A Hen With a Secret
Photo courtesy of Tom Curtis
“What’s a nest egg?” Ask some young people that question and chances are they can’t say for sure. They may think it has something to do with saving for the future, but unless they’ve raised chickens, they may not make the connection between nests, eggs, and money.
In the days when most households kept chickens for eggs and meat, chickens often were “free range.” If the lady of the house wanted her hens to nest in the hen house, she had to have a strategy. Otherwise her hens would hide their eggs outdoors, where the eggs or newly-hatched chicks were easy marks for predators.
Most keepers of chickens owned a few porcelain or painted wood facsimiles of hen’s eggs. To entice a hen to begin laying in the nesting box prepared for her, the farm wife placed one of the “nest eggs” in the straw. The broody hen, being easily fooled, would assume she’d already laid an egg there. So she’d lay another, and the next day another, until she had enough for a clutch of chicks. Then she began the job of sitting on the eggs to keep them warm, turning them frequently, until the babies developed and hatched.
Humans need persuasive strategies to do the wise thing too. Hence the “nest egg,” a little money in the bank that can be added to until the savings grow big enough for the desired purpose.