Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/135

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INSTINCT. 129

reach, as babies are said to grasp at the moon ; and they may be said to have invariably hit the objects at which they struck — they never missed by more than a hair's breadth, and that, too, when the specks at which they aimed were no bigger, and less visible, than the smallest dot of an i. To seize between the points of the mandibles at the very instant of striking seemed a more difficult operation. I have seen a chicken seize and swallow an insect at the first attempt: most fre- quently, however, they struck five or six times, lifting once or twice before they succeeded in swallowing their first food. The unacquired power of following by sight was very plainly exemplified in the case of a chicken that, after being unhooded, sat complaining and motionless for six minutes, when I placed my hand on it for a few seconds. On removing my hand the chicken immediately followed it by sight back- ward and forward and all round the table. To take, by way of example, the observations in a single case a little in detail: A chicken that had been made the subject of experiments on hearing, was unhooded when nearly three days old. For six minutes it sat chirping and looking about it; at the end of that time it followed with its head and eyes the movements of a fly twelve inches distant; at ten minutes it made a peck at its own toes, and the next instant it made a vigorous dart at the fly, which had come within reach of its neck, and seized and swallowed it at the first stroke; for seven minutes more it sat calling and looking about it, when a hive-bee coming sufficiently near was seized at a dart and thrown some distance, much disabled. For twenty minutes it sat on the spot where its eyes had been unveiled without attempting to walk a step. It was then placed on rough ground within sight and call of a hen with a brood of its own age. After standing chirping for about a minute, it started off towards the hen, displaying as keen a per- ception of the qualities of the outer world as it was ever likely to possess in after life. It never required to knock its head against a stone to dis- cover that there was 'no road that way.' It leaped over the smaller obstacles that lay in its path and ran round the larger, reaching the mother in as nearly a straight line as the nature of the ground would permit. This, let it be remembered, was the first time it had ever walked by sight.*

  • Since writing this article, I see it stated in Mr. Darwin's new book, ' The

Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,' that " the wonderful power which a chicken possesses only a few hours after being hatched, of picking up small particles of food, seems to be started into action through the sense of hearing; for, with chickens hatched by artificial heat, a good observer found that ' making a noise with a fingernail against a board, in imitation of the hen- mother, first taught them to peck at their meat.' " My own observations give no countenance whatever to this view : (1)1 have frequently observed chickens finally hatched in a flannel nest over a jar of hot water and left undisturbed for

VOL. LXI. — 9.

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