Eric not an Eric, and hes a goat.
Well, thats what Im going to be when I grow up, said Omelette.
I dont think Ive ever seen a goat with a beak and feathers before, said Uriah with a naughty twinkle in his eye. Well, you should go and meet your mother immediately.
Now? asked Omelette.
Immediately. No further delay, answered Uriah, steering Omelette towards where he knew Eric would be pulling the apples off the trees in the orchard.
Omelette and Uriah, followed by the rest of the hens, ducks and geese, made an interesting procession across the farmyard. There was a lot of giggling coming from behind Omelette they couldnt wait to see the expression on Erics face when the little bantam introduced himself to his new mother but whenever Omelette looked round they looked as serious as they could.
The procession marched past where the pigs were lolling in their favourite mud bath. As they reached Enoch, the Staffordshire boar, Omelette called out, Have you seen goat Eric, my mother?
Oh ah, said Eric. He scratched behind his ear. Last time I saw Eric he was eating windfalls in the orchard, and he pointed.
They all marched away in the direction of the orchard. Doris, Enochs wife came over, Hey Enoch, why are all the hens, ducks and geese followin that little bantam?
Hes looking for his ma, Doris, my love.
Whos his ma then, Enoch.
Eric! Hes a goat.
I know that.
Goats dont have chicks, do they?
Not that I know of. Enoch paused. Know what I think of, gal? I think them hens are pulling that poor little bantams leg. And so they were.
Lets Talk! Issues for your class to discuss
1. Animals all have different personalities, just like people do. Describe the different personalities in the story.
a) Jasmine, the largest brown hen
b) Uriah, the cheeky turkey
c) Omelette, the chick
2. In what ways was Omelette lucky?