Feeding the chickens.
160 What Shall We Do Now?
ducks, but very often it is her daughter or a servant. No matter who it is, as soon as she is convinced that you will be careful and thorough she will let you hunt for eggs. This is very exciting, because hens have a way of laying in nests in the wood and all kinds of odd places, hoping that no one will find them and they will thus be able to sit and hatch out their chickens. The hay in the stable is a favourite spot, and under the faggot pile, and among the long grass in the hedge. Sometimes one overlooks a nest for nearly a week and then finds three or four eggs in it, one of them quite warm. This is a great discovery. Just at first it is easy to be taken in by the china nest-eggs, and to run indoors in triumph with one in your hand. But the farmer's wife will laugh and send you back with it, and the mistake is not likely to be made again. After a while one gets to know the hens personally, and to know the noise which means that they have just laid. Sometimes, if a hen is going to lay just as you come to her nest, she will run off clucking and screaming and lay the egg on the ground.
Ducks' eggs, which are rather larger than hens' eggs, and pale green in colour, are often more difficult to find. They have to be hunted for in the grass by the pond.
The farmer's wife also lets her visitors feed the chickens if they are gentle with them and thoughtful. It needs quite a little thought, because if you throw down the grain without thinking, many of the weaker and less greedy ones will get nothing, and many of the stronger and greedier ones will get too much. After a few handfuls you can see which are the weaklings, and after that you can favour them accordingly. A greedy hen is so very greedy that she will always, whatever you do, get more than her share ; but it is possible to snub her a little. The very little chickens and ducklings do not have grain, but soft food, which is put in a saucer and placed inside the coop. It is after they have finished eating that they can most easily be picked up, but one must be very careful not to squeeze them.