Month : October 2010

Chickens

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!  Even the chickens are getting treats.  I ordered a few things including more Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, a treat ball, nesting box blend and a pest pistol.  Boy are those chickens spoiled! 

I love the diatomaceous Earth.  See my October 2010 entry Fossils for Chickens for more information about it.  I also ordered the girls a treat ball.  It can be stuffed with all types of vegetables and goodies to keep the girls occupied from boredom.

I have always been intrigued by the nesting box blend.  I thought, why not give it a try!  Here is their exact description of the nesting box blend.  I could not have said it better.

Think of this as a daily way to ward off the creepy crawlies and bugs that love to bug your chickens. Adding Nesting Box Blends to nesting boxes during regular scheduled cleanings keeps your chickens calm and free of mites, lice etc. Can be used along with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Contains 100% organic, fair trade herbs, flowers and oils blended for a soothing and bug free egg laying experience.
Younger chickens often experience stress when they begin to lay eggs. Even older experienced layers can feel stress from time to time. Allow this special and caring formulation to benefit laying hens of all ages – your eggs will be even more wonderful!

You will find all of the above mentioned treats at http://www.treatsforchickens.com/

So with that said, hope you find yourself with some human treats of your own on this very special Halloween day.

Main Dishes Recipes Soups

Chicken and Tortellini Soup with Herbs

Yes, we do eat chicken.  We just don’t eat our pet chickens.  Here is a quick and yummy recipe that is terrific for another fantastic fall weekend.  It is a quick one pot meal that your family is sure to love.  Try it on Halloween night if you are short for time before trick or treating.  It is a Tilly’s Nest original that I’m sure you will love!

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic–minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup carrots–cut into 1/2″pieces
1 medium onion–diced
1/2 cup celery–cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 store bought rotisserie chicken–remove chicken from bones and cut into bite size pieces
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups fresh cheese tortellini or 1 cup of dried.
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

Preparation:

1.  In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the garlic, onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil until translucent. 

2. Next add the chicken, parsley, thyme and black pepper to the vegetables in the stock pot.  Cook for an additional two minutes. 

3.  Next add the chicken stock and the tortellinis.  Simmer for 15 minutes then serve.

Serve with crusty french bread.

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Simple Twist of Fate

This morning I was out opening up the girls.  I can’t call them the girls anymore because from the coop was the distinct call of a baby rooster learning to crow. “OOO OOOO DOO”.  Pathetic but true, my little black Silkie Bantam, Chocolate is another rooster.  (Strangely enough, there have been tales of female hens developing male characteristics.  The hens stop laying eggs, crow and grow spurs!)

My heart sank again.  The reasons were many.  Probably the thought that I had to rehome him was the saddest.  You see, Chocolate was the runt until Peanut left.  Interestingly, he never really grew.  Despite all the others in the flock his growth was almost stunted.  However, once Peanut left, Chocolate had a growth spurt.  He has now surpassed his sister silkie, Feathers, and started to grow a larger comb and wattle.

In my heart of hearts, I do have to honestly say that I had my suspicions early on.  Peanut and Chocolate were always doing the “rooster square-off dance”, Peanut was always picking on Chocolate and the fact that he although healthy, was not growing.  When I compared Chocolate to Feather, I noticed that Feather’s comb is almost non-existent although she does have a wattle. Chocolate definitely has a comb! Their feathering is almost identical and so are their blue earlobes.

Chocolate is one of my favorite chickens.  He is a complete love.  Docile and gentle, he loves to hop into my lap and nuzzle into my body.  He loves to be stroked and even closes his eyes in contentment.  I can always count on him to come visit me first.  I really do love that little guy!

But then, I had an epiphany about rehoming him…My neighbor has a dog that barks all the time.  A rooster’s noise is not that much different.  My kids love him and he loves them.  He is a sweet boy who is earning his keep in the hen house.  He guards the girls at night by keeping watch out the window.  When it is raining, he stands at attention like a soldier at the door waiting for the rain to let up.  He lets all the other girls out of the coop in the morning before him, how chivalrous!  There are also no laws about roosters in our town.  There has been talk about creating ordinances in regards to chickens and roosters but nothing so far.

So for now, he will stay.  As long as he continues to be affectionate and sweet,  I will do whatever is necessary to keep him in the family.

Chocolate free-ranging with his girls today

Chickens

Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Rating ****

This 189 page book was recently released in April 2010.  It is very basic but covers a ton of information.  I love that it has interesting chicken facts laced amongst the text.  These little pearls of useful and whimsical information are great for cocktail parties.

Topics covered in this book include an argument to raise chickens, chicken history and breed information, starting out with chicks, coop and run requirements, growth and development, butchering, health and nuisance control.  Other interesting areas covered are money making, exploring poultry clubs and museums, an organic section, and a section on eating and preserving eggs.

The areas that set this book apart to me are the chapter on raising chickens organically, understanding chickens and making money.  I am not planning on becoming a millionaire selling eggs from my small flock but for those who have room to expand, this chapter definitely gets the wheels turning.  The organic chapter, although very basic, really demystifies what “organic” means in terms of raising chickens.  The industry is sneaky and tries to fool the consumer.  This chapter is one of the best reasons to buy this book.  I also love the chapter on understanding chickens.  It does help to explain why they do the things they do.

Again, I was disappointed with the health section.  It was just too short.  The information is a quick overview at best and would probably help me to realize if there was a problem but no real ways of fixing it.

Overall, this book is a very simply written and easy to read.  You can breeze through this book in a couple of days.  You cannot rely on it entirely for all information that you will need but it is a great place to start.  This is especially true for those who do not have chickens yet.  It might just help you to decide if chickens are right for you.

Storey-KGTKC-MCaughey-photo11-1wp
Chickens Coop Care DIY Projects Eggs Health Issues Predators Seasonal Care

So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 2 of a 5 Part Series

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GOING SHOPPING

Preparing for the arrival of the chicks was so exciting!  It was almost like Christmas.  We counted down and with each passing day, our anticipation rose!   In our household, it was a family affair.  I ordered the chicks in February for a June delivery date.  Why did I wait so long?  Well, I had a few reasons.  I wanted to do more research about their permanent coop and run.  I also knew that the chicks would grow very quickly.  In fact, at about 6 weeks they look like mini-chickens!  I wanted the kids participate in the experience as much as possible, so I waited until summer vacation.

Tilly's Nest- new baby chicks
Chickens Coop Care DIY Projects Eggs Health Issues Predators Seasonal Care

So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 1 of a 5 Part Series

So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you’re like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you’ll just troubleshoot along the way.  However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier.  So, lets start at the beginning.  How do I get the chickens?

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Surprise Visit from Peanut, Well Sort of…

I have a good friend whom I have grown even closer to because of our love for chickens. She helped Peanut for a week before he was rehomed.  I was afraid that he was going to be too disruptive with his cock-a-doodle dooing every 5 minutes.  Once he figured out how to do this, he was non-stop!  I was sure my neighbors were going to complain.

My friend agreed to take him.  She lives in a wooded area of Cape Cod and has a large flock.  She has two roosters and about 10 hens.  So, Peanut went to Camp Chicken at her house.  He stayed about 2 weeks and loved the attention from the new girls.    He was never formally introduced to the flock and remained partitioned off from the rest.  They could however talk and see each other through the chicken wire.  Her Buff Orpington, Fuzzy,  really took a liking to him.  Dusky, her Silkie Rooster mix, did not care for Peanut.  One day, Peanut escaped from his enclosure.  He was loose in the large run with all the other chickens.  All of the hens retreated except for Fuzzy.  They had made a love connection!   Upon my friend’s discovery of this escape, she said Dusky was standing by the entrance to the hen house and crowing, as if to say, “Stay away from my girls!”   Who knows how long this chaos lasted?

Once Peanut was returned to his enclosure he remained at Chicken Camp for a few more days.  We took him to his new home on the farm and that was it, or so I thought….

Little did I know, my dearest friend had taken some photos.  Yesterday, I drove up the drive and saw two little squares folded in tissue wrap.  She had made Peanut t-shirts for the kids!  It has been about 2 weeks now since rehoming him.  My eyes welled up with tears at seeing these adorable shirts and Peanut in all his glory.  It was nice to see him again, even if it was on a t-shirt.

Main Dishes Recipes

Meatsauce and Fresh Homemade Pasta

Italian cooks have been making fresh pasta for a long time.  Although a very simple recipe, it does take some time.  I thought on a cool fall Sunday evening, this might be just what hits the spot.  Most Italian cooks just know how to make the fresh pasta.  They don’t use recipes for the pasta.  They just know what looks and feels right.  It is basically eggs and flour that are gradually incorporated into each other.  You start with a clean flat surface and a few cups of flour.  In the flour you make a well and add a few fresh eggs.  The eggs are gently mixed with the edges of the flour until it is all combined.  You can either roll out the finished pasta dough with a rolling pin and cut with a knife or if you have a pasta machine you can make all kinds of pasta.  Remember, cooking time will be quicker than using a dried pasta product.    I wanted to include my own personal meatsauce recipe as well.  The fresh pasta recipe is courtesy of Mario Batali and can be found on the Food Network website.  www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/fresh-pasta-recipe/index.html
Feel free to use the store bought pasta and sauce as well, I won’t tell and I do this all the time, when I need to serve a dinner in less than 30 minutes to my family.

TILLY’S NEST MEATSAUCE

Ingredients:

1 pound 90/10 ground beef
1 medium diced onion
1 medium green pepper chopped into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic–minced
1 tbsp of dried parsley
1 tbsp of dried basil
olive oil
salt and pepper
IF YOU HAVE TIME, do this next
1   28 ounce can of crushed tomatos
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
IF YOU DONT HAVE TIME, skip the above and do this instead
1   32 ounce jar of prepared pasta sauce.  I use Classico Tomato and Basil 

Preparation:

1.  On the stovetop in a large pan over medium heat, drizzle the pan with olive oil and add the garlic, onions and green pepper.  Cook until vegetables are softened.

2.  Next add the ground beef to the pan and cook through.  Drain the fat.

3.  IF YOU HAVE TIME, add the crushed tomatos, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME, then instead, add the jar of prepared pasta sauce heat through for 10 minutes and serve.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

FRESH PASTA

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 extra-large EGGS
Preparation:
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.
Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME, cook 1 pound of store bought pasta according to the package directions.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Chicken Bonding

I never thought that the chickens would also extend into my social life.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to break the ice, warm a chill to a room and create new friendships based upon my chickens. 

Talking about the chickens always surprises people.  “Really, you have chickens?” “Where do you keep them?”  So many of these types of questions are always fun.  People are always taken back by the fact that I have chickens in my backyard.  “Oh they’re so dirty.”  Well, not really.  I am not on a farm with a pig sty in the back.  They are more like keeping a rabbit, somewhere between a cat and a dog.  Their area is realtively clean with minor maintainance. If you have any odors, there is a problem somewhere or it just rained like crazy and everything is soaked.  The birds themselves are clean too.  They do a great job at preening their feathers and the only time they needed help from me was when they had pasty butts as chicks!

It is also terrific to meet someone with chickens too.  All types of people keep chickens from the highest class imaginable to the immigrant population raising the birds for the table.  Chickens reach everyone.  I am surprised when people respond that they too have chickens.  Conversations just seem to flow from there, much like comparing and bragging about your own children.  People compare breeds, personalities, techniques and even consult each other about problems. 

A few times now I have arranged a playdate for my kids at a new friend’s house.  After spending sometime there, I hear what I think is a rooster.  I ask, “Do you have chickens?”  and they say YES!!  Like most people, I do not suspect it.  The coop and run are not in plain view.  Sure enough though, upon further exploration either tucked back behind some large rhodedendrons or in a corner niche to the side is the coop and run.

Discovering and exploring a coop set-up that is not your own is sometimes like a kid in a candy store.  I love to see how other people do things.  What are their issues?  What are their successes?  How are their birds laying?  Where do they lay?  Sometimes the coops are rustic created out of an old dog house and sometimes I feel like I am entering a chicken Taj Mahal.

However, my favorite times are when the FedEx or UPS guys come to deliver a package and get a kick out of the chickens.  I love their surprise and how the regular drivers always inquire about the girls and pay them a quick visit before they leave. 

Perfect strangers are becoming friends over one common bond…the chicken.

Chickens Coop Care Health Issues

Fossils for Chickens?!

Diatomaceous Earth!  Diatomaceous Earth or DE is really a miracle worker. What exactly is it?   DE consists of fossilized microscopic hard-shelled algae called diatoms. It comes in a very fine powder and can be a real preventative as well as curative for many chicken ailments.

The most important thing when you want to use DE with your chickens is that you purchase FOOD GRADE DE.  The great thing about DE is that it gets rid of unwanted pests naturally.  It is an organic technique that has been utilized by farmers for quite some time.  DE works by a process called desiccation.  It’s sharp microscopic edges cut into the bugs’ outer body skeletons and causes them to dehydrate.  DE kills ticks, fleas, mites, digestive worms and keeps pests away from food and out of the coop.  It also provides a wide array of trace minerals to your chicken’s diet. You can add up to 2% of their feed. 

Studies have shown chickens fed DE have an increase the amount of eggs, decreases the mortality rate, keeps mites away, helps to dry up droppings, helps with flies and decrease worm loads in the GI tract. It also found that hens fed DE in their diets laid eggs with more albumin and yolk . I also love that my hens are getting the valuable trace minerals. In the feed, it keeps insects from spoiling the feed too.

In the newly cleaned coop I sprinkle it into the corners, edges, in the nesting boxes and onto the floor prior to adding a fresh new layer of bedding.  We never have had a pest problem inside the coop and we live in a very wooded area! This product as been a terrific addition to my backyard chicken experience.  I love that something easy and natural is so beneficial.

As a word of precaution, DE should only be used in well ventilated areas and should be avoided getting it into your eyes, nose and throat. As you research DE, you will surely come across literature that discusses the health risks associated with accidental inhalation. The condition is called Silicosis. Silicosis is a medical condition of the lung that occurs with regular repeated inhalation over a period of many years. Silicosis can also be caused from the use of sand (silica dust) in the coop and run. So please take precautions when using sand or DE.



Update 6/11/2013: Please click here to read an article that I wrote for Community Chickens on DE- chock full of even more information, including precautions that you should take if using DE with your flock.


References:

Poult Sci. 2011 Jul;90(7):1416-26. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-01256.
Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens. Bennett DC1, Yee A, Rhee YJ, Cheng KM.

RESULTS OF THE USE OF CODEX FOOD-GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH WITH POULTRY, C.S. Mangen, DVM, San Diego, California