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Chick In The Egg

( Originally Published 1851 )



The hen has scarcely sat on the egg twelve hours, when we begin already to discover in it some lineaments of the head and body of the chicken that is to be born. The heart appears to beat at the end of the day; at the end of forty-eight hours, two vesicles of blood can be distinguished, the pulsation of which is very visible. At the fiftieth hour, an auricle of the heart appears, and resembles a lace, or noose folded down upon itself: At the end of seventy hours we distinguish wings, and on the head two bubbles for the brain; one for the bill, and the others for the forepart and hindpart of the head the liver appears towards the fifth day. At the end of one hundred and thirty-one hours, the first voluntary motion is observed. At the end of one hundred and thirty-eight hours the lungs and stomach become visible—at the end of 142, the intestines, the loins, and the upper jaw. The seventh day, the brain, which was slimy, begins to have some consistence. At the 190th hour of incubation, the bill opens, and the flesh appears in the breast. At the 194th, the sternum is seen, that is to say, the breastbone. At the 210th, the ribs come out of the back, the bill is very visible, as well as the gall-bladder. The bill becomes green at the end of 236 hours; and if the chick is taken out of its covering, it evidently moves itself.—The feathers begin to shoot out towards the 240th hour, and the skull becomes gristly. At the 264th the eyes appear. At the 288th, the ribs are perfect. At the 331st, the spleen draws near to the stomach, and the lungs to the chest. At the end of 355 hours, the bill frequently opens and shuts; and at the end of 451 hours, or the 18th day, the first cry of the chick is already heard—it afterwards gets more strength, and grows continually, till at last it sets itself at liberty, by opening the prison in which it was shut up. Adorable wisdom of God ! it is by so many different degrees that these creatures are brought into life. All these progressions are made by rule! and there is not one of them without sufficient reason. No part of its body could appear sooner or later, without the whole embryo suffering, and each of its iimbs appear at the most proper moment. This ordination, so wise, and so invariable in the production of the animal, is manifestly the work of a Supreme Being.

All associations between animals of opposite natures are exceedingly interesting; and those who train animals for public exhibition know how attractive are such displays of the power of discipline over the strength of instinct. These extraordinary arrangements are sometimes the effect of accident, and sometimes of the greater force of one instinct over the lesser force of another. A rat-catcher having caught a brood of young rats alive gave them to his cat, who had just had her kittens taken from her to be drowned. A few days aferwards, he was surprised to find the rats in the place of the drowned kittens, being suckled by their natural enemy. The cat had a hatred to rats, but she spared these young rats to afford her the relief which she required as a mother. The rat-catcher exhibited the cat and her nurslings to considerable advantage. A somewhat similar exhibition exists at present.

There is a little Menagerie in London where such odd associations may be witnessed upon a more extensive scale, and more systematically conducted, than in any other collection of animals with which we are acquainted. Upon the Surrey side of Waterloo Bridge, or sometimes, though not so often, on the same side of Southwark Bridge, may be daily seen a cage about five feet square, containing the quadrupeds and birds which are represented in the annexed cut. The keeper of this collection, John Austin, states that he has employed seventeen years in this business of training creatures of opposite natures to live together in content and affection. And those years have not been unprofitably employed! It is not too much to believe, that many a person who has given his halfpenny to look upon this show, may have had his mind awakened to the extraordinary effects of habit and of gentle discipline, when he has thus seen the cat, the rat, the mouse, the hawk, the rabbit, the guinea-pig, the owl, the pigeon, the starling, and the sparrow, each enjoying, as far as can be enjoyed in confinement, its respective modes of life, in the company of the others,—the weak without fear, and the strong without the desire to injure. It is impossible to imagine any prettier exhibition of kindness than is here shown. The rabbit and the pigeon playfully contending for a lock of hay to make up their nests; the sparrow sometimes perched on the head of the cat, and sometimes on that of the owl,—each its natural enemy; and the mice playing about with perfect indifference to the presence either of cat, or hawk, or owl. The modes by which this man has effected this, are, first, by keeping all the creatures well fed; and, secondly, by accustoming one species to the society of the other at a very early period of their lives. The ferocious instincts of those who prey on the weaker arc never called into action; their nature is subdued to a systematic gentleness; the circumstances by which they are surrounded are favorable to the cultivation of their kindlier dispositions; all their desires and pleasures are bounded by their little cage; and though the old cat sometimes takes a stately walk on the parapet of the bridge, he duly returns to his companions, with whom he has so long been happy, without at all thinking that he was born to devour any of them. This is an example, and a powerful one, of what may be accomplished by a proper education, which rightly estimates the force of habit, and confirms, by judicious management, that habit which is most desirable to be made a rule of conduct. The principle is the same, whether it be applied to children or to brntes.

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