Beautiful Joe
Chapter 18, Page 2


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


Mrs. Wood was diving into a partly shut-in place, where it was not so light, and where the nests were. She straightened herself up, her face redder than ever, and looked at the windows with a pleased smile.

"Yes, there's not a hen house in New Hampshire with such big windows. Whenever I look at them, I think of my mother's hens, and wish that they could have had a place like this. They would have thought themselves in a hen's paradise. When I was a girl we didn't know that hens loved light and heat, and all winter they used to sit in a dark hencoop, and the cold was so bad that their combs would freeze stiff, and the tops of them would drop off. We never thought about it. If we'd had any sense, we might have watched them on a fine day go and sit on the compost heap and sun themselves, and then have concluded that if they liked light and heat outside, they'd like it inside. Poor biddies, they were so cold that they wouldn't lay us any eggs in winter."

"You take a great interest in your poultry, don't you auntie?" said Miss Laura.

"Yes, indeed, and well I may. I'll show you my brown Leghorn, Jenny, that lay eggs enough in a year to pay for the newspapers I take to keep myself posted in poultry matters. I buy all my own clothes with my hen money, and lately I've started a bank account, for I want to save up enough to start a few stands of bees. Even if I didn't want to be kind to my hens, it would pay me to be so for sake of the profit they yield. Of course they're quite a lot of trouble. Sometimes they get vermin on them, and I have to grease them and dust carbolic acid on them, and try some of my numerous cures. Then I must keep ashes and dust wallows for them and be very particular about my eggs when hens are sitting, and see that the hens come off regularly for food and exercise. Oh, there are a hundred things I have to think of, but I always say to any one that thinks of raising poultry: 'If you are going into the business for the purpose of making money, it pays to take care of them.'"

"There's one thing I notice," said Miss Laura, "and that is that your drinking fountains must be a great deal better than the shallow pans that I have seen some people give their hens water in."

"Dirty things they are," said Mrs. Wood; "I wouldn't use one of them. I don't think there is anything worse for hens than drinking dirty water. My hens must have as clean water as I drink myself, and in winter I heat it for them. If it's poured boiling into the fountains in the morning, it keeps warm till night. Speaking of shallow drinking dishes, I wouldn't use them, even before I ever heard of a drinking fountain. John made me something that we read about. He used to take a powder keg and bore a little hole in the side, about an inch from the top, then fill it with water, and cover with a pan a little larger round than the keg. Then he turned the keg upside down, without taking away the pan. The water ran into the pan only as far as the hole in the keg, and it would have to be used before more would flow in. Now let us go and see my beautiful, bronze turkeys. They don't need any houses, for they roost in the trees the year round."

We found the flock of turkeys, and Miss Laura admired their changeable colors very much. Some of them were very large, and I did not like them, for the gobblers ran at me, and made a dreadful noise in their throats.

Afterward, Mrs. Wood showed us some ducks that she had shut up in a yard. She said that she was feeding them on vegetable food, to give their flesh a pure flavor, and by-and-by she would send them to market and get a high price for them.

Every place she took us to was as clean as possible. "No one can be successful in raising poultry in large numbers," she said, "unless they keep their quarters clean and comfortable."

As yet we had seen no hens, except a few on the nests, and Miss Laura said, "Where are they? I should like to see them."

"They are coming," said Mrs. Wood. "It is just their breakfast time, and they are as punctual as clockwork. They go off early in the morning, to scratch about a little for themselves first."

As she spoke she stepped off the plank walk, and looked off towards, the fields.

Miss Laura burst out laughing. Away beyond the barns the hens were coming. Seeing Mrs. Wood standing there, they thought they were late, and began to run and fly, jumping over each other's backs, and stretching out their necks, in a state of great excitement. Some of their legs seemed sticking straight out behind. It was very funny to see them.

They were a fine-looking lot of poultry, mostly white, with glossy feathers and bright eyes. They greedily ate the food scattered to them, and Mrs. Wood said, "They think I've changed their breakfast time, and to-morrow they'll come a good bit earlier. And yet some people say hens have no sense."