Chapter 24 continues from last week:
As soon as the red car turned out of the cul-de-sac Luke ran home to get his rucksack. He grabbed harnesses and leads from the hook in the kitchen and tossed them to Joe.
“Can you put these on Curly and Squirt?” Dudley started barking and wagging his tail. “Sorry boy, not this time.” He hitched his heavy rucksack onto his back and returned to the garden for the sheep. He was in such a hurry he didn’t close the door properly and Dudley followed him out.
Joe handed Luke the leads. “Are you sure about this?”
“Got no choice,” he said sadly, “gotta keep Curly and Squirt safe.” Dudley jumped up and pleaded to go with them.
“Not this time boy, I’m sorry.” He crouched down to give his dog a hug. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. Look after Scratcher for me okay?” Dudley licked his knee. Luke looked at Joe. “Stay in touch on the walkie-talkies.”
He led Dudley back into the kitchen and closed the door properly, but before he could make his getaway, he heard Dad’s car.
“They’re home!” He snatched up the leads and looked frantically for somewhere to hide.
“The garage!” said Joe.
Thankfully the side door wasn’t locked but getting them all in was easier said than done. Partially blocking the doorway was some kind of large structure, covered in an old sheet. They heard Mum and Dad’s voices; they heard the gate hinges squeak. There was nothing they could do but give up. Luke tucked his rucksack behind the rose bush just as his parents entered the garden.
“Oh, you’ve seen it!” said Mum, disappointed.
“He hasn’t,” said Dad, peering over their heads through the open door, “it’s still covered.”
Luke looked back at the mysterious structure. “What?”
Mum and Dad smiled at each other and then at Luke. “Happy Birthday.”
Luke looked at Joe. He’d completely forgotten.
“Happy Birthday Luke,” said Joe with a big grin.
“Did you remember?”
“No,” he laughed.
Luke looked back at his parents, “but it’s not my birthday ’til tomorrow. Is it?”
“No, but we thought we’d do it today because I’ve got to work tomorrow. Is Jared home?”
“Yeah, he’s upstairs.”
“I’ll get him,” said Mum.
“I’ll get the stuff out the car,” said Dad.
“Presents from Aunt Clara?” asked Luke. He was surprised because Aunt Clara usually just sent a card.
“Not exactly,” said Dad as he disappeared through the open gate.
Luke didn’t know what to think.
When everyone was back, Dad put two boxes on the ground in front of him. “Happy Birthday Luke,” he said again, and stood back. “Open them.”
Luke stepped forward and did as he was told. Inside each box were two red hens. He stared at them in disbelief. “But you said no.”
“I had to,” said Mum, “we wanted it to be a surprise.”
The chickens climbed out of their boxes and one of them chased Dudley back into the kitchen.
“And that’s not all,” said Dad. “Marian, Jared, Joe, follow me please.”
Joe looked at Luke, shrugged and then followed the rest of them into the garage. Luke removed the sheep’s harnesses and crouched down to introduce himself to the new chickens.
“Try to herd them to the bottom of the garden,” said Mum, “I’m opening the gate wide.”
Luke did his best but with little success. He could get one to head in the right direction, but as soon as he returned for another the first one would run back towards the house. As it turned out, though, that didn’t matter. What happened next sent them all running towards the damson patch at top speed, closely followed by Curly and Squirt. Through the wide open gate came four people slowly carrying a large, wooden triangular prism. They bent their knees and lowered it onto the concrete base vacated by the old greenhouse.
“It’s a chicken house!” said Mum excitedly, “Dad made it.”
“You made it?” Luke was overwhelmed. “All by yourself?”
Dad laughed. “Yes. It took me a while but, yes, all by myself.”
“It’s marvellous,” said Luke, walking around the new house, running his hand along the smooth wood. “Absolutely marvellous.”
“Glad you approve,” said Dad. He looked at Mum and smiled.
“Thanks Dad,” said Luke warmly. “I love it!”
“Can we see inside?” asked Mum.
“Yes. Okay. You unbolt these and then you use these handles to lift this off.” Dad detached one end of the house so that a person could climb inside if he crouched. “These shelves are the nesting boxes – you fill them with soft wood shavings – and they can perch on the front of them when they go to bed. They’ll be able to see out the window from there.” Dad was proud of the house, Luke could tell. “Put shavings on the floor as well and then it’ll be easy to sweep out in the mornings.”
“Easy,” Luke agreed.
“When it’s all clean you put the end back on by slotting it in like this. Here, you have a go.”
Luke tried but it was too heavy.
“That’s alright, I’ll help you,” Mum promised.
“And then, when that’s bolted back on, you leave the hatch open all day so the chickens can come and go as they please. Close it at night when they’ve gone to bed to keep predators out.”
Luke nodded. “I will.” He couldn’t stop grinning.
“Now, about Curly and Squirt,” said Dad, and Luke’s face fell. “I’ve spoken to Fred and you were right, they can’t go back to the allotments.” Luke held his breath. “So they’ll have to stay here.”
Luke could hardly believe it. “Really?”
“Yes. We’ll make the old shed into their stable.”
Luke looked at Joe. “Good idea,” he said tentatively.
“And the damson patch really isn’t big enough for them so they can share the whole garden with the chickens.”
“Really? What about your flowers?”
“Well, as your mum pointed out, I’ve still got the front garden.” Mum squeezed his hand.
“Thank you thank you thank you,” said Luke, “this is the best birthday ever!”
Dad nodded. “You’re very welcome.”
Luke gazed at the new chicken house. “How many chickens would fit in here?” he asked.
“The plan said up to twelve,” said Dad.
“Marvellous,” said Luke, “absolutely marvellous.”
And they all lived happily ever after 😀
If you’re late to the party and want to catch up, you can find all the Luke Walker: animal stick up for-er chapters here 🙂
Have a great day ❤
vegan, vegan children, veggie kids, animals, animal rights, juvenile fiction, chickens, sheep, vegan children’s story, animal rescue, birds,