Every morning Koketso helps her granny feed the chickens in the chicken coop in their back yard.
“Pok, pok, pok,” calls Granny and the chickens come running up to the fence. “Pok, pok, pok,” they say. “Paak, paak, paaaak!” And when Granny and Koketso lean over the low fence to scatter the seed, the chickens push and flap and flutter around, and try to jump over each other to get to the food first.
Koketso always counts the chickens. “One, two, three, four chickens,” she says, “and another one, two, three, four chickens. They’re all here, Granny!”
One morning when Koketso woke up she saw her granny dressed in her best jacket and hat.
“I have to help Mrs Solomon at the clinic this morning,” explained Granny, “so I don’t have time to feed the chickens. Will you do it by yourself, Koketso? You know what to do.”
Granny picked up her handbag and opened the front door. Then she turned to Koketso and said, “Now don’t forget to give the chickens water, and, whatever you do, DON’T let them out of the coop!”
“Oh, Granny,” said Koketso, “I know THAT!”
“Well, I hope so,” said Granny. “Be careful now! See you later. Bye, Koketso.”
As soon as her granny had left, Koketso sat down to eat her breakfast. “I’m very, very hungry,” she said to herself. “Those chickens will just have to wait for a little while!”
Koketso ate a big bowl of porridge and drank a glass of milk. Then she sat on the front doorstep and ate an apple.
“Hello!” she said to old Uncle Koos when he came past with his shopping trolley and his little dog.
“Good morning, Mme!” she said waving to Mrs Zihlangu across the road.
“Come and play with me, Pinky,” she called to her cousin, who was coming out of the shop on the corner, carrying a loaf of bread.
“Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got chores,” Pinky called back. “Don’t you?”
Koketso suddenly remembered that she hadn’t fed the chickens. “Oh dear,” she said, “those poor, hungry chickens!”
Sure enough, the chickens were clucking and squabbling in their coop. Koketso opened the low gate very carefully. “Pok, pok, pok,” she said. “Sorry, chickens, here’s your food.” And she scattered the seed on the ground.
“One, two, three, four chickens,” she counted, “and another one, two, three, four chickens.”
Then she saw that the chickens’ water bowl was empty and she hurried off to fetch some water from the kitchen – but she forgot to close the gate behind her!
“Oh no!” said Koketso when she returned with the water and saw the chickens running all over the yard. “Oh no, no, no! Bad chickens! Come back NOW!”
But the chickens kept running – right around the side of the house, down the short path and into the street!
A man on a yellow bicycle came riding along.
“Help! Help!” cried Koketso. “Please help me catch Granny’s chickens!”
“Of course I’ll help you,” said the man, and he raced after the chickens on his bicycle, ringing his bell.
As Koketso ran after him, she nearly bumped into Uncle Koos’s trolley.
“Help! Help!” said Koketso puffing and panting. “Uncle Koos, please help me catch Granny’s chickens!”
“Of course I’ll help you,” said Uncle Koos, and off he went after the chickens and the man on the yellow bicycle. His little dog ran behind him, barking loudly.
As Koketso ran down the road behind Uncle Koos, she saw her friend, Dikeledi. Dikeledi was practising doing tricks on her skateboard.
“Help! Help, Dikeledi!” cried Koketso. “Please help me catch Granny’s chickens!”
“Of course I’ll help you,” said Dikeledi as she zoomed off after the chickens.
As Koketso ran behind Dikeledi she thought about all the terrible things that could happen to the chickens. They could get run over, or they could be eaten by a dog. Or, they could fall into the river and drown. “Oh no, what will Granny say?” she panted. Koketso felt like crying.
“Look what I’ve got!” said a voice. It was the man on the yellow bicycle. He was carrying two of the chickens in a shopping bag.
“One, two chickens,” counted Koketso. “Oh, thank you! Now I just have to find the others.”
Just then Uncle Koos arrived with some of the chickens in an open cardboard box in his trolley. “Here you go, sweetheart!” he said, out of breath.
“One, two, three, four chickens,” counted Koketso. “That means I have one, two chickens from the man on the yellow bicycle, and another one, two, three, four from Uncle Koos. Oh thank you, thank you! Now I just have to find the others.”
Just then Dikeledi whizzed up on her skateboard. “Look what I’ve found, Koketso!” she said holding a chicken under her arm.
“That makes one, two, three, four chickens,” said Koketso, “and another one, two, three chickens. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! But there’s still one chicken missing!”
Koketso’s friends helped to put the chickens back into their coop. Then they helped her to look everywhere for the last chicken, but no one could find it.
When Granny got home from the clinic, Koketso made her some tea. “Sit down, Granny,” said Koketso. “You must be very tired! Sit down and have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit!”
Granny looked at Koketso closely. “Is everything alright?” she asked. “You don’t usually make me tea.”
Koketso burst into tears. “Oh, Granny,” she wailed. “Something terrible happened while you were out!” Then she told her granny the whole story. “And, and, and,” she sobbed, “one of the chickens is still missing. And it’s your favourite one – the one with the speckles.”
“That is a shame, Koketso,” Granny said sternly. “That one laid more eggs than any of the others. Well, I hope you’ve learnt to be more careful!”
“Oh, I have, Granny,” sniffed Koketso. “I really have!”
Just then there was a squawking noise in the corner of the kitchen. When Granny and Koketso looked, they saw the missing chicken. She was sitting happily on top of a pile of clean washing in the washing basket!
Granny picked up the chicken and stroked its beak. “I’m glad to have you back,” Granny said.
“And look, Granny,” said Koketso pointing to the washing basket, “she’s laid an egg!”
There, on top of the washing, was a big, brown, speckled egg!
“We’ll have that for supper,” said Granny handing the chicken to Koketso. “Take this chicken back to the coop, please – and this time don’t forget to shut the gate!”