The Louisa Alcott Reader for Children HTML version
In the barnyard a gray hen sat on her nest, feeling very happy because it was time for her
eggs to hatch, and she hoped to have a fine brood of chickens. Presently crack, crack,
went the shells, "Peep, peep!" cried the chicks; "Cluck, cluck!" called the hen; and out
came ten downy little things one after the other, all ready to run and eat and scratch,--for
chickens are not like babies, and don't have to be tended at all.
There were eight little hens and two little cockerels, one black and one as white as snow,
with yellow legs, bright eyes, and a tiny red comb on his head. This was Cockyloo, the
good chick; but the black one was named Peck, and was a quarrelsome bad fowl, as we
Mrs. Partlet, the mamma, was very proud of her fine family; for the eight little daughters
were all white and very pretty. She led them out into the farmyard, clucking and
scratching busily; for all were hungry, and ran chirping round her to pick up the worms
and seeds she found for them. Cocky soon began to help take care of his sisters; and
when a nice corn or a fat bug was found, he would step back and let little Downy or
Snowball have it. But Peck would run and push them away, and gobble up the food
greedily. He chased them away from the pan where the meal was, and picked the down
off their necks if they tried to get their share. His mother scolded him when the little ones
ran to hide under her wings; but he didn't care, and was very naughty. Cocky began to
crow when he was very young, and had such a fine voice that people liked to hear his
loud, clear "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" early in the morning; for he woke before the sun was
up, and began his song. Peck used to grumble at being roused at dawn, for he was lazy;
but the hens bustled up, and were glad to get out of the hen-house.
The father cock had been killed by a dog; so they made Cocky king of the farmyard, and
Peck was very jealous of him.
"I came out of the shell first, and I am the oldest; so I ought to be king," he said.
"But we don't like you, because you are selfish, cross, and lazy. We want Cocky; he is so
lively, kind, and brave. He will make a splendid bird, and he must be our king," answered
the hens; and Peck had to mind, or they would have pulled every feather out of his little
He resolved to do some harm to his good brother, and plagued him all he could. One day,
when Cocky was swinging with three of his sisters on a bush that hung over the brook,
Peck asked a stupid donkey feeding near to come and put his heavy foot on the bush. He
did it, and crack went the branch, splash went the poor chicks into the water, and all were
drowned but Cocky, who flew across and was saved. Poor little Hop, Chirp, and Downy
went floating down the brook like balls of white foam, and were never seen again. All the
hens mourned for them, and put a black feather in their heads to show how sorry they
were. Mamma Partlet was heart-broken to lose three darlings at once; but Cocky
comforted her, and never told how it happened, because he was ashamed to have people
know what a bad bird Peck was.