Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/643

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MENTAL TRAITS IN THE POULTRY-YARD.

MENTAL TRAITS IN THE POULTRY-YARD.
By BENJAMIN KARR.

THE instincts and ordinary habits of the common barn-yard fowl have been closely studied and exhaustively discussed, but it is otherwise with the almost human emotions and mental processes which are sometimes to be observed in the poultry-yard. The mere searcher for knowledge will discover them with difficulty, but they are easily found by an eye which sees with the long familiarity of companionship. Many summers of fond intimacy with the poultry of a western New York farm long ago convinced at least two boys of this fact. Living in Buffalo, the writer and a brother, who was an inseparable companion, boarded through the whole or a part of several seasons, sometimes six months together, on a farm in Orleans County. Our time was entirely our own, and, as we found little companionship among the busy country lads, many days might have hung heavily on our hands had we not been wholly content to spend the greater part of them among the chickens and the turkeys; only one season, we added ducks. Our parents had taught us to love and observe Nature, and we were well read for our years in natural history. What was of more importance, we had been led from early childhood to be exact and painstaking in all things. Our play with toys was tiresome to most boys by reason of its carefulness. Under such circumstances it will not, perhaps, be thought strange that either of us could tell every fowl, young or old, toward the end of each summer, by its name and nearly all of them by their cackling. Usually there were about one hundred on the premises. We not only knew their general appearance as we would familiar faces, but I think there is no doubt that a glimpse of even the half of any head in the barn-yard would have been enough for instant recognition. We knew every hen's nest, when the egg-yield was two dozen a day, and my brother could promptly and with certainty sort out ten dozen eggs and tell which hen laid every one. When there were twenty half-grown cockerels on the farm we could readily name any one which crowed out of sight. Poultry, hens as well as their more pugnacious lords, always keep a well-defined scale of authority in force. Not one out of fifty is ignorant of its superiors and inferiors. A brood of young chickens will often settle all this business, while yet little more than fuzzy balls, by a series of really cruel fights. We never missed these exhibitions of infantile ferocity if we could help it, and a particularly savage young fighter was immediately a marked object of our admiring interest. He was usually given