6 FEBRUARY 1942, Page 11

A Maternal Pullet

A poultry-keeper in the village noticed that one of the pullets was sitting longer than seemed necessary for the matter in hand, and so to say, with more intention. As she began to investigate, she heard a succession of shrill chirps coming from the neighbour- hood of the hen. Probing still further into the mystery, she saw a strong, straight beak sticking out through -the tail feathers of the sitting bird. It belonged to a starling. The little ex- perience has several oddities. Though the hen was a pullet, and therefore had never hatched a brood, the maternal instinct had apparently been stirred, and the presence of the alien chick, as its size may have suggested, was welcomed. Starlings, which are both a greedy and courageous tribe, are particularly fond of the poultry pens, where they can generally find some pickings ; but this bird had penetrated to one of the most retired corners, and, once there, presumably crept under the laying hen for warmth. I have known a broody hen adopt and brood two bantarris, which were the nearest approach she could find to the forbidden chicks, but the adoption of a starling is quite a new phenomenon, so far as I know. It is always a little surprising that even the most bellicose -cocks do not object to their food being robbed by rooks or starlings or sparrows, and rooks in their turn seem to welcome starlings as boon com- panions. How different is their temper from that of the crows, those pernicious birds of prey!