Month : July 2011

Desserts Recipes

Warm Berry Pie with Crumb Topping

I have had so many friends and family members ask me for this recipe over the years, that I just had to finally share it.  My delicious secret is out and I hope that you enjoy this pie served warm ala mode!  It is incredibly easy and everyone will be asking you to share your secret.


1 premade pie crust~  I prefer Pillsbury
4 cups of assorted fresh berries~ I prefer 1 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries, 3/4 cups raspberries, 3/4 cup blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a pie plate with the pie crust.

2.  Wash and clean all berries.  Cut the strawberries, blackberries and raspberries in bite size pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside.

3.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, water, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt.  Whisk frequently and continue to simmer until mixture becomes thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

4.  Pour sugar mixture over the berries and mix well.  Then pour into the pie crust and spread with a spoon.

5.  In another bowl, combine the butter, oats, flour, cinnamon and sugar with a fork.  Mash and cut into the mixture with the fork until it is well combined and crumbly.  Then spread this over the top of the berries.  Cover the berries entirely with the crumb topping.

6.  Place pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack.  Bake for 45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the edges of the pie are bubbly.

7.  Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes prior to serving.

This recipe can be found our very own Tilly’s Nest Cookbook.


Chicken Keeping Workshop

Terry with one of her “gems”

Terry Golson has been keeping chickens for the past 15 years.  I first “met” Terry through her fabulous website.  Not only would I sneak a peek at one of her animal cameras but I also found her blog extremely informative and entertaining.  I always find myself looking forward to her farm adventures.  One of my Cape Cod chicken girlfriends, MaryAnn had invited me to attend Terry’s chicken keeping workshop.  We both leaped at the chance to finally meet this “iconic” woman herself and absorb her expertise in keeping chickens.

It was a beautiful clear day.  The weather was perfect, bright without a cloud in the sky.  After about an hour and forty minutes, we were west of Boston standing in the middle of Little Pond Farm.  It was even more magical than it appeared on the hencam.

Pip and Caper

About 15 of us wandered and roamed the farm.  We learned so much in the two hours that we spent together.  Time flew by.  We learned about coop designs and predator proofing.  We toured both “coops”.  We wandered through her vegetable garden, met her two Nigerian goats and even her koi fish, Beast.  After about an hour and a half of a walking tour and lecture, we retreated to her lovely screened porch for iced tea and cookies.  Here, Terry discussed Breed Selection and Health Issues.  As we wrapped up our lovely afternoon, she even signed purchased copies of her adorable book, Tillie Lays an Egg, for her fans.

Learning to look for chicken lice

I had a terrific time.  It was wonderful to connect with someone so dedicated to backyard chicken keeping.  She is a wealth of knowledge and I loved that we could finally meet in person.  I have only been keeping backyard chickens for about a year and a half.  Today, I was proud to know that I was doing everything right so far.  My flock is still young and I expect there will be many more ups and downs. It was wonderful to reach out today and meet one of my chicken mentors in person.  I am glad to know that I have a person to turn to for advice and support in the future.  I highly recommend Terry’s workshop for everyone that keeps backyard chickens.  Whether, you are thinking about keeping chickens or have been keeping them for years,  everyone can learn something from her personal experiences. Thank you Terry for sharing your home, flocks, farm and delicious goodies with us. 

Later this week, I will feature Terry’s chickens and coop in another post.  In the meantime, please visit Terry’s website, to see her wonderful animals and read her fascinating adventures.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Change Can Be Good

It was a very strange morning today. It started off with Tilly and Oyster Cracker simultaneously exiting the coop and getting stuck in the doorway. Typically, the girls exit the coop in the same order. One by one they fly, hop and leap into the run to enjoy the morning’s scratch. However, not today. Wedged in the doorway, were the two girls. At first, I was amazed, then perplexed, then worried. I stood there in shock watching as the two wiggled their way free. It took about a minute and both were unharmed. That was a new one for me.

I went on with my usual duties. As I began to fill and clean the feeders and waterers I suddenly had a visitor. Quietly and softly, I looked up to discover a cute, curious ball of fluff. It was Dolly. Delicately, she peered out of the coop. She wanted to come out. I gently scooped her up and placed her in the grass. There she timidly enjoyed the fresh tender blades of grass as I finished up the chores.  I am always amazed by her grace.

When I had finished, I scooped her up and gave her plenty of love. She sat in my lap, content. After spending a few stolen moments together, I returned her to her feathered family. It had been a while since she needed my love. Usually, I have to love them in a certain order but today Dolly outsmarted the others. She came in private and I returned her in private. Unlike other times, when she returned no one pecked her. They just ignored her as she quietly joined the rest in the run.

Despite their behavior being relatively predictable on a daily basis, they certainly change up their routine from time to time. Sometimes, change is good I suppose, except when you get stuck in a chicken coop door.

Chickens Crafts Family Fun Gardening

Backyard Chicken Fairy Garden

Today,after scouring thrift stores and searching for unique items, the kids and I created our very own backyard chicken fairy garden.  We took a walk through the woods and gathered moss, bark and twigs.  We also had some smooth stones from a recent trip to Sandy Neck Beach.  All of our found items would be incorporated into the garden.  As we live in New England, we decided to create our fairy garden in a large terracotta saucer.  This way, in the Winter, it is portable and we can bring the little house into the garage.  We spent all afternoon creating this magical place.

Chickens Eggs Stories from Our Nest

Clean Eggs

Clean unwashed eggs from the girls

I never wash my eggs.  When chickens create the egg, the shell is “wrapped” in an antimicrobial coating.  This coating, serves a few purposes.  First, it keeps bacteria, viruses and the like from entering the egg.  It also helps maintain the egg’s moisture content, extending the egg’s shelf life.  Some say this protective coating also allows individuals to keep eggs unrefrigerated for a few weeks.  However, I would never endorse this.  It is important given technology, to refrigerate eggs immediately upon harvesting to ensure the safety of your family.

Eggs available for purchase in the grocery store have been washed.  As the protective coating is washed away, so is the shelf life.  When the coating is removed, the egg’s shell becomes permeable, allowing air and microbes to enter through microscopic pores on the surface of the egg.

This comes around to a question that I get asked frequently, “How do you keep your unwashed eggs so clean?”  I like to keep the protective coating on my eggs, for the reasons listed above. So I am diligent with hygiene in the coop and nesting boxes.  Everyday, I clean the nesting boxes of feathers and poop.   This only takes a few minutes. On a weekly basis, the entire coop is cleaned out.  I have this luxury, because my coop is small.  I also keep my chickens clean.  For some reason, only Oyster Cracker’s backside needs tending to now and then.

Do I ever wash my eggs?  Well, yes, sometimes a little blob of poop gets stuck to the shell.  Those I wash and consume first, even before previously harvested eggs.  I don’t mind a tiny little smear of dirt, as you can see on the third egg from the left in the front row.  Once I am ready to use the eggs, I typically wash the ones with visible soiling.  I do not wash the “clean” ones.

To me it comes down to the simple fact.  I would rather nurture nature than interfere with it.  However, that being said, I have been known to wash a chicken now and then.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Coop Tours

Zoo Chickens

Today we took the kids on a family outing to the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  It is a great medium sized zoo with lots of interactive exhibits.  We had a fantastic day touring the zoo.  As we wandered into the petting zoo and barnyard section, I had the privilege of meeting one of the head zookeepers in their chicken coop.  Her ears perked up when she heard the kids and I start talking about our own backyard flock.  She had as many questions for me about raising chickens in Massachusetts as I had for her raising them in the setting of the zoo.

Over time, the zoo has lost many of their chickens to age.  It is incredibly difficult for them to replenish their flocks, due to quarantine restrictions mandated by the zoo.  Fear of introducing disease to their numerous species of birds, requires that the chicken are housed away from other avian species for 30 days.  Their best alternative is to incubate eggs.  This way, they can be certain that outside pathogens are not introduced.




They have a large barn, approximately 30’x15′.  This is their coop.  Inside, it partitioned off into three sections.  Each section has it’s own roosts, feeder, waterer along with four nesting boxes.  These sections house three varieties of chickens seperate from one another.  The floor of the coop and run are cement.  These are hosed down daily.  In addition, the pine shavings that are spread in the nesting boxes and on the coop’s floor are also changed daily.  Biosecurity is a top priority around here.  Visitors are encouraged to view the chickens through the chicken wire.

Currently, the zoo is down to two sets of bantam chickens, two roosters and two hens.  I was lucky enough to meet them.  They were quite cute to say the least, especially when the roosters both crowed as I got close to their girls.  The zoo hopes to increase their chicken population come next Spring.  It was very interesting to see how chickens live at the zoo and have been incorporated into this controlled setting.  The only thing that I felt badly about was the fact that they did not have access to a good old fashioned dirty dust bath!




Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Box with a View

Cooler weather is upon us now and that terrible heatwave has, I imagine, drifted out over the Atlantic.  The girls are much happier.  I am too, their eggs have started to return.  This morning I let the girls out,  all of them flew the coop, including broody Feathers.  I have not discovered morning eggs in a long time, so you can imagine my surprise when I lifted up the nesting box and found this.

A beautiful little Silkie egg was laid in the nesting box on the right.  I was shocked.  I have grown accustomed to not expect any eggs from the Silkies.  Their tendency to go broody is really quite amazing.  It was a real treat to see this little gem sitting there upon the pine shavings.  Amazingly though, I cannot be sure who laid it.  It is smaller than the eggs that the Silkies typically lay.  Maybe it is small because the eggs laid immediately after a hen is broody are smaller.  Or could it be that Fifi has laid her first egg?  I cannot be sure.  This egg was most likely laid in the wee hours of the morning.
No sooner had I opened the nesting box, when Oyster Cracker and Sunshine arrived on the scene.  I quickly retrieved the egg, as Sunshine is extremely possessive of these found eggs!  They always love to poke their head out of the nesting boxes and see the world from different angles.  Here they are, content to stick their heads out of the nesting box, like a dog would hang out of a car window.


I wonder what they are thinking.  I wonder what they are “taking in”.  Perhaps the view is better from the nesting boxes.  I guess I will never know, but if this bit of indulgence that I allow them for 5 minutes or so keeps them laying their eggs, then I am happy to prop open the nesting box door for their viewing pleasure!  I do have to giggle with them, they make my heart smile.
Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest

Main Dishes Recipes

Cajun Style Blackened Chicken

I love spicy food!  When we used to live in California, there was a wonderful Cajun restaurant in Redondo Beach that served delicious Cajun food.  Yes, it was as good as New Orleans, maybe because the owners were from Louisiana!  Here in Cape Cod, my mouth waters for Cajun spices along with red beans and rice!  Sadly, ethnic foods are not so easy to find here, which often leaves me left to create and discover ways to bring those familiar tastes into our home.  Here is a recipe that can be used with chicken or fish.  It is quick, easy, spicy and very flavorful.

Rub Ingredients:

This recipe makes enough to store the rub in a sealed container for future use.

Combine 1 tablespoon of the following spices and herbs and mix well:
cayenne pepper
white pepper
black pepper
onion powder
garlic salt
thyme (dried)
basil (dried)

You will also need:

2-3 tablespoons of melted butter
4-6 boneless chicken breasts pounded flat OR 4-6 fish fillets


1.  Rinse and pat meat/fish dry.

2.  Spread a portion of the rub mixture on a plate.

3.  Coat meat/fish in melted butter and roll in the rub mixture.

4.  Seer in a pan on high until the outside is browned and crispy then cook through over medium heat.  You can also grill the meat/fish on medium high heat until cooked through.

This recipe can also be found in Tastebook.

Chickens Coop Care DIY Projects Health Issues

Summer Day Spa

As we continue to endure this heat wave across New England, I have received many tips and suggestions on keeping the flock cool and not stressed from the soaring temperature and humidity.  I have, created a day spa for the chickens.  There are many options for them to keep cool and hydrated.  Today, I thought that I would share some of those with you.  Also, please be sure to check out Beat the Heat for other suggestions and ideas as well.

Although the run stays shaded during most of the day, I typically place a towel to block the high afternoon sun in areas that are directly in it’s path.

I brought a fan out from inside.  I angled it, gently create a breeze across the run.  No rain is in the forecast, so I am not worried about an inside appliance being outside.


Dottie Speckles loves to sit directly in the fan’s path.


The Buff Orpingtons love to have their tail feathers fanned as well.   Here they are discovering fresh cold treats from the refrigerator.  Vegetables and fruit such as carrots, whole tomatoes, whole apples, halved watermelon and whole cucumbers retain their cold temperatures longer and help cool down the flock.


Today, I created a wading pool with cool water.  This plastic tray works perfectly.  It is about 3 inches deep and the girls, once they try it, should enjoy cooling down their feet and toes.  Tilly, the head hen, will of course have to try it first.  I placed some floating nasturtium leaves to lure the girls.  Of course, curious Dottie Speckles beat Tilly to the floating leaves.  She already ate two!


Then there are some that like to stay inside the spa.  With all of the windows open, Feathers is content to stay in her nesting box, sit on her imaginary eggs, and be broody.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Ruffled Feathers

Today the thermometer reached 100 degrees F with very high humidity.  It was difficult to breathe and the weather service issued an air quality warning.  As we were inside with the air conditioning on today, I could not help and feel so terribly bad for the girls outside.

Early this morning, I removed the plexiglass from every possible window in the coop to allow a breeze to get inside.  Unfortunately, there was no breeze.  The air was thick.  It was like a hot, suffocating, heavy, wet blanket.  The chickens could not escape.  Despite being in the shade under trees, it was sweltering.

I hosed down the run, added fresh ice water to the waterers and filled the treat ball and run with sliced cool cucumbers and chilly tomatoes.  The girls were not showing any signs of stress from the heat except for Oyster Cracker who was inside the coop, laying an egg, panting like a dog.  All the while I did these easy tasks, I was breaking a terrible sweat.  Even though I had been outside doing small work with little effort, the beads of sweat were pouring down my cheeks!  That was it, I had to do something more before the kids and I escaped to the sandy beach and the refreshing ocean.

I went inside and retrieved a fan.  I ran an extension cord to the run.  Instantly, the girls were taking turns being chicken versions of  Marilyn Monroe, with their “skirts” being blown in the air.  It was too funny, especially when the feathers were blown every which way all at the same time!  One by one they enjoyed the fan.  Some ran through the fan’s path while other took their sweet old time.  I was entertained and at least there was a breeze now.

When arrived home from the beach, I gave Oyster Cracker what seems to be her weekly backside bath and returned her to the run to let her air dry.  Then, I refreshed the waterers and gave them another tomato and some carrots from the refrigerator.

The fan really seemed to work today.  The girls were not panting and their combs were bright red along with their wattles.  I think they enjoyed the cool breeze and the intentional ruffling of their feathers.