Over the course of my nursing career, I have seen some pretty disgusting things. I’ve smelled things that were even worse. However, nothing could have prepared me for the wrath of Dolly’s broody poo!
I have lived on Cape Cod for seven years and find the winters here very depressing. I am now convinced that I suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder. I have never ever experienced the Eeyore blues as I do here when I am deprived of sunlight and warmth. The ground is frozen. The trees have no leaves and I am the only splash of color in this gloomy gray landscape. I have had a hard time grappling with this because I have never experienced these feelings before. As spring arrives, instantly the dark veil of gloom is lifted. It is replaced by robins in my yard pulling worms from the ground, glorious buds on the ends of branches swelling with new life, and beautiful hints of flowering bulbs waking from the icy ground.
I am convinced that over time, people become acclimated to a certain climate. I also think it is much harder to adapt the older we get. Change is never easy. Even my husband, a native New Englander, now sees the winters as being a little more difficult than they were when he was a kid. It’s days like these when the snow has begun to fall, yet again, that I yearn for that old warm southern California. However, this winter was different.
Usually, I fall victim to the blues around the end of November. This year, it has been mid-February. I think it has a lot to do with the chickens. I look forward to waking up and greeting the chickens each morning. Now they are the burst of color on the gloomy landscape during the Winter. They constantly entertain me and keep me smiling. I love it when they talk to me. I love it when Oyster Cracker is so excited at the prospects of getting treats that she jumps enthusiastically into my lap. I love feeling warm fresh eggs in my hands. I love hearing Chocolate crow. It took me a little while to piece this all together. In years past, I had considered getting a special light box to sit under. I now know that it is not necessary.
|A new life in the making|
Yesterday, the kids and I candled the eggs for the first time. We did not entirely know what we were doing, but thought that all good farmers candle their eggs for viability, so we should probably do the same.
I went in to the garage and found a small hand held flashlight with an old fashioned bulb; none of this LED stuff. I cut a piece of cardboard into a 3″x3″ square. Then I cut into the middle of the square, a hole the size of a quarter. Next I took an empty toilet paper roll and cut it down to a 2″ tube. As the Silkie eggs are much smaller than standard eggs, I had to adjust the diameter of the toilet paper roll. I cut the tube down the side and curled it into itself until it was the diameter of a quarter. Once satisfied, I taped it into place. Finally, I taped the toilet paper tube onto the cardboard square. My contraption was built.
Quickly, I grabbed egg number one from underneath Dolly. I turned on the flashlight, placed my cardboard contraption on top, then placed the egg on top of the light. Then I saw it. The most spectacular sight of early life. A beautiful intricate spiderweb of veins spiraling outward from a dark center spot. As, I turned the egg, it all seemed to float in space, gliding along the egg’s shell. Magical.
Within a matter of 5 minutes, the kids and I candled eggs 1-6. We decided to wait a couple more days on eggs 7-9 as they are younger by a couple of days. My eight year old son was truly amazed by the experience. He asked a lot of questions about the experience and I answered them as best I could. The children are learning life’s lessons. Thanks to Dolly, patience and dedication are currently the curriculum of the month at Tilly’s Nest.
|Here I am candling our eggs in the basement|
Top Photo Credit: Chickens in the Road, Bottom Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
|Mama Dolly takes a break|
…but you can’t take LA out of the girl. I lived in Los Angeles for over half of my life and it is the place that I identify as “home”. Prior to moving to Cape Cod, I was surrounded by designer handbags,beautiful people and designer puppy dogs.
Now that I live on Cape Cod, I consider my chickens to be “designer” chickens. No expenses have been spared for them. If I could, they would strut around the run with painted toenails but I am sure that they would peck each other’s toes to pieces. Their favorite color is red! Yes, I’ve even thought about having a pet psychic come to finally tell me what the girls are talking to me about. Do they like me? Are they happy? Do they have dreams? What does it feel like to lay an egg?
This all got me thinking about Dolly. Yesterday, I physically had to remove her from the eggs and nest. She is doing such a good job that she is not eating or pooping. Finally, when removed she ate. Her crop is mostly empty. The zen-like state that she achieves is amazing! Where does she go? Does she achieve chicken nirvana?
Then it dawned on me, maybe I could provide her a little comfort with some nest aromatherapy! I sprinkled some of the nesting box blend around her. Surrounded by her 9 little eggs, straw, shavings and all the chicken treats she could dream of, she settled down and closed her eyes for a well deserved nap. Maybe I am onto something….I just might have to talk to someone about my idea for broody hen aromatherapy!
Left undisturbed, with no other members of her chicken family, Dolly has gotten down to business! She is vigilantly sitting on all of the eggs. After yesterday’s concerns about eggs 1,5, and 6, I added two freshly laid Silkie eggs to her clutch. Her total now comes to 9. This should be sufficient to see some little chicks in 2 1/2 weeks.
Most of yesterday she remained in her deep zombielike trance. She is drinking water but I am not too sure about the amount of food she is eating. I can tell you, she is dedicated. I have tried to tempt her off the nest with treats and fresh greens. She is not interested.
Out in the main coop, the rest of the flock does not seem to notice that she is gone. I am concerned that when I do bring Dolly back, they will not remember her. She was in the middle of the pecking order. In her absence, the chickens continue to scratch and find goodies. They are happy to sunbathe and take dust baths. Chocolate continues to share his discoveries with his girls. He even alerts them to potential danger from a threatening looking Chickadee. As you can see, it’s business as usual at Tilly’s Nest. Life is good.
I have been quickly catching up, reading as much as I can about broody hens and hatching eggs. My learning curve has been on an upward trajectory! Most resources suggest separating the broody hen from the rest of the flock. Some jealous hens can become saboteurs or even have nesting envy, only to kick the broody hen off the nest at day 20 and reap the benefits of motherhood. In turn, the broody hen who sat all those long days is robbed of her children. I was still in the process of making my decision whether to leave Dolly with the flock or not. So far, for the most part, they have left her be. I did however, find Tilly’s egg underneath her yesterday.
This morning was a different story, perhaps because I was later than my typically punctual arrival. I let the flock out, added fresh water, scratch and then ventured over to visit Dolly. She was sitting on her nest but what I saw I could not believe. Egg number one was rolled into the center of the coop. Eggs 5 and 6 were found in the nesting box next to Dolly. Eggs 5 and 6 were still semi-warm but Egg number 1 was chilly. This was not good. As quickly as I could, I gathered the three eggs and returned them under Dolly.
I next went to the garage and began to set up my temporary brooder. I gathered an old shipping box, an extra waterer and an old Tupperware container for food. I created a nest with shavings and straw.
|Food and Water|
As I was setting up this brooder, I could hear squabbles from the coop. I went over and saw Tilly sitting in Dolly’s nesting box. I looked in the run. I could not see Dolly. Dolly must still be in the same box as Tilly.
It seemed like forever, but Tilly finally laid her egg. My window of opportunity had arrived. Quickly, I scooped up all of the eggs. I placed them in the makeshift nest. Next, I ran to the coop and grabbed Dolly. I placed her in the new brooder.
Dolly was not happy about leaving the coop. I think she thought that I was taking her from her eggs. Little did she know, I was taking her to their new location. I placed her in the brooder. She was nervous. I showed her the eggs. She stood in the nest, rolled two eggs with her beak and got out. She looked around and was talking. Taken back by confusion and utter nervousness, Dolly was apprehensive of her new surroundings. I decided to scatter some scratch on the ground. She started to eat the scratch. When she was done. I showed her the eggs again. Time was marching on. The eggs were getting cold and Dolly was showing no signs of broodiness!
I showed her the eggs a few more time. Each time, she panicked and hopped off the nest. Thoughts entered my mind that I was going to have to abandon any attempts of Dolly and parenthood. Finally, just as I had my doubts, I showed her the eggs once more. She squatted on them. Then gently rolled each egg on the outer cusps into the center, puffed out her body and wings, then settled down on the eggs. Thank goodness! As she sat, I praised her. I then noticed that her comb was bleeding. My best guess is that it was from her earlier squabble with Tilly. I think I made the right decision. I just hope I was not too late for her eggs.
Dolly has been sitting on eggs for 3days. She seems to be a great broody hen! As of this morning, she has a total of 5. Today will be my last opportunity to place anymore eggs underneath her. You see, the mother hen will sit on the nest for 2-3 days after her first chick hatches. This is to see if any other eggs in the clutch will hatch. However, after about 3 days, she will abandon any unhatched eggs and begin to raise her brood.
I have been collecting Silkie eggs from the nesting boxes to place under Dolly. If they are still warm when I pick them up, I quickly number them with a pencil and place them under Dolly. She seems so pleased when I add another to her growing collection!
I am also amazed at her instinct. Yesterday, while peeking through the window, I witnessed her turning the eggs. With the most amazing grace and gentle touch, she inspected each egg and rolled it according to her liking. Wow! How in the world did she know how to do that?
She seems to leave the nest a couple of times a day, but it is only for fleeting moments at a time. I have placed fresh water with vitamins and electrolytes near her as well as food. In a few days, I will attempt to candle the eggs to insure viability. I have never done that, so it will require some research. I too am learning all about this fascinating process. If all goes according to plan, we might just have some chicks in time for Easter. The whole family is rooting for Team Dolly!
This is a very simple and delicious family friendly recipe. It looks like this week we will be reminded that Spring has not quite yet arrived! This is my own take on a classic Campbell’s soup recipe. Give it a try this week.
|Image courtesy of Campbell’s|
2 cups of rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups of mixed frozen vegetables
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup
1/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
salt and pepper
1 box Pillsbury premade pie crusts—in the refrigerated section at the grocery store
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. In a small pot, add 1/2 cup of water and the vegetables. Cook the vegetables lightly until they are thawed and warmed. Drain from pot and set aside. This step can also be done in the microwave.
2. In a large pot, over medium heat, combine the Cream of Chicken soup, milk and parsley. Mix well.
3. Next add the chicken and the vegetables. Combine and heat until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
4. Unroll one pie crust and evenly press it into a pie pan until it conforms to the shape of the dish.
5. Add the Chicken filling mixture into the pie crust. Using a spoon, spread it evenly to all areas of the pan.
6. Unroll the second crust onto the top of the mixture. Press the sides of the pot pie together around the edges of the glass. Insert a knife into the center of the upper pie crust to create 4 vents for steam to escape.
7. Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes on center rack. Remove when pie crust is golden brown.
You can find this and all of our recipes featured on our website at Tastebook.
I called my friend who lives locally over in Cotuit. She has a lovely farm with a menagerie of animals. She is involved in so many wonderful organizations and she always goes above and beyond to assist animals in need. Most recently, she has decided to raise Silkie Bantams. The other day we were visiting and she showed my daughter her incubator and about 10 newly hatched Silkie chicks.
When I picked up the phone to call her, first day of school butterflies were fluttering about my stomach. I had not felt this way in years! As I waited for her to answer, my mind was bombarded. How could I ask a friend to “take care” of my rooster? I guess I felt badly not knowing entirely what went on between my daughter and Chocolate. Did he give her just a warning peck that startled her or was it something more? At some point in his future, Chocolate would most likely need to be culled if he continued on his aggressive path. I surely could not do it; especially because I love him so. On the other hand, farmers consider their animals livestock and view their animals differently from pets. I could not take another chance with Chocolate being aggressive toward the children. The risks are too great.
I expressed all of my concerns. With much patience and understanding she listened. Then she said, “He can come live with me on the farm”. I was so shocked. I asked her if she was going to cull him and she said no. “He is too beautiful, plus he is docile and gentle. He was most likely doing his job, letting her know that those were his girls.” My heart was overjoyed. My eyes welled up with tears. Chocolate’s life would continue on the farm with her Silkie Bantams.
She only asked one thing of me. As Dolly is broody, she wanted me to let her try and have a set of chicks. I agreed. Yesterday, three silkies laid eggs. Dolly had them all nestled under her breast. I quickly removed them and penciled a number on each egg. With each Silkie egg laid, I will place it underneath Dolly until the total reaches around 10. Numbering the eggs will help me keep track of the eggs. If all goes according to nature’s plan, we should have baby chicks in about 21 days.
Instead of losing the life of Chocolate, my beloved rooster, we will be creating new ones. At times like these, I am grateful for fellow chicken owners. This journey’s rain cloud has a brilliant silver lining after all.