The Two Hens

by W. H. G. Kingston

In Mrs F—’s poultry-yard, some duck-eggs had been placed under a Dorking hen. A few days afterwards, a bantam began to sit on her own eggs—the nests being close together. In the accustomed twenty-one days the bantams were hatched and removed; but after the usual thirty days required for hatching the duck-eggs had passed, none appeared, and so the Dorking hen was taken away and the nest destroyed. Although ten days had elapsed since the hatching of the bantam’s eggs, the Dorking hen remembered her neighbour’s good fortune, and tried to get possession of her brood—calling the little ones, feeding them, and fighting to keep them; but the true mother would by no means consent to resign her rights. To prevent the interference of the Dorking, she was shut up for several days; but directly she was liberated, she again flew to the little chickens and acted as before.

Two Muscovy ducklings having just been hatched under another hen, they were offered, as a consolation for her disappointment, to the Dorking; and such was her desire for maternity that she instantly adopted them. To prevent further trouble, she and her charges were sent to a neighbouring house. A fortnight later other ducks were hatched, and as it seemed a pity to waste the time of the banished hen with two ducklings only, they were sent for home. The little Muscovies were placed with their own brethren, and the hen turned loose among the rest of the poultry, it being supposed impossible that she would still recollect the past. Her memory, however, was more tenacious than any one fancied. Once more she hastened to the bantams, and lavished her care on the tiny things, of whom only three were surviving. The bantam mother, on this, appeared satisfied to regard her as a friend. They disputed no longer, but jointly and equally lavished their cares and caresses on the three chicks.

Here is not only a curious example of tenacity of memory, but it is the only instance of friendship Mrs F— has ever known to exist amongst gallinaceous fowl.

Do not be jealous of another’s success, but try rather to assist and support a rival, if your services are acceptable.