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Henny Wants Some Chicks

Henny was a red hen. She was Farmer Berg's prize chicken. She laid the biggest eggs of all. She laid them every day. And sometimes she even laid two.

Peter Berg, the farmer's son, was proud of Henny. When he brought the chickens their feed in the morning, he always gave Henny an extra portion. She gave a special cluck when she saw him.

Now Henny was unhappy. It was spring. It felt good to sit on the eggs that she laid. But each morning Peter came and took her egg away. He put it in a basket with the eggs from the other chickens. Farmer Berg took the eggs in his truck to the grocery store, where people came to buy fresh eggs.

Each day Henny grew unhappier. When Peter came to get the eggs in the morning, she would not get up off her nest. He had to reach under her to get her egg. Then she would flap her wings and cluck angrily at him.

"I wonder what's wrong with Henny lately," Peter said to his father. "She is acting funny. I think she wants to hatch some eggs."

"She can't do that," said Farmer Berg. "She is our best egg layer. We need her eggs."

Peter felt sorry for Henny. He decided to help her. The next morning, when he went to the chicken coop, he brought a handful of feed right up to Henny's nest. He put his hand under her to feel her new egg, but he did not take it. He just left it there.

The next day, Peter did the same thing -- and the next and the nest. Now there were four big eggs in Henny's nest. Henny sat on them and kept them warm. Sometimes she reached down and turned them over. She left them only when she was very hungry or thirsty. And as soon as she had eaten, she went right back and sat on her eggs again.

Farmer Berg said to his son, "Where are those big eggs that Henny lays? I haven't seen any for a few days."

Peter did not say anything.

But then that afternoon, Farmer Berg went to clean out the chicken coop and found Henny and her four eggs. "See what you've done?" he said to Peter. "These eggs are spoiled now." Angrily, he threw the eggs away.

Now Henny was really unhappy. She kept looking in her nest for her eggs. She walked around the yard making crying noises. Peter was sorry for her, but he was afraid to disobey his father again. So he took Henny's new egg away each morning.

Henny found a little hole in the bottom of the fence around the chicken yard. She tried to squeeze through it, but it was too small. She tried to fly over the fence, but it was too high. Then one day, Farmer Berg made a mistake. He left the gate of the chicken yard open for a minute. Before he could turn around, Henny dashed out through the gate.

Across the field Henny ran, clucking and squawking, while Farmer Berg ran after her. In a moment she disappeared into the woods.

When Peter came home from school, he looked in the woods for Henny. But he did not find her. She was hiding under some thick bushes. She had made herself a nest, and she already had one egg in it.

The first night in the woods, Henny was frightened. It was dark, and there were all sorts of scary noises. But nothing came near her. And the next morning she laid another egg in her nest.

During the day Henny scratched, around and found some seeds and worms to eat. She found a little stream where she could get a drink of water. But most of the time she sat on her nest and kept her eggs warm. The next morning she laid another egg. Now she had three.

Late that afternoon, Henny went to the stream to get a drink of water. When she got back to the nest, she made a terrible discovery. All her eggs were broken. A skunk had found her nest and eaten all the eggs.

Poor Henny. Now she would have to start all over again. She looked around and found a new place to make a nest. The days went by, and soon there were four eggs in the new nest.

But the next night, a weasel caught Henny's smell. Quietly he crept up to the nest. Henny did not even hear him until suddenly he pounced on her. His sharp teeth were biting her.

Henny squawked and screeched. She beat at the weasel with her wings and scratched him with her feet. He let go for a second, and that was enough. Henny flew up to safety on a tree branch. All the weasel had left was a mouthful of feathers and a nest full of eggs.

The next morning Henny went back to the farm. Peter found her outside the chicken yard when he went to get the eggs. She was dragging one wing, and she had a big bare patch on her breast, where she had lost her feathers. Peter picked her up and ran to call his father.

Farmer Berg shook his head. "If she wants a family that badly," he said, "I guess we'd better let her have her way." A month later there were tiny peepings in Henny's nest. Eight fluffy chicks peeked their way out of their eggs. And they all grew up to be champion egg layers, who laid almost as many eggs as their mother Henny.





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