HEN the Speckled Hen wanted to sit there was no use in
trying to talk her out of the idea, for she was a very
set Hen. So, after the farmer's wife had worked and
worked, and barred her out of first one
Still, the Black Spanish Hens talk very reasonably about it. "We will lay plenty of eggs," they say, "but some of the common Hens must hatch them." They do their share of the farmyard work, only they insist on choosing what that share shall be.
When the Speckled Hen came off the nest with eleven Black Chickens (two of the eggs did not hatch), she was not altogether happy. "I wanted them to be speckled," said she, "and not one of the whole brood is." That was why she grew so restless and discontented in her coop, although it was roomy and clean and she had plenty given her to eat and drink. She was quite happy only when they were safely under her wings at night. And such a time as they always had getting settled!
When the sunbeams came more and more slantingly through the trees, the Chickens felt less and less like running around. Their tiny legs were tired and they liked to cuddle down on the grass in the shadow of the coop. Then the Speckled Hen often clucked to them to come in and rest, but they liked it better in the open air. The Speckled Hen would also have liked to be out of the coop, yet the farmer kept her in. He knew what was best for Hens with little Chickens, and also what was best for the tender young lettuce and radishes in his garden.
When the sun was nearly down, the Speckled Hen clucked
All the time that they were getting settled for the night the Chickens were talking in sleepy little cheeps, and now and then one of them would poke his head out between the feathers and tell the Speckled Hen that somebody was pushing him. Then she would be more puzzled than ever and cluck louder still. Sometimes, too, the Chickens would run out for another mouthful of cornmeal mush or a few more drops of water. There was one little fellow who always wanted something to drink just when he should have been going to sleep. The Speckled Hen used to say that it took longer for a mouthful of water to run down his throat than it would for her to drink the whole panful. Of course it did take quite a while, because he couldn't hurry it by swallowing. He had to drink, as all birds do, by filling his beak with water and then holding it up until the last drop had trickled down into his stomach.
When the whole eleven were at last safely tucked away
for the night, the Speckled Hen was tired but happy.
"They are good children," she often said to herself,
"if they are Black Spanish. They might be just as
mischievous if they were speckled; still, I do wish
that those stylish-looking,
They were free to go where they chose.
There came a day when the coop was raised and they were
free to go where they chose. There was a fence around
the vegetable garden now and netting around the
It is said that this was what made the Speckled Hen
leave the eleven little Black Spanish Chickens after
she had been out of the coop for a while. They had
been very mischievous and disobedient one day, and she
walked off and left them to care for themselves while
she started to raise a family of her own in a stolen
nest under the
When night came, eleven little Black Spanish Chickens
did not know what to do. They went to look for their
old coop, but that had been given to another Hen and
her family. They walked around looking very small and
lonely, and wished they had minded the Speckled
Hen and made her love them more. At last they found an
The Chickens on the ground said he was afraid, and he said he wasn't any more afraid than they were. Then, after a while, he did jump, a queer, floppy, squawky kind of jump, but it landed him where he wanted to be. After that it was his turn to laugh at the others while they stood teetering uncertainly on the top stone. They were very lonely without the Speckled Hen, and each Chicken wanted to be in the middle of the group to keep him warm on all sides.
Somebody laughed at the most mischievous Chicken and
told him he could stand on the
They slept safely that night, and only awakened when
the Cocks crowed a little while after midnight. After
that they slept until sunrise, and when the Shanghais
and Dorkings came down from the
Every night they came back to sleep on the
That scared the Chickens and they were very quiet. It
made the Black Spanish Hen uneasy though, and she
whispered to the Black Spanish Cock
and wouldn't let him sleep until he had promised to
fight anybody who might try to carry one of the
Chickens away from the
The next night first one Chicken and then another kept
tumbling off the
"You pushed me! You know you did!"
"Well, he pushed me!"
"Well, I couldn't help it if I did!"
The Shanghai Cock became exceedingly cross because they made so much noise, and even the Black Spanish Cock lost his patience. "You may be my children," said he, "but you do not take your manners from me. Is there no other place on this farm where you can sleep excepting that old crate?"
"We want to sleep here," answered the Chicken on the ground. "There is plenty of room if those fellows wouldn't push." Then he flew up and clung and pushed until some other Chicken tumbled off.
"Well!" said the Black Spanish Cock. And he would have
said much more if the Black Spanish Hen had not
fluttered down from the
"There is not room for you all," said the Black Spanish Hen. "One must sleep somewhere else."
"There is room," said the Chickens, contradicting her. "We have always roosted on here."
"There is not room," said the Black Spanish Hen once more. "How do your feathers grow?"
"Finely," said they.
"And your feet?"
"They are getting very big," was the answer.
"Do you think the Speckled Hen could cover you all with her wings if she were to try it now?"
The Chickens looked at each other and laughed. They thought it would take three Speckled Hens to cover them.
"But she used to," said the Black Spanish Hen. She did
not say anything more. She just looked at the
After a while one of the Chickens said: "I guess perhaps there isn't room for us all there."
The mischievous one said: "If you little Chickens want
to roost there you may. I am too large for that sort of
thing." Then he walked up the slanting board to the
"Just listen to him!" whispered the Black Spanish Cock.
"And he hasn't a
"Never mind," answered the Black Spanish Hen. "Let them play that they are grown up if they want to. They will be soon enough." She sighed as she put her head under her wing and settled down for the night. It made her feel old to see her children roosting in a tree.