Month : March 2011

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Oyster Cracker’s Favorite Things

Well it all started back with the pearl earring.  Oyster Cracker gave me a real scare.  Now, I am just realizing that she is a fancy girl that loves to investigate what I am wearing.  None of the other chickens can be bothered.  But for some strange reason, I feel like Oyster Cracker is always planning her next move with me. In fact, just the other day, she was at it again.

I was wearing another set of pearl earrings.  She came to visit me as I was collecting eggs in the afternoon.  She poked her head out of the open nesting boxes and the next thing I knew, she went for the pearl earring.

I quickly scolded her and she dropped her treasure into the center nesting box.  I retrieved my jewel from the sea and searched for the back.  I never did find it.  At least, if swallowed their was nothing sharp for any of the girls to harm themselves inadvertently.  I suspect if eaten, it probably would just come out in the end.

Oyster Cracker also loves the gold necklace that I wear everyday.  This one, I can understand.  It is shiny and does glisten in the rays of the sun.  I even catch it casting reflections in the run as I bend over to refill the waterers or rake things clean.  She first fooled me by playing coy and faking me into thinking that she was going to take a nice long drink of fresh water.  In reality, she was only after my necklace.

I am now realizing though it is not always just jewelry.  She is a gal that likes shiny things; like the snaps on my Winter and Spring coats.  Thank goodness that they are so strongly fastened to the fabric.  When she see my coats, she comes running.  She loves to peck continuously at the buttons.  Do you think she will ever realized that they belong to the coats that belong to me?

I also have worn two fish bangles from Eden on Cape Cod.  I was given one each when my children were born.  They clank about on my wrists.  I have never really taken them off except for the occasional cleaning.  They have great sentimental value to me.  I even find it more amazing that my second born is a Pisces and I wear two fish!

As I wear them everyday, I do not notice the gentle clanking noises that they make as I move about my day.  However, I bet you can guess who notices them…Oyster Cracker!

I thought to myself that my wearing jewelry days were over.  I could not have been more wrong.  Lately, she is no longer interested in just shiny metallic objects.  She has developed a love for buttons. It can be any size button and any color.  She loves to peck at those too.

My goodness, she is so perceptive.  Sometimes, she reminds me what I am wearing. I need to be careful with her.  We seem to like the same things. 

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Room to Grow

I would like to say a great big HELLO to Mrs. Keenan’s class who has been following the adventures of Tilly’s Nest in their classroom!
We need more room to grow!
The chickens and Dolly are quickly out growing their space!  They were born almost 2 weeks ago.  They still had the old nesting box in the brooder.  They also continued to make a complete mess of the newspaper lining that I placed underneath of the pine shavings.  I contributed it to Dolly as she scratched and looked for goodies to share with the chicks.  I found myself constantly cleaning out the feeder and the waterer of pine shavings.  It was time to make some changes! I removed everything from the brooder and started from scratch.
Don’t mind if I do, I like this new waterer!
 I elevated the waterer off the ground to prevent the pine shavings from being inadvertently scratched into the waterer.  Soon, I realized that it was too high for Percy Peepers to reach.  They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions.  So, I remembered that I had created a device that could hang off the nesting boxes for Dolly when she was ill last Winter.  Voila!  It worked.  I made it out of a coat hanger and a small stainless steel serving dish.  Hung from the wire wall, it is just the right height for Percy!  Plus his brothers and sisters enjoy drinking from it too.

 

Food to the left, chicken play area to the right
I also removed the nesting box to open up more room.  I decided to place all of the food in the chillier end of the brooder.  Dolly’s food is now out of reach from the chicks.  I have it perched upon a brick.  The chicks cannot eat Dolly’s food because it contains too much calcium.  The calcium could adversely affect the growth of the chicks’ bones.  I placed the chick food in the middle and the elevated waterer at the top. Finally, I added 8″ cardboard walls around the perimeter of the brooder.  As the current walls are hardware cloth, I thought by doing so, I could prevent the shavings from flying everywhere as the chickens scratch.

 

View from above
It has been about 17 hours since I changed the brooder yesterday afternoon.  The chicken family seems happy.  The chicken family seems to really be enjoying the added room in their brooder.  Soon I will search outside for a perch that I can make so the chicks can practice roosting.  The waterers and the food dishes seem relatively shaving free and I am hearing lots of pleasure trills!  Life is good at Camp Broody.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

3 Broody Hens

Broody hens, I’ve got 3
Won’t somebody rescue me!
They sit all day and growl and squack
They do not leave to take a walk
Fluffed out upon the nest they sit
Tail feathers spanned to throw a fit
No Silkie eggs that they protect
No Silkie eggs for us to collect
Invisible are the eggs they see
Broody hens, I’ve got 3
-Tilly’s Nest

I am at my wit’s end with these girls.  Spring is definitely in the air.  I don’t mind that they are broody really,  I just miss their eggs.  Sometimes the best things do come in small packages. I just hope they start laying for Easter time.  Won’t the Silkie eggs make the most adorable dyed Easter Eggs?

http://www.homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/

Main Dishes Recipes

Rustic Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

This was a huge hit for dinner!  It was quick, easy and delicious.  I made two quiche for dinner.  One had only bacon and cheese for the kids.  The other was a rustic bacon and mushroom quiche that my husband and I shared!  Serve this quiche with a side salad and fresh strawberries.  I hope you and your family enjoy this Tilly’s Nest original!

Ingredients

6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 premade pie crust ( I prefer Pillsbury)
1 medium sweet yellow onion-diced
1/2 pound maple flavored bacon
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1.  Line a pie plate with the pie crust and set aside.

2.  Cut strips of bacon into small 1/2 inch pieces.  In a medium saucepan, add the bacon and cook until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan, place on a plate with a paper towel to drain the grease.  Drain the remaining bacon grease from the pan, leaving a small amount to saute the onions.

2.  Next add the onions to the pan with the remaining bacon grease.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the thyme and the mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are softened. Remove from heat.

3.  In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and milk until thoroughly incorporated.  Next add the cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onion and thyme.  Stir to combine.

4.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.  With your fingers form the edge of the pie crust and place the quiche in the oven.  Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes.

This recipe and all of the other recipes featured on Tilly’s Nest can be found in one convenient cookbook at Tastebook.

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Dolly’s Time Out

Dolly sits proudly over her chicks

Well, yesterday, I found out the hard way.  Up until now, I have cleaned portions of the brooder but never the whole thing.  The brooder could wait no longer.  It was messy and dirty and to top it off, I had to deal with overprotective Dolly.  The chicks seem to panic now whenever my gloved hand goes in to gather Dolly’s poop a few times per day.  I don’t think they recognize it as my hand.  Either way, Dolly goes into a natural tizzy, spreads her wings and the babies are pipping and popping all over the place; brooder chaos.

Look how big we’ve grown!

I knew that I was going to have to remove Dolly from the scene and that was the first thing that I did.  I placed her outside with the rest of her grown-up family.  I grabbed a cardboard box, placed it on the ground in front of the brooder and redirected the heat lamp into the box.  One by one, I caught the baby chicks and placed them in their temporary holding pen.

Quickly I gathered up all of the newspaper and the two inches of soiled shavings. What a mess!  I washed out and returned the waterers and the food dishes.  I spread out clean newspaper and made a soft bed of clean pine shavings.  When I went to return the babies to their clean brooder, they were all huddled in the corner of the box.  One by one, I grabbed them.  Sometimes two at a time, they returned to the brooder.  I went outside and there was Dolly waiting by the coop door.  I opened the door and scooped her up.  She was happy.  She called out to her babies on the walk back to the brooder.  However, I know that she did enjoy herself for a while when she was without the chicks.

While cleaning the brooder, I peeked out at the large coop and run periodically.  I saw Dolly socializing, telling stories, taking a dust bath, eating scratch and revisiting favorite places of hers in her home.  She let loose for a while and momentarily took a break from her motherhood duties.  We all need breaks, even chicken moms.  I believe we are better mom’s for it.  By taking time for ourselves, sometimes stolen moments, we replenish ourselves and can, in turn, be better parents.

As Dolly reentered the brooder, she greeted each of her chicks.  They touched beaks and nuzzled together.  It was a happy reunion and Dolly did miss her little ones.  After a while, they settled in for a nap.  The chicks were tucked safely underneath of their Dolly Mama and she got right back to her motherhood duties.

The happy family is always close to each other

Photo credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Evil Broody Twins

Meesha and Autumn are broody.  They have both been broody for about 2 weeks now.  This week, they have earned themselves the nickname, The Evil Broody Twins.  As they perch upon empty invisible eggs, their wrath is apparent when you even whisper their names.

They spend most of their day in the boxes, as expected.  Sometimes I find them sitting on others’ eggs and sometimes only air.  No matter, their greeting is always the same.  It starts out with a lot of low growling.  Meesha puffs up her neck.  I can see her labored breathing around her wattles.  Slowly, I try to pet them to reassure them that I come in peace.  With a quick whip of the neck, PECK!  They get me every time.

This morning, they were both together in the left nesting box, facing in opposite directions.  I think they planned it this way.  If I grabbed one from behind, the other’s head was there to peck my hand and vice versa.  I thought for sure they were fighting over a large egg that the girls laid this morning.  After about 5 minutes, I mustered up my courage and I grabbed them both, lifted them and revealed…nothing.  It was all over nothing.  Don’t ever listen to anyone that says chicken are not smart!  This morning those evil broody twins had a strategy.

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Chickens Coop Care Stories from Our Nest

Spring Cleaning

Nice and Clean

Today after yesterday’s snow, I could not wait to get out and do a little cleaning.  I originally planned to just clean the interior of the coop. However, as I began, I decided to clean the whole entire thing!  I let the original flock out to free-range.  I locked Meesha and Autumn in the run and started with the coop.  It is usually a rather quick job taking about 15 minutes.  However, today was different, I had to contend with Chocolate.

In his rooster efforts to keep his girls safe, he could not stop coming over by me.  It used to be friendly, now, I think he is determined to claim me as one of his girls.  I do have to admit, he makes me a little nervous.  I would dread to think of him hopping on my back with his claws out!  Everytime, I scraped out the dirty shavings from the coop with the dustpan, he would come running.  Almost, like an attack dog.  I would have to stop and go pick him up.

I tried with all my might to get him to know that he was okay.  I was not going to harm him or his girls.  I know that he just couldn’t help it.  Despite all my holding, snuggling, and love, which he reciprocated,  he was still on high alert.  Finally, I had to scoop him up and put him in the run with Meesha and Autumn.  Within a matter of minutes, I finished cleaning the inside of the coop and then opened the door from the coop to the run.  Meesha and Autumn were thrilled to run inside.  They are both still broody and were in a hurry to get back to their nesting boxes and sit on their invisible eggs! Chocolate followed the girls in the coop and then I locked all three of them in the coop.

On all fours, I climbed into the run.  I regraded the run and removed some large roots that the chickens had unearthed in their digging frenzies.  I filled in their sunbathing dust bowls and raked the area clean.  I also removed the plastic tarp that had been draped over the run.  It acted to keep the snow out and did a beautiful job. However, it was covered in chicken dirt and dust.  As a matter of fact, so was all of the wood and hardware on the run. I got out the hose.

I just could not stand it any longer.  I scrubbed and rinsed off the entire run and the exterior of the coop.  The entire process from beginning, cleaning the coop and scrubbing the run, took about an hour.  The girls loved free ranging during that time.  They made a happy chicken mess.  Leaves were strewn about and dirt was flying.  Once the coop and run were clean.  I returned the girls from free ranging and opened the coop door so that Chocolate could reunite with his girls.  Meesha and Autumn were content to stay in their nesting boxes.    In the yard, I went around to all of the areas where the chickens left their mark.  It is never difficult to tell where a chicken has been.    As I raked everything back into it’s place, I could not help but smile.  Chickens would never make good spies.  There is nothing stealthlike about them!

Photo credit:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

Spring Snow

Winter is not ready to leave.

It snowed.  As I went out to see the chickens this morning I discovered snow on the garden gate. Slowly it is beginning to melt and turn into tiny droplets and beads of water that trickle down to meet the thawing earth.

It dusted the garden pathways and the tiny signs of Spring  that I saw last week emerging from the ground; flower bulbs, sprigs of Lady’s Mantle and Catmint.

It snowed upon the bee skep cloche that has quietly been awaiting Spring’s return all Winter long.

It’s an inside kind of day for the flock.  A kind of day for them to do a little Spring cleaning.  They enjoy tidying up the nesting boxes, looking for undiscovered treats and just taking a nap upon the roosts.

Sometimes it’s nice to be inside and have something yummy to eat.  This morning I gave them warm water with vitamins, electrolytes and apple cider vinegar. They seem to enjoy it while eating breakfast.

It’s these kind of days, where you question whether you should just remain inside or venture out into the cold mix of rain and snow.  Tilly’s was wondering the the same thing as she peered out the door today.  I wonder what she decided to do?

Photo credits:  Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Chicken Littles

We love to poke out from the safety of Momma Dolly

The chicks are becoming so adventurous now.  It is rare that I find many of them underneath Dolly.  Only during naps, do some prefer to snuggle underneath of her while some prefer to lay in front of her on the soft shavings warmed by the heat lamp.  They are also becoming faster everyday.  They are starting to develop tail and wing feathers and enjoying hopping all over the brooder.  Dolly is also becoming more protective as I try to inspect her chicks.

Dolly and her brood

Today, I had to treat two pasty butts.  She was not happy about me trying to catch her chicks.  She became frantic.  As the chicks peeped louder, she danced around in circles with her wings fully extended.  Poor Percy Peepers.  Percy was being trampled in the frenzy. Finally, I had to remove Dolly to the outside run, catch the chicks, treat the pasty butts and return them to the brooder while Dolly knew nothing of the sort!

Percy always near Momma’s side

Percy continues to thrive and does not seem to be in any pain.  Percy never ventures too far from Dolly and spends most times underneath of her.  Percy does continue to grow and develop.  Wing feathers are emerging and Percy is getting faster everyday despite having to adapt to the bad leg.  My attempts at physical therapy with Percy seem so futile, although I still think a little exercise is good, so I continue. My Pet Chicken has even offered to donate a reusable chicken diaper if Percy will need to become a house chicken.  The outpouring of support for Percy has been absolutely amazing and I am grateful for everyone’s kind words and thoughts.  I am awestruck that something so tiny as Percy, fitting in the palm of your hand and weighing less than a few ounces, can move people in extraordinary ways.

Much love and thanks,
Tilly’s Nest

Photo credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Desserts Recipes

Sticky Toffee Banana Cake

Over the weekend, we had dinner at our friends’ house.  My friend is an awesome baker and she wowed us with this one!  In all, with chilling time, the recipe takes about 2 hours.  It was incredibly delicious and my tastebuds are craving more!  I can not wait for the bananas on my counter to get mushy!
Ingredients
Toffee Sauce
1 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp heaving whipping cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
Banana Cake 
2 cups all purpose flour
1/ 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup very ripe mashed bananas (2-3)
1 tbsp rum (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh bananas for topping
Preparation
Toffee Sauce (can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated)
In small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 1/4 cups cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil.  Whisk continually until sugar is dissolved.  For the next 15 minutes, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until sauce thickens and  thickly coats the back of your spoon.  Remove from heat, and whisk in 3 tablespoons or so of heavy cream to thin the sauce to desired consistency.  Cover and chill.  Rewarm slightly prior to use.
Banana Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a non-stick 8″x8″x2″ pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.   Set aside. With your electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until well blended.  Beat in 1 egg at a time.  Then add the mashed bananas, rum and vanilla and continue to beat them until well incorporated. Next, slowly add the dry ingredients.  Add a 1/4 of the dry ingredients at a time, blend until just incorporated then repeat 3 more times.   Spread batter into baking pan.
Bake cake for 35 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and spread 1/2 of the toffee mixture onto the top of the cake.  Return the cake to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and thick.  This should take about 6 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. 
Serve pieces of cake slightly warm or at room temperature with toffee sauce, sliced fresh bananas and even a dollop of fresh cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.
This recipe has been adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine.  The original recipe can be found here. You can find all of the recipes shared on Tilly’s Nest at Tastebook in our very own cookbook.
 Photo Credit:  Dan Forbes

 

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