Script adaptation by Ken Young
Illustrations by Teresa Millet
This story was written by my brother Stan in the early 1970's. The family has made it a tradition, since his death in 1980, to read and act it out on Christmas Eve. It's a great story which involves the animals that we had at the time and includes our family at the end.
On the night of December 20th, four days before Christmas Eve, the snow was swirling gracefully as each flake fell upon and around the chicken coop behind the stone house, where the humans were sitting close to their fire.
But out in the chicken coop, things were quite different! A meeting was being held on what the chickens thought should be done this Christmas. “Silence!” shouted Henrietta Peckley, the Grand Madame of the Hen and Rooster Society.
“We have gathered here tonight to discuss what we are going to do this Christmas! In the past, we have sung the Christmas carols Deck the Coop with Boughs of Barley, Hark the Herald Roosters Sing and so forth. I think this year there is room for some change!”
“But Henrietta!” cackled Harriet, “What else is there to do?”
“Plenty!” she returned. “I have been watching the Humans every Christmas and have observed their traditions. For one thing, they take a fir tree…”
“A fir tree!?! How ridiculous!” interrupted Helen.
Henrietta glared at Helen as hard and as menacingly as she could manage. Helen, very disgusted and insulted, sat down, and stuck her beak in the air.
“As I was saying,” continued the Grand Madame, “The Humans take a fir tree and decorate it with many beautiful and assorted decorations – beautiful shimmering balls and lights, and on the top, a beautiful star!”
“May I ask,” said Henry, the rooster, “just where you’re going to get all these…uh… decorations?”
Henry was in charge of keeping things in order and protecting the hens from any harm, but when it came to making rules, the Grand Madame was in charge of them all!
“Oh, Henry!” snapped Henrietta, “of course we can’t get all that stuff! The tree will be easy! As for the decorations, we can make our own simulations!”
“And how are you going to do that?” Henry asked.
“We could merely collect tin foil and other various pieces of material from the garbage cans. By Christmas, we’ll have a beautiful tree!”
Henry was not through asking questions. “It’s all very well, but you know how well those cans are covered! We chickens cannot lift such a thing!”
“Details! Details!” sighed Henrietta. “That’s precisely why I have called upon that…uh…‘dog’…Chips!”
The chickens were all in an uproar! “SILENCE!” shouted Henrietta. “Meeting adjourned! We shall re-meet tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.!” The chickens cackled and clucked and retired to their various roosts.
The next day, It had stopped snowing, but the sky was filled with gray clouds, which meant more snow. It was now only 3 days to Christmas, and the Hen and Rooster Society had to hurry with their plans. Henry the Rooster flew up to the window, looked in at the clock, and announced, “It’s 4:00!”
“Good!” said the Grande Madame. “Hagatha! Go get Chips!”
“Hagatha! Go get Chips!” mimicked Hagatha. The rest of the chickens filed into the coop. Henrietta flew up to her usual post, and said, “Let’s bring this meeting to order!” The hens settled down and the Grand Madame started the meeting.
“As you know, we were called here last night to discuss our plans for Christmas. You are probably wondering what Chips has to do with this. Ah! Here he comes now!” Hagatha came racing into the coop followed by Chips the dog, who had a bad habit of chasing her. Chips was a pitiful sight. A fat, overgrown, tan-haired mongrel.
“Duh…what is it you need ME for?” he asked, while lazily scratching at a flea.
“We the members of the Hen and Rooster Society have decided to do something different for Christmas this year. We’re going to have a Christmas party using Human traditions.”
“We’re going to have a Christmas tree,” explained Henry. “We need decorations for the tree, and the only place we can think of to get them is out of THEIR garbage cans!”
“Of course,” continued the Grand Madame, “we hens are too small to lift the cover, even combined! We want you YOU to knock them over for us!”
“OH NO!” shouted Chips, “I’ve done that before, and I won’t get any more doggie-donuts if I do!”
“We realize that,” said Henrietta, “and we plan to pick it all up afterwards!”
“OF COURSE!!” yelled Henrietta. She raised her right wing and said, “Members of the Hen and Rooster Society NEVER lie, cheat, or steal!”
“O.K. When do you want me to do it?”
The Grand Madame leaned forward and whispered, “Tonight, at 12:30!”
“TONIGHT!” But when those cans fall over, they’ll wake the Humans up!”
The Grand Madame sighed. “Technicalities!” she said. “I have thought of that also! We hens have decided to drag one of those old sleeping bags up to the cans. They will fall on it with a very soft landing. Practically no noise!”
“Golly Gee! You think of everything!”
“I know,” she replied. “Oh! I almost forgot! Helen! Go contact Mr. and Mrs. Brown, and inform them they will be expected to furnish the refreshments!
Harriet! Notify Bradley Bull the Third and the rest of their oafish gang that they will be expected to furnish the tree! Now hurry along ladies, we’ve no time to lose!” The hens waddled off to their assignments, while Chips was still pondering his.
Helen came trotting into the shed (which wasn’t much of a shed at all because it had a hole in the roof) where Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the rabbits, were huddling into one corner of their cage, keeping warm from the swirling snow.
“MR. AND MRS. BROWN! GUESS WHAT?” screeched Helen.
“What now,” drawled Mr. Brown. “Didja lay a purple egg?”
“Oh shush!” snapped Mrs. Brown. “Pay no mind to him. What was it you wanted to say?”
Helen, still glaring at Mr. Brown for the insult, finally said, “Well…we’re holding a Christmas party…uh…the chickens that is, and we’ve invited you and …uh…him! She said as she glared at Mr. “Him.” “By the way, you’ve been assigned to furnish the refreshments!”
“We have!?! Well, I never!”
“Well, you have now!” said Helen as she hurried back to the coop.
When she got there, she discovered that Bradley Bull the Third and the rest of the Bull and Cow Society were there.
“What’s all this nonsense about us sophisticated cows furnishing some tree for some ridiculous party?”
“It’s not nonsense, and it’s not ridiculous!" said Harriet. "And if you won’t even take the courtesy to listen, we won’t even bother inviting you!”
“Alright then,” he snorted. “What’s all this …uh…“news” I’ve been hearing lately?”
“We’re having a Christmas party! A Christmas party is not a Christmas party without a Christmas tree!”
“And you want us to furnish it! Oh…very well, the unpleasant chore is ours. I believe I know where I can get one.” And off he trotted with the others.
Henrietta sighed, “Well! That’s taken care of! Now! We’ve only to wait for 12:30 tonight! Now ladies, off to bed!”
The hours ticked away. At the right time, Henry crowed, “It’s 12:30! Up ladies!”
“Up ladies! 12:30” yawned the Grand Madame.
“Up ladies! 12:30” sassed Hagatha, “One of these days…POWIE! Right in the clucker!”
They all toddled up to the trash can, and found Chips, still asleep. Harriet snickered to herself, and said, “I’ll wake him up!” She went over to him, and screamed, “THE CATS ARE STAMPEDING!” Chips let out a terrified yelp, and raced under the car.
“Get back out here this instant, you repulsive animal!” shouted Henrietta.
“OH!… it’s only you!”
“It is now 12:35, past time to knock over the cans!”
Henry was now dragging the sleeping bags into place. Helen, very particular about things, noticed a wrinkle in the middle of the sleeping bag. She went over to straighten it out, when CRASH! The cans had fallen right on top of Helen! She was standing in a mountain of garbage, with her head covered with an empty cottage cheese carton.
“OH, SHUTUP!” she screeched. She knocked the carton off and stood looking embarrassed and angry at the same time. She turned on Chips and bellowed “Clumsy oaf!”
“Settle down!” ordered Henry. “Now, let’s sort through this stuff!”
All night long, Chips, Henry, Henrietta, Helen, Hagatha and Harriet picked out tin can lids, tin foil, strings, napkins, broken glass, and other various pieces of material they thought would look nice on their tree.
The early morning sun was soon appearing over the horizon, and they decided they had better pick up before the Humans awoke. Piece by piece, the garbage was put back into the cans, and with a mighty push, the cans were put back into place. All of their collections were on a pile on the sleeping bag, and they only had to drag it down to the coop. ‘Twas now only two days to Christmas, and the coop was buzzing with excitement.
Around noon, Bradley came walking in holding a scraggly, bony branch in his mouth. He dropped it in front of the Grande Madame and said, “Is this what you had in mind?” She looked the poor thing over and replied, “Well…not exactly…but…I think we’ll have to make it do. Come girls! Help me set it up!” They all came over, picked it up and put it into a can. They all stood back and looked at the sickly thing.
“Well,” sighed the Grande Madame, “maybe it will look better after we decorate it!” They got their collections and started placing them on the tree.Helen and Harriet worked on the tree, while Henrietta surpervised Henry and Hagatha on decorating the interior of the coop.
While all this was going on, Mrs. Brown was busy trying to figure out how she was going to furnish refreshments. Then she thought of the old abandoned garden beyond the wire fence. This garden, nobody ever picked clean, and nobody ever bothered with anymore. She thought it worth investigating. But how did she expect to get out of her cage? Then she began thinking. The next time the boy came to feed her, she would put a stick on the hinge of the door, which would prevent it from shutting all the way.
The next morning, one day to the party, sure enough, in came the boy with a bowl of food for her and Mr. Brown. He opened the door, put the food in, and shut the door. Not all the way of course, because of Mrs. Brown’s invention. When the boy left, she looked at Mr. Brown – still asleep! Then she hopped out.
She wound her way around the lumber pile, then hopped through the fence.
“CARROTS!” she exclaimed. “I just adore carrots! Now, for the chickens. Corn! Here’s a few ears! And for the cows, sugar beets. Oh, now there’s Chips. Why, he’d like a bone! But where’s little ol’ me gonna get a bone? Why, I think I remember seein’ one that other dog who used to live here left behind, of course! Now I’ll jest set myself to workin’ on this stuff!” She towed them back in her paper basket, and went to work.
Back at the chicken coop, things were nearly finished. Strung across the interior of the coop were gaily colored pieces of material, with a Santa Claus pasted on the wall.
“Who’s he?” asked Harriet, pointing at the Santa Claus.
“I guess he’s the chimney cleaner!” said the Grande Madame. “He’s always going up and down in them. The Humans like him, is all I know.” In the middle of the room, stood the finished Christmas tree.
“Charming! Simply Charming!” cackled Henrietta.
“No thanks to her!” mumbled Hagatha, “giving orders right and left!”
“All ready for the party tonight!” announced Henry.
Meanwhile, Chips was slicking himself up, and the cows were brushing their tails and Mrs. Brown was hurrying Mr. Brown to getting himself looking decent. Finally, it was time. The hens had their feathers smooth and shiny.
First to arrive was Bradley Bull III and the others, looking very distinguished. Next was Chips. His collar polished, and his nose glistening VERY strangely. “I saw him stick it in silver paint!” gossiped Helen. And lastly, was Mr. and Mrs. Brown.
Everyone gasped as they walked into the room. Mrs. Brown had her tail fluffed, but that was not what they were looking at! Both of them were holding a tray. On them were two luscious carrot cupcakes, a nice red bow tied around a nice white bone, five ears of corn covered with fat, juicy worms, and four sugar beets covered with blueberries!
Mrs. Brown set them on the table and said, “Come and get it!” They took her advice and raced to the table. Pecks, gloms, gnarls and chews were mannerlessly heard from the coop. When all was eaten, everyone complimented Mrs. Brown.
“ON WITH THE CELEBRATION!” ordered Henrietta. They all gathered around the tree and sang, “Randolph the Red-beaked Rooster,” then Henrietta gave them each a stocking.
“What in Jack Rabbits name are these for?” asked Mr. Brown.
“We’re going to hang them on the fireplace!” she replied.
Everyone stared to one corner of the coop, where a makeshift copy of a fireplace was standing.
“Now what are we going to do that for?” asked Bradley, very disgusted.
“HOW IN GREAT CHICKENS SHOULD I KNOW?!?!” she screeched. “All I know is that the Humans do it!”
“Humans!” scoffed one of the bulls. “Poor creatures, they have only TWO legs, can you imagine? Only TWO legs!”
“Oh hushup!” snapped Harriet. “YOU don’t have feathers so distinguished as ours!” she said as she smoothed herself. “NO feathers at all!”
“HMPH!” he said, and turned his head.
“Now!” announced the Grande Madame, “Let us dance!” Chips picked up a home-made fiddle and played “Chicken in the Straw.” Everyone found a partner, and the dance was on! Every time the cows took a dance step, the whole coop shook like an earthquake. When they were through dancing, everyone was so tired, that Henrietta invited them to sleep in the coop that night.
The cows settled themselves down in the back, Mr. and Mrs. Brown went under the tree, Chips laid beneath the “fireplace,” and the chickens, since their regular roosts were occupied, flew up to the rafters. In no time at all, they were all asleep.
The next morning, Christmas morning that is, it had finally stopped snowing but the world was covered with a blanket of white. Then, when the sun was shining, Henry flapped his wings, and gave his daily crow.
“OH …BE…QUIET!!!” haggled Hagatha. She jumped to the ground while everyone else was just awaking. But to their surprise, a gift was lying by each one of them! For Chips, a shiny, jeweled collar! For the cows, each had a silver bell! For the rabbits, a bonnet for Mrs. Brown, and a pair of boots for Mr. Brown! For Henry, a megaphone; for the Grande Madame, a fancy pair of theatre glasses, and for the other hens, knitted shawls!
“Who do you suppose gave us these?” asked the Grande Madame. But nobody heard her. They were all too busy with their gifts.
No one noticed the Humans peering into the windows. “I hope they like our gifts!” said Mrs. Human, and they walked back to the house to open their own gifts!