At ten thirty or so in the morning the cackling begins. I wonder
what it means! Have the forest-lovers who listen so respectfully
interpret so exquisitely, the notes of birds--have none of them
psychological investigations of the hen cackle? Can it be simple
elation? One could believe that of the first few eggs, but a hen
laid two or three hundred can hardly feel the same exuberant pride
joy daily. Can it be the excitement incident to successful achievement?
Hardly, because the task is so extremely simple. Eggs are more or
alike; a little larger or smaller, a trifle whiter or browner; and
sure to be quite right as to details; that is, the big end never
confused with the little end, they are always ovoid and never spherical,
and the yolk is always inside of the white. As for a soft-shelled
it is so rare an occurrence that the fear of laying one could not
whole race of hens in a panic; so there really cannot be any intellectual
or emotional agitation in producing a thing that might be made by
machine. Can it be simply "fussiness"; since the people
who have the
least to do commonly make the most flutter about doing it?
Perhaps it is merely conversation. "_Cut-cut-cut-cut-cut_-DAH_cut_!
. I have finished my strictly fresh egg, have you laid yours? Make
haste, then, for the cock has found a gap in the wire-fence and
to wander in the strawberry-bed. . . . Cut-cut-cut-cut-cut-DAH_cut_
. . .
Every moment is precious, for the Goose Girl will find us, when
gathers the strawberries for her luncheon . . . Cut-cut-cut-cut!
way out we can find sweet places to steal nests . . . Cut-cut-cut!
. . .
I am so glad I am not sitting this heavenly morning; it _is_ a dull
A Lancashire poultryman drifted into Barbury Green yesterday. He
old acquaintance of Mr. Heaven, and spent the night and part of
day at Thornycroft Farm. He possessed a deal of fowl philosophy,
tells many a good hen story, which, like fish stories, draw rather
largely on the credulity of the audience. We were sitting in the
rickyard talking comfortably about laying and cackling and kindred
matters when he took his pipe from his mouth and told us the following
tale--not a bad one if you can translate the dialect:--
'Aw were once towd as, if yo' could only get th' hen's egg away
she hed sin it, th' hen 'ud think it hed med a mistek an' sit deawn
ageean an' lay another.
"An' it seemed to me it were a varra sensible way o' lukkin'
at it. Sooa
aw set to wark to mek a nest as 'ud tek a rise eawt o' th' hens.
dud it too. Aw med a nest wi' a fause bottom, th' idea bein' as
hen hed laid, th' egg 'ud drop through into a box underneyth.
"Aw felt varra preawd o' that nest, too, aw con tell yo',
an' aw remember
aw felt quite excited when aw see an awd black Minorca, th' best
aw hed, gooa an' settle hersel deawn i' th' nest an' get ready for
Th' hen seemed quite comfortable enough, aw were glad to see, an'
through th' operation beawt ony seemin' trouble.
"Well, aw darsay yo' know heaw a hen carries on as soon as
it's laid a
egg. It starts "chuckin'" away like a showman's racket,
tekkin' a good Ink at th' egg to see whether it's a big 'un or a
'un, gooas eawt an' tells all t'other hens abeawt it.
"Neaw, this black Minorca, as aw sed, were a owdish bird,
an' maybe knew
mooar than aw thowt. Happen it hed laid on a nest wi' a fause bottom
afooar, an' were up to th' trick, but whether or not, aw never see
luk mooar disgusted i' mi life when it lukked i' th' nest an' see
hed hed all that trouble fer nowt.
"It woked reawnd th' nest as if it couldn't believe its own
"But it dudn't do as aw expected. Aw expected as it 'ud sit
an' lay another.
"But it just gi'e one wonderin' sooart o' chuck, an then,
after a long
stare reawnd th' hen-coyt, it woked eawt, as mad a hen as aw've
Aw fun' eawt after, what th' long stare meant. It were tekkin' farewell!
For if yo'll believe me that hen never laid another egg i' ony o'
"Varra like it laid away in a spot wheear it could hev summat
to luk at
when it hed done wark for th' day.
"Sooa aw lost mi best layer through mi actin', an' aw've never