Summer comes to the farm, and “the days grow warm and soft.” Flowers bloom, and everywhere, children free from school frolic and play in the fields. Fern visits the barn almost every day to sit quietly on her stool and watch Wilbur—all the animals at the Zuckermans’ treat her “as an equal.” Fern and Avery often help Homer harvest hay for the barn and spend their afternoons diving into the soft bundles. Avery catches snakes and bugs in his pockets to bring home, and he and Fern drink the milk and nectar of various plants around the farm.
One day in early summer, the goose eggs hatch. Everyone congratulates the goose and the gander on their new goslings. As Templeton scopes out the situation, he sees that one egg has not hatched—the goose casually remarks that it’s a “dud,” and tells Templeton that he can take it away and have it for the collection of bits and bobs he hoards. The gander, though, warns Templeton that if he ever pokes his “ugly nose” around the new goslings, there will be trouble. The other animals often worry about Templeton, who has “no morals, no conscience [and] […] no milk of rodent kindness.”
Even in the bliss of high summer, with the joy of new birth in the air, there is, for the animals, the constant threat of subterfuge and brutality. The animals of the barnyard have learned how to live with one another, and make deals and sacrifices to appease each other’s natural instincts.
As Templeton starts to roll the egg away, Charlotte worries aloud about what will happen if it breaks—the smell of a broken rotten egg is “a regular stink bomb.” Templeton assures everyone he’ll take good care of the egg, and as he stores it in his hidey-hole beneath Wilbur’s trough, the other barn animals coo and fuss over the baby goslings.
Even as the animals celebrate the goose and gander’s new goslings, the threat of the dud egg—and the death it represents—lingers over the barnyard.