| Dooryard Stories|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Around the dooryard nest all sorts of birds, including flickers, robins, sparrows, wrens, swifts, and blackbirds. These stories convey some of the drama that arises in the garden as birds go about the business of building nests and raising young. The author's cat Silvertip figures in a number of the narratives as do a number of other mammals and insects. Invites children to 'see how many tiny neighbors you have around you, and how much you can learn about them.' Ages 5-7 |
THE VERY RUDE YOUNG ROBINS
HY this pair of Robins chose to build so near the
Sparrows, nobody knows. It was not at all like Robins
to do so, for they are quite careful how they bring up
their children. One would expect them to think how
likely the little Robins would be to grow up rude and
However, there their nest was, not the length of a
beanpole from those of two pairs of Sparrows. When the
nestlings were hatched, they listened all day to what
the Sparrows were saying and looked at what they were
doing. They heard and saw many things which Mr. and
Mrs. Robin did not like. But there was no
it then, and all that their parents could do was to try
to bring them up to be good little birds, and do as
they had been told, and not as they had seen naughty
It did make a difference in the behavior of the
children, however, and after they left the nest this
showed very plainly. When they were old enough to go
outside the yard in which they had been hatched, they
went to the place next door. There were many fowls on
this place, and several Hens in coops which young
Chickens around them. The father and mother left the
young Robins in safe places while they went to hunt
Worms in the newly hoed garden. Two children, a
brother and a sister, were half hidden under the
drooping branches of a large gooseberry bush.
They had been there for some time, when the sister
said, "Just see what lots of good, clean food that Hen
 Chickens have. Don't you wish you had
some of it?"
"Um-hum!" answered the brother. "What a pretty yellow
it is. I just know it is good!"
Neither of them spoke again for a long time. Indeed,
the brother had begun to settle his head down on his
shoulders and slide the thin lids over his eyes, when
his sister said, "If you were a Sparrow, you'd get
"Well, I'm not a Sparrow," he answered, "and so I shall
have to go without."
He was almost cross to his dear little sister, but
perhaps one could partly excuse him. He saw that there
was much more than the Chickens could eat, and that it
would lie there spread out on the board until they had
spoiled it all by trampling it with muddy feet. Now it
was lovely, clean, sweet corn-meal mush. Besides, he
was becoming dreadfully hungry. It
 was fully ten
minutes, you know, since he had been fed anything.
The little sister kept still for a while. Her mother
had taught her that it does not always pay to talk too
much. At last she asked, "Do you suppose those tiny
bits of Chickens know the difference between a Sparrow
and a Robin?"
Her brother opened his eyes very wide, and stretched
his head up so that one could see the black and white
feathers under his bill. He was almost full-grown.
"I've a good mind to try to fool them," he said. "You
see, the Hen can't reach the board where the food is."
"I dare you to!" cried his sister, who really should
have been his brother, she was so brave.
"All right," he answered. "But let's wait until Father
and Mother are looking the other way."
 Twice they started out and came back because
their parents were looking. At last they made a dash
and were by the board.
"Stand aside!" said the brother, talking as nearly like
a Sparrow as he could. "Let us have some of this!"
"Who are you?" asked the Chickens, while the old Hen
cluck-cluck-clucked and strutted to and fro in the
coop. Every little while she stuck her head out as far
as she could reach, and her neck feathers spread around
in a funny, fat way against the slats of her coop.
"Go away!" she scolded. "Go right away! That is not
your mush! You are not my Chickens! Go right home to
your mother! Cr-r-r-r-r!" She said this last, you
know, because she was getting so angry that she could
say nothing else.
The fowls behind the netting of the poultry-yard all
came to see what was
go-  ing on, and chattered
about it in their cackling way. "Send them off!" they
cried. "Send them off! The idea of their trying to
take food from the Chickens!" The Cocks looked
particularly big and fierce. Still, there is not much
fun in looking big and fierce behind a wire netting,
when the people whom you want to scare are in front of
The young Robins were dreadfully frightened, but having
feathers all over their face, it did not really show.
Neither one was willing to be the first to start away,
and they did n't like to speak about it to each other
for fear of being over-heard. You know, if you can
keep other people from finding out that you are scared,
you may end by scaring them, and that was exactly what
the Robins meant to do.
"Get out of our way!" said they. "Don't brush against
us so again! If
 you were not young, we would n't
have stood it this time. When you have feathers you
may know better."
Then the little Chickens were very badly scared indeed.
They backed away as quickly as they could, and crawled
in beside their mother. She told them to go back; that
the Robins could n't hurt them, and that she was
ashamed to have them act so Chicken-hearted.
"Let us get under your wings!" they said. "Please let
us get under your wings!" And they followed, peeping,
after her, as she marched to and fro in the narrow
coop. Sometimes they got so near her feet that she
almost knocked them over, and at last they quite gave
up trying to cuddle down under her, and got together in
little groups in the back part of the coup.
"Had enough?" asked the brother at last.
"Yes, indeed," answered his sister. "I
swallow any more now. I'm just making believe because
you are not through."
"All right!" said he.
He turned to the Chickens. "Now you may come," he
said. "But another time get out of our way more
quickly." Then they turned their backs and hopped off.
They did n't want to try flying, because that would
show how very young they were.
"We did it," exclaimed those two naughty children.
"Did you ever see such little Geese as those Chickens?
But oh, what if our parents should find it out?"
"See here," chirped their mother, who could not speak
very plainly because she had two large Earthworms
hanging in wriggling loops from her bill, "Here is a
lovely lunch for you."
"Give it to Brother," said the little sister. "He
always wants more than I."
 "Oh, no. Give it to Sister," said he. "I don't
mean to be selfish."
"You shall both have some," said their mother, tucking
a large Worm down each unwilling throat. "Little birds
will never be big birds unless they eat plenty of the
right kind of food. I will bring you more."
When she was gone they looked at each other. "I just
can not eat another billful," said the sister.
"And I won't!" said the brother. After a while he
added, "Is there any of that mush sticking to my bill?"
"No," said the sister, "Is there any on mine?"
They did not feel at all sure that their mother would
have let them eat so much mush if she had been asked.
They wondered if it would make them sick. They began
to think about the stomach-ache, and felt sure that
they had one—that is to say, two—one apiece, you
 Over in the garden, Mrs. Robin said to her
husband, "Do you know what those children have done?
It was a very ill-bred, Sparrow-like trick. They
scared the little Chickens away, and ate all they could
of their mush. I am dreadfully ashamed of them, but I
shall pretend I did not see it."
"Make them eat plenty of Worms," suggested Mr. Robin.
"Just what I am going to do," answered his wife. "It
won't really hurt them to overeat for once in their
lives, and it will punish them very well."
That was why Mr. and Mrs. Robin worked so especially
hard all morning, and made so many trips in under the
gooseberry bush. The two young Robins who were there
kept insisting that they did n't need any more, and
that they really could n't eat another Worm. After
they said this, Mrs. Robin always looked sharply at
them and asked, "What have
 you children been
doing? Young birds should always want all the Worm
their parents can bring them."
The little Robins were not brave enough to tell what
they had done. You know it often takes more courage to
confess a fault that it does to scare people. So
whenever their mother said this they agreed to eat one
more Worm apiece, and choked and gulped it down. It
was a dreadful morning for them.
Inside the Chicken-coop the old Hen was trying to
settle down again, and the Chickens were talking it
"Was n't it dreadful?" asked one. "I did n't know that
Robins were so fierce."
"Mother said that we should n't be afraid of the,"
cried another, "but I guess she'd be afraid her own
self if she was n't in that coop. She'd be 'fraider if
she was little, too."
"I'm glad they did n't eat it all," said
 a third
Chicken. "When do you suppose they'll come again?"
"Every day," said another, a Chicken who always
expected bad things to happen. "Perhaps they will come
two times a day! Maybe they'll even come three!"
But they did n't. They did n't come at all. And they
never wanted corn-meal mush again.
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