Holly hen pottered out for breakfast. She ate her grain and drank her water. It was a cold rainy day. Holly knew the warm summer days were over for another year. She puffed up her feathers to keep warm and went back inside her cosy coop.
Lily hen was sitting quietly and still.
“Are you already laying your egg?” Holly asked Lily.
“Indeed I am, bright and early as always. I like my egg ready for Sarah and Dave’s breakfast,” said Lily.
Holly tried to lay an egg but felt too cold and too tired.
“I don’t think I can lay an egg today,” said Holly, “It’s too cold for me.”
“You Bantams,” said Lily, “You always go broody too early. I’m well able to keep laying for another few weeks.”
“That’s because you’re bigger with more feathers to stay warm.” said Holly. Bantams were the smallest of hens and Holly couldn’t help it if she couldn’t grow bigger.
“Nonsense, you’re just lazy,” said Lily.
Holly didn’t want to be lazy so she tried again to a lay an egg but she just couldn’t.
They heard footsteps and the coop door opened, spilling in light. It was Sarah.
“Good morning ladies,” said Sarah, “Have you any eggs today?”
Sarah lifted Holly up to look under her. Sarah’s hands were warm and Holly liked it when she lifted her. It felt like a little hug.
“No eggs from you Holly, I hope you’re not going broody already. Winter has only just arrived.” said Sarah.
Holly clucked and Sarah put her back down. Then Sarah lifted Lily.
“A fine big egg Lily,” said Sarah, “Dave will enjoy that.”
Sarah closed up the coop and Lily went outside for her breakfast.
Holly tried to lay an egg all day long. By bedtime she felt very sad and went to sleep early.
The next morning it was even colder. When Lily laid her egg she got up and went out for breakfast. Holly wasn’t hungry today. She was never hungry when she couldn’t lay an egg.
Lily’s egg was lying all alone in the straw.
“Poor egg, it must be very cold. I’ll keep it warm,” said Holly.
Holly sat on the egg and it felt nice under her. She even pulled out a few of her feathers so the egg would be closer to her warm skin.
Holly heard Lily start to cluck outside. Lily liked to cluck loudly so Sarah and Dave knew she had laid an egg.
After a while Holly heard Dave’s heavy footsteps and the coop opened.
“Morning Holly, anything under there for me?”he said lifting her up. “I see you’re cheating. That egg is too big to be from a little bantam hen, it must be one of Lily’s. Sarah’s right, you’ve gone broody. I was hoping to get another few weeks out of you yet. My nephew Brian is visiting tomorrow and Sarah wanted more eggs to bake him a cake.”
Dave closed the coop and Holly went out to see the morning.
“Some hen you are,” said Lily, “You’ve made poor Dave very disappointed.”
Holly felt disappointed with herself but knew there was nothing she could do to lay an egg.
The next morning Holly stayed hidden in the coop, too embarrassed to go out. She sat on Lily’s egg again to keep it nice and warm for Dave. Lily didn’t mind her sitting on it. Then they heard footsteps and the door opened.
“The big white one is Lily and the little brown bantam is Holly,” said Dave to Brian.
Brian crouched down and peered in.
“Can I pick them up?” Brian asked.
“You can, but be gentle and hold their wings into their bodies,” Dave said.
Brian tried to pick Lily up but Lily squawked and clucked so loudly that Brian nearly dropped her in fright.
“It’s okay Lily, calm down,” said Dave, “Lily is a great layer but not so tame. She gets frightened easily and isn’t always great on being handled.”
“Sorry Lily,” said Brian.
“Why not try Holly? She’s an old dote,” said Dave.
Holly relaxed totally and allowed Brian lift her, even though he was holding her too tight and pinching her wing a bit.
Brian had a great big smile now and gave her head a gentle rub.
“I love this one,” said Brian, “And look! She was sitting on an egg!”
“That’s one of Lily’s eggs,” said Dave, “Holly has stopped laying for the winter now. She won’t start again until Spring.”
Dave picked up the egg. Brian put Holly back down and she shook out her brown feathers.
“Wow,” said Brian, “Look at all the colours in Holly’s feathers.”
“She’s a beauty alright,” said Dave.
“I’d rather have Holly with no eggs than Lily with lots of eggs,” said Brian and Holly saw Lily look sad.
“Ah now,” said Dave, “They each have their own qualities. Holly is gentle and sweet and lovely to look at. Lily makes lovely eggs and is consistent and loyal. We don’t have favourites, we love them both. No need to pick when together they give us the best of both worlds.”
The coop door closed and Dave and Brian walked away with Lily’s egg.
“I’m sorry for calling you lazy,” said Lily, “I know now how it made you feel.”
“It’s okay,” said Holly, “Sure, aren’t we a fine team?”
“We are indeed,” said Lily, “And you just wait until spring. Together, we’ll make so many eggs they won’t know what to do with them.”