Month : April 2011

Findings Gardening

The Nest

Catching a glimpse
It’s not only the girls at Tilly’s Nest that are having babies.  We’ve had a few house finches busy in our topiary by our garage.  Today I peered in and this is what I saw; three light blue eggs with brown speckles.  I was so touched by the nest’s tranquil beauty. 
Today, I am spending most of my time in the gardens preparing the beds as they wake from their Winter slumber.  I am also cleaning up around the outside of the coop and reseeding some of the lawn that the chickens enjoyed to death! 
This is my favorite time of the year.  Signs of life are everywhere.  Take time to enjoy life’s beautiful quiet moments.  You’ll find you are surrounded by them.
Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest


Peering up at me while getting comfortable
My four year old daughter has had a blanket since she was one day old.  Her blanket is called Lovey.  Lovey comes everywhere with us.  Over the years, she has been loved, has stains that no longer wash out and she has a smell that only my daughter could love.  Somehow, that never quite goes away no matter how many washings!
Dottie Speckles was in the house yesterday and it did not take her long to discover Lovey.  In fact, she was very quick to settle down into the fleecy snuggles of Lovey.  Then, she fell asleep.
Fast Asleep
It was so sweet seeing Dottie sleep on something so loved. It was even sweeter to see my daughter share something that she loves so very much with our baby chick.  Somehow, Lovey just makes everything better, even for Dottie Speckles.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

You Know You Love Chickens…

Miss Tilly

When you dream about them at night.

When they all have names.

When you feed them special treats.

When you give them baths.

When you take them to a vet.

When you watch them more than the TV.

When you hug and kiss them.

When you tuck them in at night.

When you babysit them from hawks while they free-range.

When you add items just for the chickens to your grocery list.

When they can brighten the worst possible day.

When you find yourself constantly reading about them.

When you are always thinking of expanding your coop and run.

When your children call you a chicken grandma!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Hand Wash, Dry on Low Heat

Well, I could no longer stand looking at Sunshine’s poopy bottom.  So, today, I took action.  Did you know that chickens are washable?  Poor Sunshine likes to sleep the first half of the night on the floor.  Often when I lock them in for the night she is laying right in front of her family.  Then, sometimes before I go to bed, I check on them. I always find that she has relocated to the roost for the evening.  Little does she know that this pattern is creating her poop to collect around her vent.

Here is what I used:

A plastic bin from the hospital
Dawn dishwashing detergent
A rinsing bowl with clean  warm water
A hair dryer
Two bath sized towels

I went out and easily grabbed Sunshine.  She was eager to go.  I think she thought that she was getting special treatment.  Little did she know… 

I placed her on the ground and wrapped the bath towel over her wings and around her body a couple of times.  This would help to keep her calm and prevent her from flapping her wings.  Then I placed her in the plastic bin filled with a little Dawn detergent and warm water.  She liked it.  She talked to me the entire time.  It was sweet talk.  She was not nervous at all, in fact, it seemed like she knew that it had to be done!

With some gentle massaging of the soiled feathers between my fingers, the poop let loose and clean feathers were back.  It took me about 5 minutes.  When I was satisfied, I rinsed her feathers with cupped hands of water.  Then I brought her over to the dry towel.  I stood her there.  Still mummified in the other towel with her only her head, feet and bottom exposed,  I gently dried her with the second towel.  Then I turned the hairdryer on low and warm heat.  She instantly sat down.

She was adorable!  Her chicken legs and toes were straight out in front of her.  The fluffing of her bottom soon began.  Which once were wet, sparse feathers, soon became fluffy, beautiful, light and airy.  Sunshine’s bottom was wonderful again. 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

New Beginnings, Bright Futures


My last moment with Percy


Percy and his sibling, Peanut Butter Cup, made the hour and a half journey from our home on the Cape to the new farm this morning.  Last night and this morning, I spent much time observing the chicks intereact. I ended up selecting one of the chicks that was always curious about Percy.  In fact, last night Percy spent the night next to this little chick.  As I took the time to locate Percy’s companion, the little chick came to me.  It peered into my eyes, almost as if it knew.  I grabbed him first.  Then I grabbed Percy.  I placed them in a cardboard brooder and into the car they went.  I covered the box of the brooder lightly with a towel.  I hoped that they would nap on the trip.  I grabbed a check from the checkbook and we were off.

Next, we stopped at our local feed store and picked up a new chick feeder, new waterer, chick grit, 10 pounds of chick starter, and 50 pounds of grower feed.  We were not sure if they had little items for chicks and we wanted to ensure that the chicks would be as comfortable as possible.  I was nervous driving the entire time.  Every possible worry passed through my stream of consciousness.  No, this was going to all work out fine.

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at Maple Farm Sanctuary.  Immediately upon stepping out of the car, I could sense peacefulness.  I quickly was introduced to Cheri and her husband, the owners of the sanctuary.  I was instantly struck by the kindness and caring heart of Cheri.  She already had love in her heart for these two little chickens, especially Percy Peepers.  She was very thankful of the donation and goods that we gave to the sanctuary.  I took some pictures of Percy’s new home and spent a few moments giving him love and more kisses.  I knew, however, that despite the ache in my heart, this was the right decision.  Percy and Peanut Butter Cup were going to have a wonderful life here amongst cows, horses, fellow chickens, llamas, goats, geese and a large pig named Johnathan!

New friends
New sights

Today was not easy for me.  I tried to create as many memories as I could about Percy.  I wonder if he will remember me?  I hope that he knows that he is loved and that I did this out of my love for him.  I hope Peanut Butter Cup knows too that I will be forever grateful for his companionship to Percy. I’m glad that they will be together.  I know that that little bird will continue to touch many more peoples’ lives.  He is a special little chicken.

Interestingly, Cheri believes that Percy Peepers is female and Peanut Butter Cup is male.  We agreed to be in email contact with one another over the coming months.  I can’t wait to hear how everything is going!  Good luck little chickens and may your guardian angels watch over you.  You will both be missed but never forgotten.


Beautiful grounds

Maple Farm Sanctuary is always looking for donations, donated goods and volunteers.  If would like to help make a difference in the lives of animals, please click here.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest


An Easter Blessing

View from above,  sleeping Percy tucked safely by the food dish.

As many of you have been following the story of Percy Peepers, I was blessed with wonderful news this morning.  I have found a farm sanctuary about 1 hour from our home who has agreed to take Percy. At the sanctuary, Percy will be able to live out his natural life, however long that might be. 

I have grappled with this decision for a very long time. I have lost many hours of sleep and cried many a tear over the entire situation.  In my heart of hearts, as I watched Percy grow and develop, it became clearer to me that he would require much more attention than I was able to provide. With Percy’s bad leg and his constant wing flapping while getting around, I would not be able to take Percy into the house.  I also knew that Percy would never be able to integrate into a new flock. Most likely, he would be seen as a weak bird and constantly tormented by the others.  Percy would need to be in a separate cage.  Chickens also need companions.  Therefore, I made the decision to send Percy with one of his healthy siblings to the farm sanctuary.  His siblings have accepted him.  I know this because they all still sleep together huddled together on the pine shavings.  Best of all, Percy will not be alone.

2 week old Dottie Speckles pays a visit to 5 week old Percy

Percy is now almost six weeks.  I will try and watch over the next 24 hours who likes to be with Percy the best.  This is the sibling that will accompany him to his new home.  I will also allow my children to name Percy’s companion.  Giving something life that was not intended to live is miraculous in itself.  I am proud to share this lesson with my children.  I am also glad that my children were able to witness believing in something that given the circumstances might not have been allowed to persever.  Our family has all been touched by Percy Peepers.  He is a brave little chicken with a big heart, courage and perseverance. 

Our trip is planned for tomorrow.

If you would like to make a donation to the farm sanctuary where Percy and his sibling will go, please click here.  Thank you to Cheri for believing.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Predators Stories from Our Nest

Some Enchanted Evening

Do you ever have those moments when you can’t wait any longer to fix something wrong in the coop?  Well, after dinner last night, I did.  I knew that I needed to adjust the hardware cloth that I had buried in the ground last Fall to guard my flock from predators.  I needed to rebend and relocate some of the cloth. The girls were digging such deep holes that lead to exposed wire edging.  I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.

So, with tools in hand, especially my Cobrahead (which just so happens to be one of the best digging tools I own), I set out.  It was around 5:30 pm and I knew that I had about 2 more hours before sunset.  The best part, was that the girls could free-range for almost 2 hours!

Everyone was let out except for the broody girls and Dolly.  They preferred to stay in the coop as I worked.  I locked them into the coop and then removed the run.  My set-up is easy this way,  nothing is attached permanently.  This makes for easy cleaning and reassembly.  As I worked, the girls could not be more curious.

Tilly came to visit me the most.  I would call out to them when I found a tasty bug or worm.  In my best chicken impression, deep and low, I called out their names then, “Duht, duht, duht, dut”.  No matter where Tilly girl was, she would come running!  It was fun.  As I redug some of the trenches, the girls could also not help peering into the sides of the 12 inch trench.  They would jump from side to side and stick their long necks into the deep abyss.  They also could not help knocking the dirt back in.  I think they thought it was funny watching Mom dig holes like chickens.  At one point they all dug around me.  So much dirt, leaves and woodchips were flying, I had to take a moment and just smile.

Chocolate too was on his best behavior.  He romanced his girls one at a time.  Strutting around the yard with them and offering up all tasty morsels.  I guess it wasn’t quite so Disney when it came to Tilly.  My goodness, I think he lured her in for loving!  That poor girl, there was no end in sight.  Finally, I had to pull him off her.  She can only take so much feather pulling!

All in all, despite the hard work, I had a great time watching the evening shadows begin to appear after sunset.  It was a magical time with the girls.  It had been such a long time since we were able to spend so much time together in one gathering.  It was enchanting.  As I came into the house, the Spring Peepers had just begun their evening serenade of the woodland creatures of the night.


I’m Just Saying

I never really connected how old chicken sayings came to be.  Sure, I knew what they meant, but after experiencing chickens first hand, somehow, they are so much more understandable.

Fly the coopto leave in a hurry.  Oyster Cracker tries this every chance she gets!  Yesterday, while I was collecting eggs, she came running at full speed and forced her large feathery body right out the top of the nesting box.  Her freedom was short lived, but she did get a good amount of love before I returned her back behind the run. 

Don’t count your eggs before they hatchDon’t plan an for a certain outcome before it happens.  After having hatched our own eggs I can completely relate.  We started out with 9 eggs.  1 was infertile, 1 failed to progress much farther along than 1 week.  Out of all of our chicks, 6 are completely healthy and thriving and one, Percy Peepers, is handicapped.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basketDon’t plan for an outcome before it occurs.  Note to self , heed this when collecting our own eggs especially when young children are involved.

Hen peckedNagged.  I sure have seen this, especially when one of the broody girls does not want to leave the box for another gal higher up on the pecking order to lay her eggs.

Pecking orderFinding your position.  I have seen this a couple of times.  Often the girls gently reassert their positions in the flock.  I always see this as babies are growing from chicks into young chickens.  It also happens whenever I introduce/reintroduce someone to the flock.

As scarce as hens teethrare.  So far, I have yet to see one.  Have you?

Rules the roost–The one who is in charge.  Chocolate definitely thinks he is the king in his kingdom, while Tilly is our head hen.

Nest eggSaving up money over time.  It takes a while to develop a full clutch of eggs to sit upon.  During that time, they eggs are treated with the utmost care.  I also find it amazing that once the hen sets, she is patient and attentive to them.

Shake a tail featherGet moving.  After the girls come out of their dust bowls from their baths, they not only shake their tail feathers, they shake their entire bodies. 

Empty nest syndrome–Sadness and loneliness after children leave the home.  We just witnessed this with Dolly.  She was so torn about leaving her babies.  She was sad for about a week.  Then she made her decision to join her old flock.

Chicken Scratchpoor handwriting.  Let’s just say, I cannot even imagine what those girls would write if I gave them each a pencil!

Can you think of any other chicken sayings that you can now relate to?

Chickens Health Issues

Live and Active Cultures

Oyster Cracker, Sunshine and Dolly enjoy their yogurt.

The girls love yogurt!  It had been a little while since they had some and they were so happy when I arrived with two bowls filled with plain organic yogurt.  As I called out to them to announce my arrival, they knew.  They saw this time that I was carrying two bowls and that could only mean that yogurt was on its way.  The energy at the door was frantic.  Oyster Cracker pushed her way through and got the first taste even before I could place the bowls on the ground.  Usually, I bring two bowls.  Each filled halfway, to ensure that even those on the lowest of the pecking order get to enjoy this delicious treat.
I love watching the chickens as they eat the yogurt.  I think this is as much of a treat for me as it is for the flock.  Yogurt eating is a messy endeavor.  Be prepared for lots of yogurt flinging and feathers dotted with white yummy goodness.  When they do come up for air between bites, their beaks are dipped in gooey yogurt.  If only they had longer tongues.
Coming up for air
I have always felt that yogurt is beneficial to my flock for a number of reasons.  Although some folks say that it causes their chickens to have loose stools, I myself, have never witnessed it.  In fact, I have seen the opposite.  I find that my chickens are happier when they have the yogurt.  It brings calcium and probiotics to their gastrointestinal system.  It helps to maintain and promote the balance of normal bacteria that live in the gut. Did you also know that the University of Florida, believes that feeding milk based products to your flock can help prevent egg eating by the chickens?
This morning the three broody girls were in the boxes, as usual, before the yogurt arrived.  Feathers saw it first and darted out of her box.  The other two soon followed.  They came running when they saw the yogurt.   You know they love it if it can break the broody spells over three of my chickens.  If you do decide to try yogurt with your flock, I recommend only serving plain unflavored yogurt with live and active cultures.  It might just be their next favorite treat.

Closely guarding one of the bowls