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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/138

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132
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

field goes to prove that the current notions are in accordance with fact. We have seen that chickens follow the call of their mother before they have had any opportunity of associating that sound with pleasurable feelings; and one or two observations, which must be taken for what they are worth, support the general opinion that they have an equally instinctive dread of their more deadly enemies. When twelve days old one of my little protégés, while running about beside me, gave the peculiar chirr whereby they announce the approach of danger. I looked up, and behold a sparrow-hawk was hovering at a great height over head. Having subsequently procured a young hawk, able to take only short flights, I made it fly over a hen with her first brood, then about a week old. In the twinkling of an eye most of the chickens were hid among grass and bushes. The hen pursued, and scarcely had the hawk touched the ground, about twelve yards from where she had been sitting, when she fell upon it with such fury that it was with difficulty that I was able to rescue it from immediate death. Equally striking was the effect of the hawk's voice when heard for the first time. A young turkey, which I had adopted when chirping within the uncracked shell, was on the morning of the tenth day of its life eating a comfortable breakfast from my hand, when the young hawk, in a cupboard just beside us, gave a shrill chip, chip, chip. Like an arrow the poor turkey shot to the other side of the room, and stood there motionless and dumb with fear, until the hawk gave a second cry, when it darted out at the open door right to the extreme end of the passage, and there, silent and crouched in a corner, remained for ten minutes. Several times during the course of that day it again heard these alarming sounds, and in every instance with similar manifestations of fear. Unfortunately, my hawk coming to an untimely end, I was prevented from proceeding with observations of this class. But these few were so marked and unmistakable in their character that I have thought them worth recording.

There are instincts, however, yet to be mentioned, concerning the reality of which I have thoroughly satisfied myself. The early attention that chickens give to their toilet is a very useful instinct, about which there can be no question. Scores of times I have seen them attempt to dress their wings when only a few hours old—indeed as soon as they could hold up their heads, and even when denied the use of their eyes. The art of scraping in search of food, which, if anything, might be acquired by imitation—for a hen with chickens spends the half of her time in scratching for them—is nevertheless another indisputable case of instinct. Without any opportunities of imitation, when kept quite isolated from their kind, chickens began to scrape when from two to six days old. Generally, the condition of the ground was suggestive; but I have several times seen the first attempt, which consists of a sort