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July 18, 2015

Rotating Litter Method for Backyard Chickens

One of the first things that you try and educate yourself about when you keep chickens is waste management. As with keeping any animal, it is important to properly manage their waste to keep your animals healthy, prevent disease, prevent rodents, eliminate odor, prevent flies and so forth. Over the years, I've had many people ask what techniques I use in my chicken coop. This topic always seems to be a source of great debate. So, here is what I do.

We have twelve chickens and I have tried many things over the years. This is what works for us. We have snow in the winter, and average days of rain. We have humidity in the summer and we live in a wooded area. The run is covered but open on all sides.
To prevent boredom, add some stumps, branches and even ladders.

Every morning, we scoop up the chickens' droppings from underneath their roosts. It takes no more than a few minutes.  In general, this keeps the coop pretty tidy over the weeks.

Then once per month we:

Clean out the entire run. Rake it out until you have removed all of the waste. Thank the chickens, you will find that they have already kickstarted the composting process with their continual scratching and digging in the dirt and shavings!

Take the soiled shavings from inside the coop and toss them out into the run. Spread them out evenly on the ground of the run or let your chickens do it for you.  They love scratching and looking for treasures!

Finish cleaning out the coop.

Vacuum up all the cobwebs and dust with a shop vac.

Wipe down surfaces with a chicken coop cleaner or a water solution with 10% bleach.

Remove the roosts and scrub them down and set them in the sunshine to dry.

Mist the coop and nesting boxes, including the nooks and crannies, with Poultry Protector. Let it dry.

Once the coop is dry, sprinkle food grade DE lightly on the coop's floor and in the bottom of the nesting boxes.

Add a couple of inches of kiln dried pine shavings to the coop and nesting boxes.

Sprinkle the nesting boxes with nesting box blend.

I believe that this technique has kept pests such as mites and lice at bay as well as other internal parasites such as worms. By recycling the coop's shavings to the run, the pest repelling products remain in the litter.  We rarely have flies or any coop odor. I also don't like to wash my eggs. Clean nesting boxes keeps eggs clean. Lastly by adding the shavings in the run, we avoid pools of water from rainfall. Even with the covered run, the rain does get in, especially during periods with heavy rain and wind.

The soiled dropping from the run as added to the compost pile to finish curing for a couple of months. Then we add it to our gardens. Chicken manure makes beautiful compost!

I've recently added a new product to our routine called Dookashi.  Stay tuned for my impressions. 

Photo Credits: Tilly's Nest

July 12, 2015

Lavender Bees

This week is the peak of lavender season here at Tilly's Nest.

Purple is a favorite color of bees and the lavender is simply divine to these girls.

They flit quickly from flower to flower sipping nectar. The lavender is a nectar source.

Did you know that lavender is a wonderful pest repellent in the beehive to pest that plague bees?
Bees love it. Their predators in the hives not so much.

It's amazing to think that all these blooms are visited by these girls. 
Honeybees visit approximately 50 to 100 flowers each trip before returning back to the hive.

This one has her proboscis out to sip the nectar. Can you see it?

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

July 8, 2015

Giveaway: Troy-Bilt Garden Tools

I recently was contacted by Troy-Bilt to review a new line of garden tool that they just introduced to the market. I was eager for them to arrive as I was already preparing the garden for summer. As I unwrapped the tools, I realized that they were very well made. They were solid and not flimsy. The look and feel seemed to be practical and ergonomically designed. I also loved the fact that they were made in Germany. Some of my best gardening tools have come from Europe.

I received a pruner, anvil lopper, flower trowel, garden trowel, and small hand rake. Over the past few months we have had practically daily dates, working together put to the yard back together. I can tell you, these babies have been put to the test!

We planted and transplanted.

We did some larger, much needed pruning of the butterfly bushes. These anvil loppers
 cut through these thick branches like butter.

I love the small hand rake for weeding out the garden beds. We have so many 
little oak trees growing in the perennial beds. 

Deadheading is now so much easier with these!

I would highly recommend all of these tools for anyone's garden. The best part is that they are affordable for every gardener's budget. I have to say, I am very impressed. For more information and dealers, check out Troy-Bilt.

The best part is that I get to give away a set of these amazing tools to one of you! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received these tools complimentary in exchange for an honest review of these products. These are my true thoughts. I love these tools! One US winner will receive the entire set of tool mentioned in this post. Approx. retail value: $95.00.

July 6, 2015

The Umbrella Nest

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon this lovely robin's nest. A robin must have felt safe and stealthly made a nest in the top of my garden umbrella. A few days ago, I went to take the umbrella down because of an approaching storm. I suddenly realized that I couldn't. A nest with a single blue egg was perched under the safety of the umbrella.

Over the next few days I carefully stole peeks into the nest as Momma robin took breaks off the nest. Now there are 4 beautiful eggs.  I think the nest is just as lovely as the eggs. It's amazing to think that from overlooked grasses, twigs, and straw, a complete work of art is created in mere days.

Birds are fascinating. I can't wait to see when these little ones hatch. I hope all four make it.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

June 29, 2015

Homemade Tabouli

Summer time brings warm weather and that means eating plenty of cool foods in our household. One of my favorites is tabouli (or taboulli or taboulleh- depends who you talk to). This is a simple easy salad that is always a crowd pleaser and I'm here to tell you that it is SO simple to make. It's also super delicious! Try eating it plain or scooping it up with pita chips.

1 cup uncooked bulgar (cracked wheat)
2 cups boiling water
1 medium tomato- diced
1 cup of chopped parsley (can also add some fresh cilantro or mint as well.)
1/2 diced red onion
Olive Oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon All Spice


In a heat safe lidded dish, add the boiling water to the bulgar. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, and parley. Once the bulgar has absorbed all the water and cooled, add it to the mix.

Add the all spice, lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil until lightly coated. Stir well.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled.

Keep refrigerated.

June 24, 2015

New Girls

Somehow it happened. I went to the feed store and saw the baby chicks. Today Australorps along with other favorite breeds arrived. After the passing of Tilly and Dolly in May and April, somehow a little piece of my heart whispered to me, "Get one."

I scooped up a sweet little girl- a Barred Rock. Our eyes locked and I could feel her imprinting on me. I spoke to her and she seemed to "speak" back with her quiet eyes staring back at me.  The young, twenty-something, sales gal looked at me and said, "I love watching how you folks all pick out your chicks!". I didn't know if she thought I was crazy or just plain in love.

Soon enough, a tiny cardboard box was filled with a layer of fresh pine shavings and topped off with an Australorp, Barred Rock and an Araucana. Their peeping was music to my ears.

Today I felt as though a piece of my broken heart was healed by these three curious new friends. I sat and watched them in the brooder quietly before the kids got home from school. I knew they would be just as excited as I was to meet Molly, Olive and Petula. As in the circle of life, our flock is beginning to grow again. Somehow adding these three, our flock feels right again.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

June 22, 2015

Giveaway: Americana Fabric Coil Basket and Soap

I'm excited to share with you that Nicole from Windy Willow Homestead has another fabulous giveaway for you all! This giveaway is perfect for the Fourth of July!  As we get ready to celebrate with all the red, white and blue, take a peek at what Nicole has dreamed up. She is one talented lady.

One coiled fabric basket: This beautiful basket is made with 100% cotton cording, fabric and thread. It measures 11 ½ inches across the top, 5 ¾ inches tall and a 3 ½ inch across the base and comes with cute red, white and blue star buttons on the curly q. Don’t forget that you can use this basket in so many ways. If you don't collect eggs, you can use this basket to bring in the veggies from the garden. Imagine putting hot rolls on the dinner table or better yet put a hot bowl of your favorite food on the dinner table. Glass or Pyrex bowls will fit down inside of this basket. The basket will help keep your food warm or cold.

“Americana” Cold Process Soap: This soap scent is an energetic blend of tamarind, crushed lychee berries, Tahitian Noni juice, and fresh cranberries; followed by the herbal freshness of sun-ripened figs; with base notes of basil and palm leaves. Very tropical and refreshing! It also comes in a beautiful red, white and blue gift bag.

Soap ingredients: Olive oil, Organic Coconut oil, Sustainably harvested Palm oil, Saponified Lye, Water, Fragrance, Castor oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, Kokum Butter, Kaolin Clay, and fine ground oatmeal.Also contains: Mica colorants, Titanium Dioxide and Glitter.