In order to get a close view of the farmhouse, Mrs. Frisby climbs up "a very thick fence post at the corner of the garden nearest the farmhouse and the tractor shed." She knows that, a few inches above the ground, there is "a convenient knot hole with a hollow place behind it in which she could hide...and watch what (is) going on in the yard." Mrs. Frisby needs to see what is going on at the Fitzgibbon farm, because she has just heard the tractor starting up. Mrs. Frisby needs to know if Mr. Fitzgibbon is getting ready to plow the fields, because if he is, she will have to find a way to move her family out of their home immediately. Mrs. Frisby's son Timothy is very sick, and cannot be taken outdoors without grave danger to his health, so if it is necessary for Mrs. Frisby to move her family, she will have to think of a way to do it quickly, without exposing Timothy to the elements.
Mr. Fitzgibbon is a hardworking farmer, and he has two sons who are old enough to help him. The older son, Paul, is fifteen, and although he is "rather clumsy in his movements," he is quiet and industrious, "strong and careful about his chores." The younger son, Billy, is twelve, and tends to be noisier and has "an annoying habit of skimming rocks across the grass at anything that move(s)." Mr. Fitzgibbon and his sons are readying the tractor for plowing, checking its parts and greasing it up. It is springtime, and just about time for farmers to start planting their cro's; plowing season is right around the corner, although Mr. Fitzgibbon notes that the ground is a little too wet to begin right away. He figures that in about five days, the ground will be dry enough to plow. The title of the chapter, "Five Days," is significant because it refers to these five days of respite before plowing begins and Mrs. Frisby's house in the field will be destroyed by the plow. Mrs. Frisby has five days to figure out how to get Timothy to safety without risking his life (Chapter 5).