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December 31, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

This was our first year with chickens.  I feel like we have had them for ages.  I really could not imagine my life without them.  They truly have become part of the family.  Our learning curve has been huge with our feathered friends.

They arrived in a little peeping box; six little day old chicks.  They were barely a couple of ounces and I could easily see how one could crush them without trying from the grasp of their hand.  I was their mother.  I had to teach them everything.  I taught them how to eat and drink.  They instinctually understood the rest.  Their growth has been amazing.  From day one to six weeks, they grew from baby chicks to fully feathered mini-chickens.

We have survived illnesses, trips to the chicken doctor, broodiness, flock integration.  We have learned about chicken psychology, coop construction, predator proofing and the many joys that chickens can bring into the lives of others.  We've learned alot about raising backyard chickens.  Through trial and error, we have gained some experiences that we feel we can now share with others.  We might even inspire some people to get backyard chickens themselves.

Here are five of my personal favorite blogs from this year:

#1  And Then There Were Five

#2  A Surprise Visit from Peanut; Well Sort of

#3  We'll Come Running

#4  Are You My Momma?

#5  Our First Big Egg

I would also like to thank all of our visitors for stopping by Tilly's Nest this year.  Since I started this blog in October, visitors have come from the United States, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, Belize, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Denmark, Croatia, Australia, India, Canada, Italy, Ukraine, Israel and United Arab Emirates.  We wish you a wonderful New Year in 2011.  Who knows, you might even have some chickens in your future!

December 30, 2010

Birds of a Feather...

Flock together.  I am convinced that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are best friends.  They have been together since they were born.  I am not sure, but it is entirely possible that they could even be sister.  They are difficult to tell apart.  Oyster Cracker has reached maturity a little faster and is a little bigger than Sunshine.  Other than that, they are pretty much indistinguishable. 

Interestingly enough, I have noticed that my chickens, from early on, like to be near chickens of the same breed.  The Silkies stayed together and the Buff Orpingtons stayed together.  I find this fascinating.  It must be instinctual.  Although, they can see themselves as they go about preening, eating and living their chicken lives; my chickens have never seen themselves in the mirror.  How do they know what their own faces look like?  How do they know what breed they are?

Oyster Cracker and Sunshine spend their entire days together.  The always do the same things at the same time.  They eat together.  They scratch near each other in the dirt.  They take dust baths together.  They even sleep side by side each other with their feathers touching at night.  I would even say they like to snuggle.

When I was little, I remember having a best friend.  We were inseparable.  We did everything together and could not wait to share our day's event with one another.  I miss having a BFF like I did when I was a little girl.  I am so happy that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine reminded me of those sweet memories.  In my busy adulthood, I had not thought about them much.  Friendships are indeed something very special.

December 29, 2010

Avgolemono Soup

Here is a delicious greek soup for you to try this week.  Serve it with crusty bread for dipping. 


4 boneless chicken breasts-cut into bite size pieces
8 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 leek, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
2/3 cup uncooked rice
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper


1. In a large stock pot, sauté the chicken, onions, leek, carrot, in the olive oil.

2. Add the chicken stock, uncooked rice and bay leaves. Simmer on low for 40 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and lemon juice. Remove 2 cups of broth from the soup and slowly combine it with the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Once well combined, add back into the chicken soup. Stir well to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from a recipe by Cat Cora.  The original can be found on

December 28, 2010

We'll Come Running!

No matter where you've been all day,
To your feet we'll run to play.
Like a loyal dog to some,
When I call, my chickens come.
Early morning you say hello,
Eating, scratching fresh fallen snow.
Beaks and toes with mud galore,
Chickens dig forever more.
Where you've been it doesn't matter,
Chicken feet go pitter patter.
Sometimes fast and sometimes slow,
They know where they want to go.
Into the grass to frolic and play,
Until the end of this sunny day.
And when it's time to say goodnight,
Into their coop without a fight.
Sleep my chickens cozy and warm,
Feathered and happy, they sleep 'til dawn.

---Tilly's Nest

copyright 2010, All rights reserved

December 27, 2010

Females, Hormones and Chickens; Oh My!

Whoever said it was easy being a female?  Dolly is a huge ball of hormones right now.  As females, we have so many wonderful traits to be proud about.  However, sometimes, hormones get the best of us.  Right now, I see that happening with Dolly.  Here are my not so scientific observation from the week: 

1.  Crankiness--Dolly speaks low and almost inaudible.  She seems to be complaining and kvetching about everybody and everything.  Sometimes, she even growls.  She is cranky and bothered by the littlest things.

2.  Bloating--Dolly is puffed up into a large ball.  She looks so huge with her head pointed down and her tail in the air.  She is definitely too big for her skinny jeans.

3.  Short tempered--When she goes out into the yard.  She is all business; including picking on those below her.  She runs around the run giving the lower girls pecks for what seems like no reason.  Everybody and everything seems to annoy her.

4.  Cutting her hair--Have you ever cut your long hair during a stressful time in your life?  Dolly is plucking out her chest feathers.  One by one she has lined her nest with them.  Her chest is bald.

5.  Antisocial/Reclusive Behavior-- Dolly sits upon her nest day in and day out.  She only leaves it when I force her to get up and stretch.   Sometimes I just want to sit at home and curl up with a good book.  I don't feel like doing anything.  I want to wear sweatpants, hide under a blanket and even take a nap. 

6.  Broody Bowels-- Enough said.

7. Emotional Tendencies--  It is hard for me to keep removing Dolly's eggs and the other chicken's eggs out from under her.  Perhaps I am personifying her too much, but I truly feel that she is emotionally attached to the eggs.  She is waiting for chicks to be born.  She is proud of her creations.  During my pregnancies, I too "nested" around the house.   Each time, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my children.

I smiled as I wrote this blog today.  I am glad that I can sometimes see myself acting like a hormonal chicken.  Maybe next time I feel hormonal,  I will remember to take a deep breath, smile and think about Dolly.

December 26, 2010

Bracing for the Storm

We are expecting a large snowstorm tonight into tomorrow afternoon.  The winds are expected to reach up to 60 mph.  I hate storms like this.  The good news is that none of us need to be anywhere in the morning. I have locked the chickens into their coop and I put the tarp over the run.  Last year in a storm like this, we woke to find trees down.  I hope this will not be the case.   None the less, I was given a snowblower for Christmas; just in time. 

Despite the weather, Dolly is still broody.  I still remind her a few times during the day to eat and drink.  I also noticed when I gave her the medication this morning, she pulled her breast feathers.  Broodiness includes pulling out chest feathers.  Being in direct contact with the skin keeps the eggs warmer.  She uses the feathers to line her nest.  This afternoon, I removed an egg from underneath of her.  She fussed a little but seemed to understand.  The snow floated from the sky onto her back while the nesting box was open.  The egg was toasty warm regardless of the winter chill and snow.

I've been thinking maybe I should just let her sit on the eggs.  I fear the chicks would perish from their inability to keep warm.  During their first week of life, chicks need a sustained temperature of 95 degrees F.  I'm just not sure that she can achieve that.  I would hate to removed dead chicks from the coop in Winter.

I am praying that her broody spell is lifted soon.  God knows that hormonal women are difficult to reason with, including hormonal hens.  For now, maybe the snow gods are the one's I should be talking to.  Perhaps, I can convince them not to dump 2 feet of expected snow on us.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.  I hope that Santa is good to you this year.  We can't wait to see what Santa brings for our eight feathered children.  Wishing you good times and happiness during this holiday season.

December 24, 2010

Day Five: Still Alive

Today I noticed an overall improvement in Dolly.  Thank God!  When I opened the coop up this morning, she was in her usual nesting box.  Her crop was firm but smaller and almost flat.  I removed her from the box, wrapped her in a towel and gave her medicine. I also gave her some water via the syringe.  She was feistier about having me give her the medicine.  I viewed that as a good sign.

I returned her to the run and then closed the coop door so that I could clean the coop.  While I cleaned, she socialized scratched, ate and drank.  All while I cleaned the coop, I heard knocks on the door.  "Who is it?",  I asked.  That would be proceeded with another knock; so darling. 

After cleaning, I opened the door, and the bigger girls immediately went in to rearrange, decorate and explore the new bedding.  Dolly remained in the run.  She didn't seem to care that the door was open and she was free to run back to her box.  After about a total of 15 minutes outside of the box, she eventually did return to nest on her invisible eggs.  Slowly but surely, we are all getting the hang of dealing with a broody hen, even the hen herself.

December 23, 2010

Day 4 in Broodyland

Poor Dolly, she has now been brooding in her nesting box for four days.  She really wants those babies.  Yesterday, Dolly did not lay any eggs.  She will typically lay two days in a row and then take a day off.  However, we did find out who was laying the large eggs.  It was not Tilly after all, it was Oyster Cracker, our big Buff Orpington.

Yesterday, as Dolly has taken residence in the "favorite" nesting box, Oyster Cracker wanted in; never mind that we have two other boxes.  She was determined to lay her second egg in the same nesting box that Dolly occupied.  She shoved her way in and made herself comfortable.  After a couple of hours, I went out to check on them.  Oyster Cracker no longer occupied the box.  Dolly had made her way back into the center of the box and underneath her warm chest feathers was Oyster Cracker's egg!  I gently slid it out.  She made a quiet low growl.  I petted her on the back and felt her body.  She was toasty warm.  I felt her chest.  Her crop seemed unusually large for a chicken that was not eating much.  I decided that since Christmas was quickly approaching that I probably should take her to the vet and have her crop evaluated.

We have a fantastic vet in our area that treats chickens.  I understand that this is a rarity, so I consider myself a very lucky girl.  The vet agreed that her crop seemed larger than normal.  She also felt that Dolly had become dehydrated.  The vet cleaned out Dolly's crop and filled it with water.  She also gave us a medication to help with her digestion.  Thank goodness that the crop was not sour and she did not have anything stuck in her crop.

When I opened the coop this morning, Dolly did not come out.  She was in her nesting box.  I took her out, gave her medicine and then set her free in the run.  She did not do much socializing.  She scratched a little and ate some corn in the run and then went back to her box.  I created a small water dish that I suspended in her nesting box.  I also placed a small amount of food near her.  The vet said that she could be broody for about 3 weeks.  I guess nature will just have to take it's course.   I cannot imagine baby chicks in the middle of Winter.  I'm not sure they would survive.   I'll consider this practice for motherhood in the Spring.  I just hope she is broody then!

December 22, 2010

Hen Gone Broody

Dolly, a lavender Silkie Bantam, is our best and was our only egg layer up until a couple of days ago.  Yesterday when freshening up the three nesting boxes, I found a rouge egg laid in a corner piled under shavings.  It was smaller than Dolly's and pointier; another silkie had a laid an egg.  Who laid it is still under going investigation. 

Silkie Bantams typically lay approximately three eggs per week.  However, Dolly seems to be in overdrive.  She has laid an egg everyday.  I love getting her fresh eggs daily, but I finally realized why.  She wants to start a family.

Amongst the coldest and snowiest days so far this winter, her hormones and maternal drive have begun to overpower her chicken brain.  She has babies on the brain.  Yesterday, she spent the majority of the day sitting in her favorite nesting box.  She just sat and sat and sat.  No matter what I put in the run to lure her out, she sat. 

I have not been able to touch her at all until yesterday.  Typically she is skittish and shys away from me.  Yesterday was different.  I stroked her back and she purred.  I thought that maybe she is not feeling well.  I picked her up from the box and held her in my lap.  I thought that cooling her down might do the trick.  I gave her body a quick check, she seemed fine. 

Over the course of the afternoon, I repeated removing her from the box and trying to break her of this broodiness.  Each time after I returned her to the coop, she would go into the run, scratch around for about a minute and then return again to the box.  Finally, around 3:30pm, I checked.  She was still in her box.  I felt underneath her body and there it was, a small silkie egg kept warm under the feathers of her breast.  I gently removed the egg from underneath her.  She then went out into the run.  She stayed out with the rest of the flock until it was time to come in for the night.  Great, I thought, she has snapped out of it. 

This morning, the whole flock came out into the coop to scratch, drink and feed on delicious treats.  When I returned from dropping my son off at the bus, I checked on the chickens again.  Dolly had returned to her box; sitting on invisible eggs for now.  I am not sure how long this will last, but her drive to be a mother is strong.  Maybe, we can let her do just that come Spring.

December 21, 2010

Our First Big Egg

Our 3 year old holds our first big egg next to a silkie egg
"Thank you Tilly, Thank you Dolly."  I heard as I was cracking the eggs into the dish.  My daughter was at the front door staring out over the blanket of white at the coop.  Today I was so surprised when I was out clearing snow and attending to the chickens.  I did not think that I would find any eggs today.

It was cold last night.  It snowed like crazy and there was about a foot of snow blanketing the coop and run.  I cleared off the run and coop, changed the water, gave the flock scratch and then opened up the nesting boxes.  There it was; the most gorgeous large brown egg.  I'm not sure if she laid it in a nesting box or on the edge.  When I discovered it, it was in the shavings close to the nesting box.  I guess another chicken could have pushed it out due to curiosity.  Maybe she even pushed it out.  It was her first egg. 

Truthfully, I am not sure which chicken it came from, but my kids were thrilled to see it and told me Tilly laid it.  As the eggs cooked in the pan, the kids were jumping up and down, dancing and singing about the eggs they were about to eat.  Fresh food is really something to get excited about.  There is something to be said about having fresh eggs delivered in the morning despite the weather outside.

December 20, 2010

First Snow

Snow covered coop and run
Last night it snowed.  We awoke to a beautiful winter wonderland.  I brought a broom out and dusted off the blanket of snow that covered the run.  It slid off with ease.  When I let the chickens out this morning they were curious about the white visitor from the sky.  They looked out at the end of the run and then returned to eating the scratch that I had just strewn across the run.  Covered and dry, they went along with their daily business.  I quickly peeked into the coop, and it was dry as a bone.  The snow should continue for the next three days.  I wonder if the chickens will even notice?

December 19, 2010

I Am A Rooster Advocate

I have become quite the advocate for roosters' rights in the Town of Barnstable.  As you know, I went to the Barnstable Agricultural Commission meeting a few weeks ago, and boy, have I been busy entertaining all sorts of questions.  I have been contacted by both the Barnstable Patriot and the Barnstable Enterprise for interviews.  I have also had the pleasure of meeting many people along the way that also have a love for roosters.

I'm not quite sure how I got in the middle of this in the first place.  I have been giving that question a lot of thought lately.  I think that I have my answer now.  Interestingly enough, before my life as a Cape Codder, a mother of two and a lover of all things chicken, I lived in a large city on the West Coast.  I was in the fast paced world of academic medicine.  I wore many hats as an educator, lecturer, professor, mentor, advocate and researcher in my field of nursing.

As a little girl, I was always a nurturer.  I was concerned when I saw people being bullied.  I was awkward as a child and a move across town and then the country did not help.  I was shy, quiet and an observer in life.  In eighth grade, I got hit with a double whammy; large eighties style glasses and braces!  I toed the line.  I was never one for my parents to worry about.  I was a good student and I stayed out of trouble.  I was a child who always looked out for others and wanted so much to please my parents.

Interestingly, I was drawn to nursing.  I attended one of the top schools in the country and there I emerged from my shell.  I owe my education much credit for the person that I metamorphosed into today.  I became a strong voice, confident, articulate and able to advocate for the patients against the toughest meanest old-school physicians while caring for my patients.  I was no longer shy or quiet.  In fact, I was quite the opposite when it came to advocating for those patients who could not do it for themselves.  I advocated for gang members, homeless, drug addicts, abused elderly and children.  I was a voice for all and I was not afraid what anyone else would think.  They were all that mattered in their times of need.

Our move to be closer to family and seek a quieter slower paced life for our children, lead us to life on Cape Cod.  I traded in nursing for motherhood and sat back, relaxed and began to enjoy watching my children grow. 

Chocolate, our rooster, is a huge part of our chicken family and we all adore him.  I think that my nursing background kicked in when we were told that there was a possibility that we could not keep him.  He did not have a voice.  He could not go to the town and tell them that he was just doing what came natural.  He needed a voice and I sprang to action.  Here we are today, with another article slated to come out that I was just interviewed for last week.  I answered so many basic questions that the reporter asked as he tried to grasp a basic understanding of chickens.  I felt proud to speak on behalf of these amazing creatures.  I am their voice.  I am their advocate.  I understand them and I hope to help others understand them too.

December 18, 2010

Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce with Penne

Here in the Northeast it has been unseasonably chillier than usual.  I think I am going to make this recipe this weekend.  There's nothing like a warm bowl of pasta to heat you up.  Plus, it's a Tilly's Nest original.


1 pound boneless chicken--diced into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper--diced
1 yellow onion--diced
2 cloves of garlic--diced
1 141/2 oz diced tomatoes with onions and green peppers
1 6oz can of tomato paste
3/4 cup of white wine
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp basil
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta


1.  In a large stockpot over medium heat,  add the olive oil and add the chicken, green pepper, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until the chicken is browned and the vegetables are softened.

2.  Next, add the basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, and sugar.  Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes covered.

3.  Next add the cream to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

4.  Serve over penne pasta with crusty french bread.

December 17, 2010

Pets vs. Livestock

I love my chickens.  If you have been following my blog, then I think you know that we consider our chickens as special members of the family.  We love to visit with them, talk to them, hold them, feed them treats, give them fresh bedding and even have been known to whisper sweet nothings in their ears from time to time. 

Here in lies part of the debate in the Town of Barnstable.  Are chickens livestock or pets?  How should they be categorized? 

I turned to Webster's Dictionary on-line for their definitions of each word.   Here is what I found:

live·stock noun \ˈlīv-ˌstäk\animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially : farm animals kept for use and profit

pet noun \ˈpet\ a pampered and usually spoiled child b : a person who is treated with unusual kindness or consideration : darling,  a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility

Why did I get chickens?  I got chickens because I always wanted them.  I have always loved their antics and had fantasies about fresh eggs.    I also thought that they would offer my children lessons in responsibility and caring for animals. I find it interesting that a distinction even needs to be made.  As livestock, we enjoy getting eggs from our chickens.  Chickens will lay most of their eggs during their first two years of life.  The average age of a chicken is 5 years.  As they age, their egg production will taper off.    I cannot tell you how many people ask me what we are going to do with the chickens after they stop laying.  "Nothing."  I tell them, "They are our pets."  I suppose some people would kill them and eat them.  I know some people wean out young hens that are not good egg layers.  However, I could never do that!

Reflecting back on those definitions, I would have to say that my chickens fit both.  I do not consider myself a farmer.  I do not consider raising chickens being only black or white, livestock or pets.  If a chicken is ailing, a farmer would never bring it to a doctor.  Instead they would take it to a field and put it out of it's misery.  If a chicken is old and no longer laying, it ends up in the pot.  If they have a rooster that is problematic, it's days too are over.  When people keep pets, they accept that they are not perfect.  Their imperfections make up who they are, like humans, no one is perfect.  However, when livestock is not perfect, it is almost always replaced.  Pets are not typically replaced unless they pose a danger to those around them.  Pets are nursed back to health from illnesses.  They are loved despite their quirks.  They are cared for in their old age and treated as members of the family. 

When people think of pets, they don't typically think of chickens.  I would never have thought in my wildest dreams that I would be happy to profess that I have eight lovely pet chickens that provide us with tasty eggs.  Perhaps, their job description should read "livestock" and their hobby should be "pet".

December 16, 2010


Before I went to sleep last night,  I was feeling badly for the chickens.   In my mad rush yesterday, I forgot to give them thawed water in the afternoon.  When I returned from my afternoon errands, it was 5pm and they were already in for the night.  It was dark and both of their water sources were frozen over.  I was worried about them becoming dehydrated.  My husband gently reassured me, but I still worried about them.  I couldn't help it, I'm their Mom.

Later that night, I was deep in a dream.  Then I heard it, the loud deep bark of a dog.  It happened twice.  I woke with the sandman's sand still in my eyes.  I was foggy and dazed.  I looked at the clock.  It was 11:52pm.  I thought that a dog was in my room.  Then I thought  it was my neighbors' dog or a stray dog running through the yard.  As I pondered these explanations, my husband gently snored next to me.  Then I heard the unmistakable howl of a coyote.  I immediately sprang into action.  Were my chickens in danger?

I jumped out of bed and as quick as my feet could carry me, I flew down the stairs and flicked on the front light.  I looked over at the coop and saw nothing.  Then I saw it trotting gracefully down the driveway into the shadows of the night.  It was a big, graceful and stealthlike coyote.  It was leaving after being startled from the light.  After it was out of sight, I turned off the light and made my way back to my warm and toasty bed.

I could hear my heart pounding in my ears.  I lay there wondering if it had dug a big hole under the run?  I wondered if it would return later in the evening?  Did it claw and scratch at the coop?  Would Chocolate protect the girls from the coyote?  Eventually, I drifted back to sleep and did not wake up until the morning.

Today when I went out to bring the flock fresh warm water, there were no signs of the nighttime visitor, no damage, no digging and tracks.  The coop proved to be a safe haven from coyotes.  This week our predator score is chickens-2, predators-0.

December 15, 2010

A New Pecking Order

It looks like our a new pecking order has finally established itself.  Interestingly enough, all of the new girls are not at the bottom.  Here is the line up how I see it:

Oyster Cracker

Tilly remains head hen.  I thought that she would stay there based on her personality.  The original flock's rankings really did not change much.  Feathers is no longer at the bottom and Dolly has inserted herself into the original pecking order rankings.  Interestingly, she is now Chocolate's favorite.  I wonder if her egg laying has something to do with the order as well? 

Where does Chocolate sit in all of this?  Well, I think he is in between Dolly and Sunshine.  Although, roosters aren't typically included in the pecking order.  Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine still like to peck Chocolate on the back of the neck to remind him of his place.  I wonder if he will ever gain their respect?

December 14, 2010

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Yummy!  This makes my mouth water just thinking about it.


2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cloves garlic-minced
1/4 cup shallots--minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves--minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves--minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
Lemon wedges


1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2.  Peel, de-vein and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on.

3.  Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

4.  In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

5.  Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp.

6.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa.  Her original recipe can be found on

December 13, 2010

Bring it On, We are Weatherproof!

Oyster Cracker staying dry.
One of the cardinal rules in raising backyard chickens is to maintain a dry weathertight coop with excellent ventilation.  For the past 2 months, I have been trying to fix a leak in the nesting boxes.  I had troubleshooted like crazy, trying to figure out where the water was getting in.  Obviously there was a flaw in the design and I was determined to remedy the situation.  The leak did not cause puddles in the boxes.  It just caused the walls to get wet. I could not accept wet walls, as they can lead to mold and sick chickens.  Since we live in the Northeast, I also wanted to create a cover for the run that would serve a few purposes.  The cover would allow the chickens to go out in nasty weather.  It should keep the run dry and protect it from snow.  In addition, I wanted the cover to be removable and easy to store.  Thus, I made a trip to Home Depot with my ideas firmly planted in my head. 

The first stop was the paint department.  There, I picked up a plastic 6 mil. opaque painter's tarp.  I felt that the thickness of the tarp would lend to its durability.  The roll I selected would also allow me to create two covers just in case something happened to the first one.  In the lumber section, I picked up three 1"x2"x8' boards.  I also selected some Gorilla Tape as well.  Next, I went over to the flooring department.  On a large roll, I found some type of clear plastic floor covering.  It was thick and flexible; this would definitely do the trick.  Fifty dollars later, I was on my way home to bring my ideas to reality.

First with the help of my neighbor, his power tools and a few stainless steel screws, we addressed the leak in the nesting boxes.  We cut a small piece of plastic to size.  It was approximately 5"x40".  We bent the plastic up under the transom window, predrilled some holes and adhered it with four screws.  Next we bent the plastic around the edges of the nesting boxes and stapled it into place.  Finally, I cut another piece of plastic about 10"x39" and slid that underneath the plastic we had just adhered to the nesting boxes.  I did not staple it in place, as I did not want it to be a permanent fixture.  In times of pleasant weather, I wanted the remove the second piece of plastic, allowing the roof to breathe.

Final product with securing brick

Next I moved onto the run.  I cut the plastic painter's tarp to fit the run.  Next I stapled the boards along the top of the plastic and along the bottom sides.  After stapling the sides, I Gorilla taped the plastic around the boards.  The finished cover is about 8 feet in length when rolled and can easily fit into a corner of my garage when not in use.  This tarp is going to be great when we expect snow and even rain for longer periods of time.  My chickens will be especially happy now that they have the option to go in the run and be protected from the elements. 

Adhering the plastic under the window

Last night, when I went to lock in the flock, I added some landscaping rocks, logs and anything else I could find around the yard to help anchor the plastic tarp in place.  I also placed a brick on top of the nesting box covers just in case the one that was not attached was taken by the wind.  Last night it poured.  We also had gusts of 60 miles per hour.  Cape Cod is a very windy place!  I did not sleep well.  The rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was howling.  I knew that this storm was going to be the true test of my MacGyvering skills.


Boards, wood and stone help secure tarp

This morning when I went to check on everyone, the entire coop was dry including the nesting boxes!  The run was also dry and the tarp did not blow off.  This morning, I felt like I won.  I was proud of my accomplishments in weatherproofing.  I did not win a marathon and I did not win an Emmy.  However, I am a hero in the eyes of the chickens and my children and that my friends, is one of the best feelings in the world.

Dry fluffy bottoms
Chocolate on the lookout

December 12, 2010

Keeping a Happy Home: Advice from Chickens

Fashionistas, excellent housekeepers, nurturing to those in need; sounds like a resume that would please any of us. 

Good housekeeping skills and keeping a tidy home with everything in it's place: something that many of us strive to achieve.  The other day, I cleaned out the coop and realized halfway through that I forgot to pick up more pine shavings.  With other errands to run, I spread what I had in half of the coop and filled the nesting boxes with straw.  I figured when I came back, I would add the rest of the shavings to the empty space in the coop.  I left the chickens to their own devices for about an hour.  Upon my return, I opened the coop to add in the extra shavings.  Much to my surprise, the original shavings and straw had been spread out evenly upon the floor of the coop.  Everything just seemed to be in place and I swear the chickens knew that.  They were happy with their work and were now busy in the run scratching for their next finds.

Classic style is always in.  When I think of timeless styles and fashion, classic items never seem to go out of style.  The dress that Audrey Hepburn wears in Breakfast at Tiffany's,  Jacqueline Kennedy, scarves, trench coats and a good suit all come to mind.  The chickens are always a class act.  They are the feathered world's fashionistas.  Like all birds, their feathers are always in style. Each one is unique in it's coloring, shading, and pattern.  Feathers are a work of art and when combined they make for classy sophisticated birds.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.  My chickens LOVE to be clean.  They enjoy a freshly cleaned coop, sparkling drinking water and a good dust bath.  They also prefer to have a dry run as opposed to a wet soggy run after the rain.  They do not like to be overly muddy or wet.  My chickens also smell fabulous. Their smell reminds me of sweet hay and warm downy feathers. Their smell makes me feel good and comforted much like a child smelling their beloved blanket.

Good pest control is never overrated.  Chickens hate bugs.  Critters like red mites hide in the corners of their coop until night fall.  While the chickens sleep, the mites crawl up their legs to feed on their blood.  They can also get fleas, parasitic worms and all other sorts of nasties.  The diatomaceous earth that I have mentioned so many times before on this blog is my pest control hero.  Whether I put it in their feed, dust their coop or dust them, their comfort is my goal.  Some experts even say that chickens will stop laying eggs if they are stressed out by bugs.

Be kind to those in need.  Don't always look out for yourself.  The chickens truly do have a flock mentality.  They all stick together.  When they are free ranging during the day, they stay within audible and visual distance of one another.  There is something said for safety in numbers.  They share their food and water with one another.  Once in a while, they will share treats.  On cold evenings, they snuggle and huddle together for warmth.  Togetherness is always better than being alone in the world.

Chickens have figured out the basics of a happy family and a happy home.  Their happy home reveals love, friendship, camaraderie, partnership, shared meals and beautiful eggs.  We are blessed to have this feathered family living right next door.

December 11, 2010

An Uninvited Guest

I knew that it would happen eventually.  I'm not actually saying that this happened for the first time yesterday.  I just happened to see it.  Both kids were home sick with that horrible cough that sounds like a barking seal.  The little one also had pink eye.  Needless to say, instead of braving the crowds and getting a little more shopping done, I was on home arrest, noticing every little dirty thing, clutter, and feeling like I was waiting on two little members of royalty during their recuperation.

If I do say so myself, we have a really nice set-up for feeding the wild birds in the winter.  Our set-up allows the birds to have a smorgasbord of sunflower seeds, nyger seeds and suet all at the same time.  However, the best part of the arrangement is that it is completely squirrel proof!  This is entirely another whole blog entry as it took us two years to perfect. 

So yesterday, as I was emptying out the dishwasher, I caught a large bird sitting on top of the feeder's arched pole.  At first, I though maybe it was a blue jay.  No, it seemed a little bigger.  Maybe it was a large woodpecker that we typically get; like a flicker or a hairy woodpecker.  No, it was bigger than that.  As I walked over, it dawned on me; it was a hawk.

My husband happens to be a birder, so I have become pretty familiar with the local birds that visit our yard.  I knew that it was either a red tail hawk or a Cooper's hawk.  Upon closer inspection, based on the size, tail pattern and breast coloration, it was definitely a Cooper's hawk! 

I was shocked that it was just sitting there.  Of course, the feeders were all empty except for the rotund happy squirrel on the ground gathering the discards in his cheeks.  I was surprised that the hawk did not go for the squirrel.  I was even more surprised that the squirrel seemed to know that the hawk didn't want him.  You see, Cooper's hawks love chicken.  In fact, early colonial settlers called them chicken hawks.  Apparently, the squirrel and the hawk knew something tastier was in the yard.

The hawk flew from the top of the feeder pole to a rustic chair that I have on the front lawn.  It sat and glared over at the chicken coop.  It was only 14 degrees yesterday due to the Alberta clipper we were experiencing and I am sure that he was hungry.  I'm not sure if the flock saw him.  They were not free ranging yesterday, as it was even a little chilly for them.  They spent most of the day in their coop coming out in the run for water, scratching a little then returning inside.  He sat perched on top of the chair for about five minutes and just as I thought to grab the camera, turn it on and line up the shot, he flew away.

I had seen hawks circling over the yard.  I had seen hawks fly over the yard.  I now know that they know about the chickens.  I am sure that they will be back knowing a chicken buffet exists in our yard.  In fact, I thought that I would have seen one in the yard sooner.  This was my close encounter with a chicken predator.  I'm sorry Mr. Hawk, for now, something else will have to be on your menu.

December 10, 2010

Quotes, Chickens and Famous People

Happy Friday everyone!  As Winter and the holidays approach, the days get busier and seem shorter.  I thought that I would share some famous quotes about chickens.  I hope these bring a smile to your day.  If you have any other favorites to share, please feel free to leave a comment.  Enjoy!

Regard it just as desireable to build a chicken house as it is to build a cathedral.
--Frank Lloyd Wright

The difference between involvement and commitment is like an egg and ham breakfast:  the chicken was involved, the pig was committed.

Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching for what it gets.
--Henry Ford

An overcrowed chicken farm produces fewer eggs.
--Chinese Proverb

Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Is this chicken what I have or fish?  I know it's tuna but it says chicken of the sea.
--Jessica Simpson

A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
--Samuel Butler

The more excited a rooster gets, the higher his voice goes, he's got a little bit of a Barney Fife quality to him.
--Jeff Foxworthy

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.

I'll change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!
--Dolly Parton's character in 9 to 5 movie

Ain't nobody here but us chickens.
--Song lyrics, Louis Jordan

Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken poop from chicken salad.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

A chicken in every pot
--1928 Republican Party campaign slogan
Don't have a pot to put it in
--1928 Democratic Party response slogan

December 9, 2010

Scratching and Work Ethics

Scratching at the ground is one of the chickens' favorite things to do!  Chickens are continually on the hunt scratching their dinosaur-like feet into the earth, searching and searching for that perfect...stone, bug, piece of food, or worm.  It is remarkable to watch them.  Sometimes they rev up like they're starting a motorcycle or getting ready to run then next 50 yard dash.  Other times, they do it with dignity; with a feeling of pomp, circumstance and grace.  Specific chickens also have scratching styles.

Tilly is extremely dignified.  Her head held high in the air barely taking the time to look down at the ground and goodies she has potentially unearthed.  Feathers and Chocolate rev!  They appear to be starting mini-motorcycles hidden under their feathers.  Soon, I imagine them just vrooming off down the street.  Other girls diligently scratch then look at the ground, scratch then look at the ground.  Oyster Cracker and Sunshine team up and are always together like inseparable twins sharing their finds between them.

I have drawn the conclusion that like people, chickens have various work ethics.  Some are speedy and carefree just wanting to get the job done.  Some never really complete things and are easily distracted.  Some are perfectionists and spend minutes on end in one spot going through the earth with a fine tooth comb.  Some are messier than others and some are neater.  Some find things all the time and others are not so lucky.  Then there are those that like to fly solo versus working as a group.  I can think of situations where I have come across all of these traits in people.  The only difference being that the chicken's finds are their measure of success. 

December 8, 2010

A Meet and Greet Video with the Girls

I decided to go out early and video the chickens this morning so you could have an up close and personal visit.  It was 28 degrees F with a wind chill making it feel like 17 degrees F.  The girls could not help pecking at the camera's cord hanging down, thus a little shakiness with the camera.  Chocolate was feisty and did not like the camera there.  You will hear Chocolate make a new strange warning noise that even surprised me. I think they really wanted to free range instead of being videoed. They're just going to have to wait until later in the day, after my coffee.   I hope you enjoy our first attempt at chicken videography, not an easy feat!


December 7, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

Winter has finally arrived!  BRRRRRRR.  I woke to temperatures in the high twenties.  The waterers are now iced over in the morning and the flock is hesitant to leave their warm coop to come outside for a drink.  As I was snuggled in my bed last night, I could not help and wonder if they were cold.  I have read that cold hardy birds are very tolerant to dropping temperatures.  Birds are not mammals like us and treat cold weather differently than their human friends.  I guess I should not gauge their feelings about the weather based on mine, but sometimes I can't help it. 

I have been bringing in the waterers to the house every morning to defrost.  It only takes about a minute to remove the chunks of ice that have formed overnight.  When finally thawed, I have been filling the waterers with warm water.  As I walk outside, I can see steam rising off the water.  The chickens love it.  They love drinking the warm water.  It is as though they are having a morning cup of tea.  It must feel good inside. 

Yesterday, I also introduced them to plain warm oatmeal.  They were apprehensive at first and I'm not sure if they really liked it all that much.  They ate about half of it.  At least the girls lower in the pecking order, got their fill. 

These past few days, they have spent in the coop.  Their feather have grown in very thickly after their fall molt.  Underneath the top coat of feathers, I notice the fluffy downy feathers.  I can also report, that I am still getting eggs.  Chickens will not lay eggs when they are stressed.  So, I suppose that is also another good indicator as to their comfort level.

So for now, I am going to create a tarp for the run that will protect the area from snow, I am going to refrain from putting a heat lamp in the coop, and I am going to watch the flock's feet, combs and wattles for signs of frostbite.  However, knowing me, I am still going to worry over this winter about the flock's comfort.  Spring can't come soon enough!

December 6, 2010

Psychology for Chickens

Chocolate is getting feisty!  When I went to look for eggs over the weekend, I was pecked at twice.  I was shocked to see this from my usually docile boy.  He was definitely telling me that he did not want me in the coop, but this was never going to fly with me,  I need to be sure that I can get the eggs, refill the feeders and clean the coop at my leisure, not his.

I am a huge fan of the website  I have utilized it as a resource since getting my chickens this past Spring.  Everything, and I mean everything, you ever would want to know about a chicken is on this site.  So, this weekend, I took the plunge and joined as an official member of the site.  I posted an introduction about myself and then posted about my situation with Chocolate.  Within a few minutes, people started to respond.  I was amazed.  Over the course of about a day, I had about five suggestions on how to deal with Chocolate.  I was thrilled and started to take some of the members' advice.

I thought all along that his behavior and his rooster dance, aka the sideways two step, was his assertion to let me know that I was one of his girls.  However, because I was always in charge with the food and the water, I thought he would always think of me as head hen.  Apparently, caretaking is not enough.  According to suggestions, I needed to show Chocolate that I am the boss, the ultimate head hen, no matter what he thinks otherwise.  So with new advice in mind, I took to action.

First and foremost, Chocolate is no longer allowed to dance near me.  He is also not allowed to partake in humpty love in front of me.  If he tries to do these things, I must stop him by flapping things at him and make him step away, keeping in mind not to use my hands or feet.  So, yesterday morning, I did just that.  At first he looked at me confused.  I stood my ground and he started to get the message.  In the afternoon, when I looked for eggs, he came running into the coop.  He did not peck at me.  So, I grabbed him with assertiveness and held him for a while, whispering nice things into his ears and stroking his feathers under his chin, on his belly and back.  He enjoyed this and I felt him relax and calm down as he snuggled into the down of my coat.

Late in the afternoon when I returned to to see if anyone had any other suggestions, there was one more.  The suggestion was to turn him over on his back like you would a baby and show him your dominance.  So, as I returned outside in the early evening to lock them up for the night, I did just that.  I cradled my rooster like a newborn.  He looked at me strangely.  I held him for about twenty seconds and then I returned him to the coop with the girls.  This morning when I opened the coop and he came bolting out, he noticed me but did not visit like he usually does.  Who knew that psychology works on chickens?!

December 5, 2010

Stocking Stuffers and More

I thought that it would be nice to suggest some terrific items for under the tree this year.  Here are somethings that make me happy!

1.  Chicken Pot Pie--Centerville Pie Company

This is a fabulous potpie from right here on Cape Cod.  As featured this year on Oprah's favorite things, we on the Cape have been in love with this pie since the beginning.  We also love their involvement with Cape Abilities, a local organization assisting those with handicaps to enter the workforce.

2.  Rachael Ray Sir Whisk a Lot Whisk  

Heat resistant up to 400 degrees and dishwasher safe, this whisk is sure to make your eggs fluffy.

3.  Kiehls Ultimate Strength Hand Salve 

I'm in love.  They say it best...

"Formulated for the driest, most active hands, this heavy-duty moisture treatment is a thick, rich formula offering all-day care and protection. Our blend of select ingredients allows skin to actually draw and absorb water from the air, forming a "glove-like" protective barrier against moisture loss. This formula, which contains a blend of botanical oils as well as natural wax derived from Olives Oil, further soothes, moisturizes and conditions skin. This most effective preparation helps protect against and repair the appearance of severe dryness caused by heavy industrial work, manual labor, neglect, or exposure to harsh elements." --Kiehl's

4.  Nesting Box Blend

"Keeping nesting boxes clean and free of debris (folks, we are talking about poop here) is very important as contaminated nesting boxes are just bad, bad, bad.  Using Nesting Box Blends ward off the creepy crawlies and bugs that bug your chickens.  Add Nesting Box Blends to nesting boxes during regular scheduled cleanings to keep your chickens calm and free of mites, lice etc. Can be used along with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Contains 100% organic, fair trade herbs and flowers 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!"--Treats for Chickens

5.  Campo de Fiori--TerraCotta Pots

 Located in Western Massachusetts, I visit them everytime.  These are the best terracotta pots I have ever seen.  I think they are fabulous and they look great inside during the winter too.  I can honestly say I am addicted!

6.  Grow your own Italian Herb Garden

Who says you can't have fresh herbs even in the winter?   This is a great winter indoor project with the kids.  It's a great feeling to see plants grow when there is snow on the ground outside.

 7.  Eggs Cookbook-- Williams Sonoma Exclusive

"The egg is one of nature’s culinary miracles, adaptable to a wide variety of flavors and preparations. Quick and easy to prepare, this nutritional powerhouse can be enjoyed at any time of day – from a hearty breakfast or brunch to a simple, satisfying supper. In this book, you’ll discover over 40 delicious recipes for all types of egg dishes, along with step-by-step secrets to perfect scrambled, fried, boiled and poached eggs. Delight kids with a classic toad-in-the-hole – or impress brunch guests with eggs presented in whimsical prosciutto nests. The book also includes an enticing array of quiches, omelettes and stratas, plus creative recipes for breakfast burritos, panini and more. Hardcover, 112 pages. A Williams-Sonoma Exclusive."--Williams Sonoma

December 4, 2010

Humpty Love

I knew that at some point it would begin.  This morning was strange.  Maybe love was in the air.  Yesterday, Chocolate decided to crow like crazy in the morning.  He was non-stop for about 20 minutes.  That had never happened before.  I just kept thinking, I can't let you out until eight.  So, after about 10 minutes, I decided to put some scratch in the coop as a distraction.  It bought me about 10 minutes of time and he was at it again.  Finally eight arrived and I let them out.  He flew out of the coop like a crazy man!  He was going all over the place, excited and dancing.  I had never seen this side of him before.  Before going in, I checked the nesting boxes and discovered a silkie egg.  This was the first time I had found an egg that was laid early in the morning before I let them out for the day.  Interesting;  was all that commotion because of the egg?  The egg was the only thing new in the coop.

This morning, I heard nothing, no squawking or crowing.  It was strangely quiet.  Something was different.  So, as I usually do, after letting them out, I filled up the food and the waterers and started to observe and say good morning to the flock.  There was Chocolate.  He greeted every hen in the run.  Typically they do not give him the time of day.  I think sometimes, they think of him like a bad blind date.  However, when he got to Dolly, one of our new lavender silkies,  she saw something in him the other girls had yet to discover.  He did his little rooster dance and then she squatted down.  He climbed on top!  It only lasted a matter of 5 seconds but he did it.  He tried once more and she allowed him again. 

Nature is so incredible.  I've now thought that she is the one laying eggs.  So somehow, nature has just taken it's course.  When the kids see it, they will want to know what is going on.  I've given some thought about that.  Since they were really little, they have witnessed our neighbor's dogs, animals at the zoo and even at the pet store doing what comes natural.  As all toddlers are curious, we just called it "humpty love" for the sake of escaping details.  I can't wait to hear what they will tell me when they see the chickens having humpty love!

December 3, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Do you ever have those days when you don't feel like cooking?  Here is something that I make on those kinds of days. I love this pizza.  It reminds me of California.  This my take on one of my favorite pizzas at California Pizza Kitchen.  It is so easy and delicious.  Pick-up an extra pizza dough for the kids and let them create their own pizza.It is great fun making a meal together with the family.  I hope you enjoy this Tilly's Nest take on a favorite recipe!


1 boneless chicken breast cooked and shredded
1 can Pillsbury Pizza Dough
1/2 cup Kraft's BBQ sauce
1/4 cup red onion--diced
1 cup Italian Blend shredded cheese
1 medium tomato--diced
1/4 cup cilantro-- chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil and roll out the dough according to the packaging's instructions.  The oil is critical to prevent sticking

3.  On the dough spread in this order, the BBQ sauce, the chicken, tomatos, onion, cheese and cilantro

4.  Bake for approximately 10-13 minutes.

December 2, 2010

Barnstable Rooster Ordinance Update

I am so glad that I went to the meeting last night regarding the rooster regulations in the town of Barnstable.  I was happy to see that seven other residents from town were there too, all in the defense of their roosters.   Apparently, the rooster subject is not a new one.  The Barnstable Agricultural Commission has been working on this for a while with one of our town council members.  There have been some legitimate complaints about noise from roosters across town.  However, there are no laws pertaining to roosters in town.  Without an ordinance specifically for roosters, the town is unable to control some volatile situations that have arisen in neighborhoods.

I felt like we came to this meeting just in time.  Last night, a town council member brought the draft of a rooster ordinance that was to be voted on and perhaps implemented at last night's meeting.  However, due to public comments and concerns, the ordinance as presented and drafted was edited and will be go back to the town and legal counsel for revision.

Initially the rooster ordinance introduced last night, although vague and broad, left a few of us with an uneasy feeling in our stomachs.  The rooster ordinance basically had three key items.  In layman terms, they were as follows:

1.  Any person with a rooster must have at least 2 acres of land

2.  The rooster must be plainly audible from 150 feet or less from the complaint site.

3.  There is a three strike fining component before there is any other action.

The meeting lasted for two hours.  After much contemplation and debate, the Barnstable Agricultural Commission decided on striking that 2 acres of land are required for a rooster.  They also struck the wording "or less" and made it just 150 feet.  They are also planning on clarifying what happens after you have had 3 strikes. 

So for now, the rooster ordinance draft, will go back to to the town's legal counsel for rewording and reappear in a new form at the next Barnstable Agricultural Commission scheduled for January 2011.  The most interesting twist of the evening came when the commission personally invited me to apply for the vacant seat on the commission.  Isn't it funny how life just sorts itself out?  Last night I was definitely in the right place at the right time.

December 1, 2010

Cocktail Conversations

Our first three eggs
So, over the past four days, someone has laid 3 eggs!  I still think that they are from Dolly, but I cannot be entirely sure, as I have only caught her in action once.  Today, I thought alot about the eggs.  I am really proud that the dream of having eggs from organically fed chickens has come true.  In a previous blog, I talked about how chickens can create friendships and are terrific icebreakers. (See Chicken Bonding October 23, 2010)  As the holidays are quickly approaching, I thought that I would share some interesting, unique and bizarre facts about eggs.  Not only will you impress those around you, but it might even help you get things started during your next cocktail party.

Interesting Egg Facts

A hen lays an egg approximately every 25 hours.

A hen is born with over 4000 eggs in her body.

It takes 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch.

A bantam (tiny) hen can sit on about 24 eggs all at once or about 10 standard size eggs.

Hens need about 14 hours of daylight to lay eggs.

Chicken eggs come in all shades of brown, white, blue, green and rose.

Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs.

Chickens lay the highest number of eggs in their lifetime between 18 weeks and 2 years of age.