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before they can use their wings. The hen sits on her eggs for about twenty-one days, with such determined perseverance, that she will almost perish on her nest rather than remit her duty.
Humanity requires that these poor animals should not thus be suffered to injure or destroy themselves by the vain continuance of their endeavours to warm into life eggs which cannot be hatched. Long after they quit the shell, the young
chickens find warmth and shelter beneath their parent's wing; and will even run to it sometimes, when far too large to be conveniently protected.
In about three months, the chickens are fit for the table, or for stores. They are commonly fattened under coops, before they are killed; though, for my own part, I think a barn-door fowl, - that is, one which has had the full run of the yard-quite as palatable, and perhaps more wholesome meat, than one gorged with excessive feeding, without exercise, or the enjoyment of its own notions of quantity and selection.
The eggs produced in the winter months are by no means an unprofitable store at Christmas and the festive season. Twopence and threepence, in hard winters, have sometimes been given for an egg.
Reynard, the only poacher against whom parliament has provided no law, is a most insatiate ruffian amongst the poultry, in the night; unless indeed their castle be well closed and fortified for their security. If he can gain an entrance, he draws the poor birds, one after another, from the roost, and leaves only blood and feathers to bear witness to his crimes. Whilst he attacks the birds, rats and
109 other vermin make equal havoc with the eggs; sucking or carrying them away with astonishing secrecy and dispatch.
Geese are not always inhabitants of the farmer's premises ; for, as they feed with a somewhat unsavoury spoon on the meadow-grass, horses and other animals do not much relish their leavings :-in fact, they will not, if they can help it, feed after them. It is where there is an open green, or common, with ponds of water, that these birds thrive best, and do their owners most good. They are to a proverb stupid; yet have sense enough, in general, for their occasions. They know their home; and, at the close of evening, resort thither in a row, without confusion, or the least diversity of purpose.
These animals will live almost entirely on grass; and cost, therefore, very little, where
they can do no harm. At Michaelmas they are in season, and in the greatest request ; and the number then disposed of in the markets is very great.
There are two orders of beings to whom the public are especially indebted for their literary treasures — I mean geese and authors. It is lucky when the quill does not come a second time into the possession of a goose, or one of similar capacity. The demand for quills is so great, that vast flocks of geese are kept in the fens of Lincolnshire and elsewhere to produce the required supply. Unfortunately for the poor birds, their feathers are in great request too, for bedding; so that they are plucked alive five times in the year for feathers, and their wings once for their unrivalled quills. Of ducks we have, I think, a hundred or
As they do not graze, or scratch the
soil, we are not afraid of any mischief from them, and they require small attention and supplies. They do not hatch so early as hens; and, therefore, it is common to put some of their eggs
under a sitting hen, who will perform the office as well as if they were her
She is, however, sadly perplexed and frightened, when her brood, notwithstanding all her care and clucking, take to the water, according to their nature.
I have now, I believe, mentioned the principal animals which the farmer maintains for his use or profit. There are others, which, unfortunately, he is compelled to keep, to his own great inconvenience and damage ;—these are the species of depredators, of which I have elsewhere spoken as vermin, and those privileged robbers called game.
Hares, rabbits, pheasants, and partridges,