Big Chickens Go to Town

by Leslie Helakoski ; illustrated by Henry Cole.

Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader Level: 2.6

Author website:

Illustrator website:


Why did the chickens cross the road? To get to town, of course! When those four lily-livered chickens are accidentally dumped off the farmer's truck, they have no choice but to follow the feed trail through a day of crazy hijinks. What ensues is a raucous adventure through town, including foreign food, weird noises, and strange birds. Sidesplitting silliness abounds in this third riotously funny read-aloud by Leslie Helakoski, once again illustrated with Henry Cole's boisterous art.
Theme: Humorous stories
Read the book taking your cue for voice expression from the pictures.

Early Literacy:

This book has so many interesting words. Use them all, like “the chickens bawled, squalled and caterwauled.” This is how your child’s vocabulary will grow. Even if they (or you) don’t understand every word, you can get the idea from the story itself. That’s one of the wonderful things about books, they have so many interesting words.


This book has many rhyming words. [Demonstrate with one page. For example, reread the page that starts Shouting voices wobbled.] Wobbled rhymes with bobbled. Flumped rhymes with bumped and rushed rhymes with crushed. Let’s think of some other words that rhyme with crushed. They don’t even have to make sense. (mushed, brushed, zushed) Pointing out and making rhyming words helps to develop one of the early literacy skills called phonological awareness–hearing the smaller sounds in words. This will later help your child sound out words when they learn to read.

Masks of animals in Big Chickens.

Divide children into groups and act out sections of Big Chickens using masks.
Create your own origami beak for acting out scenes from Big Chickens – find directions:

Make a fun Big Chicken pop up card - find directions for card:

Pantomime emotions from Big Chickens for other children to guess.

Music & Movement Activities:
We’re following the chicken (3)
We’re following the chicken
Wherever she may go.
We’re following the chicken (3)
We’re following the chicken.
We STOP and touch our toes.
We’re following the chicken (etc).
We STOP and touch our nose,
(children can have a turn being the leader while the other
children copy their pose.) We STOP and make a pose.
A hen can lay a brown egg. A hen can stand on 1 leg.
A hen can run. A hen can walk. A hen can say, bawk, bawk, bawk.
But do you know what a hen can’t do?
A hen can’t_ like you.
(Children brainstorm for answers and act out movement.)

Would you like to be a chicken?
Yes, I’d like to be a chicken.
Bawk or Cluck (4) (hands like beak)
(4 open close beaks, no words)*
Can you wiggle like a chicken?
I can wiggle like a chicken.
(shaking hips) Bawk *
Can you sound like a chicken?
I can sound like a chicken. Bawk (4)
Can you fly like a chicken?
I can fly like a chicken? Bawk (4)

To hear the melody and find instructions for the traditional version go to the site
Another version with different text can be found 1

Videos online:

Big Chickens trailer
Book Trailer for Big Chickens with illustrator Henry Cole:

More books by Leslie Helakoski:

  • Big Chickens
  • Big Chickens Fly the Coop
  • Fair Cow
  • Woolbur


Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Preschool-Grade 2. In their latest uproarious adventure, four chickens see the world beyond their farm when they climb into the back of a pickup truck, and the farmer unexpectedly drives to town. The birds soon find themselves in a strange world of rushing traffic, honking horns, shouting voices, and lively jazz music from a sidewalk café. The silly, rhyming words (“The chickens blabbered, gabbered, and gibber-jabbered”) make this great for reading aloud, and Cole’s bright ink-and-watercolor cartoon pictures extend the chaotic fun. Kids will feel superior to the naive chickens, even as they recognize the birds’ anxiety about strange, new places.

Horn Book (Fall 2010)
In their third outing, the big chickens get distracted by a feed bag and find themselves on a bumpy truck ride into the city. Surrounded by strange noises, strange food, and strange animals, the chickens wonder if they'll ever get home. The text's message about not fearing the unknown is subtly delivered, and the ebullient illustrations reflect the chickens' frantic personalities.
Publishers Weekly (December 7, 2009)
Pecking at a bag of feed in the back of the farmer's truck, the four chickens take an unintended ride to town in this third outing. The chickens become increasingly discombobulated by the sights, sounds, and pace of city life ("Bustling waiters tripped. Sidewalk tables flipped. Chickens stewed. Napkins shooed"). Kids should delight in their wildly expressive antics and chicken's-eye view of the world. Ages 3-5. (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2010)
K-Gr 2-Kids who have read Big Chickens (2005) and Big Chickens Fly the Coop (2008, both Dutton) will be familiar with the characteristics that make these birds immediately endearing: alternately impulsive and cautious, panicky and pleased, they're a lot like children testing their world. In this installment, the chickens find a bag of feed in the farmer's truck and are intent on pecking it open when the truck takes off. "What if we never get home again?" "What if we fall out of the truck?" "What if we can't get this bag open?" The foolish, fearsome, funny foursome lands in town, and this kind of worry-chorus is echoed in every new situation-when they cross the road; look for food in a cafe; hear their first jazz band; and run into a park full of pigeons. When the chickens stumble into a happy ending, young readers as well as these birds will feel that the world isn't such a big, bad place after all. This is a book that must be read aloud, and adults might want to do a little practicing beforehand. Helakoski's language is deliciously dense and tricky: "The chickens blabbered, gabbered, and gibber-jabbered. Shouting voices wobbled. Flighty locals bobbled. Running feet flumped. Startled bellies bumped." Children will love Cole's wacky illustrations. Chickens never had such huge nervous eyes, such flappy wings, or such cute outfits. The visual perspectives manage to make the birds look simultaneously large and small: a neat trick. Big Chickens Go to Town is more than a really funny book. Every page reminds readers, "That was scary, but we're okay."-Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Created by Rita Shogren © 2011