Month : August 2011

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Even Chickens Need Love

I have said it time and time again, that animals are capable of emotions.  It is underestimated and under publicized but I know this to be true, without the need for any scientific evidence.  Strangely enough, my girls are my science experiment.  I watch them like a petri dish experiment, except only good has grown from keeping them!  We have learned so many lessons from the chickens and have been reminded about the importance of living simply.

Dolly is one of our Silkie Bantams.  She is the head of the Silkies but the Silkies always keep to themselves.  They let the big girls eat the treats first and use the best nesting boxes.  The little ones stay out of the way.  However, they are still a family and they care about each other. All eight chickens sleep on a 3’roost, despite that fact that ample roosting space exists.

For the past two weeks, Dolly likes to steal moments with me.  While the other girls are busy in the morning gobbling up scratch in the run, I like to do light coop housekeeping.  Dolly always sees this as an opportunity.  She peeks in the door as the others are not looking.  Then she comes into the coop and just sits by me on the roost, watching.  She quietly converses with me.  She never tries to escape out the door, rather, she waits.  Then, interestingly enough, she stands on the coop floor in front of me and goes into the submissive position.  Up until this point, I have not even tried to pet her.  She is just there, telling me that I am allowed, like a rooster, to interact with her.  I pick her up and place her upon my lap.  She is warm.  I smell the top of her sweet little fluffy head.  She snuggles right in, sometimes under my armpit, sometimes in the crook of my neck.  There, I pet her gently.  I offer to place her on the ground outside of the coop.  She just stands there and then tries to hop back into my lap.  She wants nothing more than my love.

Dolly and I bonded when she was having her clutch of chicks this past Spring.  I find it fascinating that she comes to me, on her own, alone in need of nothing more than love.   Love is universal, even in the world of chickens.

IMG_0624-1.JPG
Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Teenage Drama

It’s hard being a teenager.  I can remember those years.  They were difficult.  New found freedom was met with the thoughts that I knew everything and somehow at the same time, unbeknownst to me, really knew nothing about being a grown-up.   Plagued by braces and over sized glasses, it was a miracle that I survived.  I never really thought that chickens would have awkward teenage moments, but Dottie Speckles is playing the teenager role to a tee.


She pushes her boundaries.  She often does not know her limits with the other girls.  She is assertive and tries to boss them around.  Most times, she is completely unaware of her position in the middle of the pecking order.  She talks back to the other girls too, especially when they are all after the same treat.  If she was a real teenage daughter, she would be the one, breaking curfew, sneaking out wearing make-up and meeting up with her boyfriend.  Thank goodness I do not have any roosters.

She stays up past her bedtime.  As the others are sleeping on the roost, I find that she waits for me to tell her gently to get out of the nesting boxes when sleeping.  Fifi, her sibling, only took three nights to learn to sleep on the roosts.  Dottie Speckles, on the other hand, just can’t seem to get it.  As I open the nesting box door, there she is in the middle box.  She gently gets up, complaining all the way, and finds herself a place on the roost.  Sometimes she goes on her own and other times, I have to gently pet her and nudge her along.  She can still be heard complaining back to me even after I close the nesting boxes for the night.

She picks fights with her siblings.  I don’t know why, but sometimes, she will run up to the other girls for no reason and just peck on them.  Not hard, but it makes me wonder, why she does that?  Goodness, is it just girls being girls.  Has she yet to accept her role in the flock?  Is this just teenage strife that needs to be lifted off her chest?

She loves sleep.  In the afternoon, Dottie Speckles loves to nap sitting on the log in the run.  There she roosts peacefully as the world continues.  Time passes her by.  She is my only chicken that enjoys napping.

She thinks that laying an egg makes her a full grown adult.  Oh, yes, she is laying an egg almost daily now.  They are still small, somewhere between a Silkie size egg and a standard’s egg.  I think that this egg laying was what created this teenager stage.

Even after all is said and done, I must say that Dottie Speckles is a good girl.  She listens and is quite sweet.  Next to the Silkies, she is the softest.  Her feathers are incredibly soft and silky.  They remind me of my daughter’s hair after it has been washed and dried and is silky smooth from the cream rinse and brushing.  She is also docile. She has never attempted to peck at me and always comes when I call her.  I am proud to say that she is one of my girls.  I just can’t wait for her to outgrow these teenage years, that is, if chickens even have them!

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

DSC_3854
Chickens Coop Care Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

“”What Hurricane?” asked the chickens

Yard at dusk

Irene packed quite a punch for Cape Cod.  Bracing for the worst, we truly had battened down the hatches in the days prior to her arrival.  As Irene’s projected course veered West, we were spared the worst.  However, we did have wind and lots of it!  We woke to the winds and by late morning we were experiencing 40 mph gusts and no power.  The power was out for most of the day.  However, that did not stop the chickens from being, chickens. As I went outside, I could see the tree tops tossing in the wind.  Swaying dramatically, they would dance from side to side.  The dance was intense, often jarring.

The night before the hurricane, I had covered the run with the plastic that I use in the winter.  It was still intact from the night before and had barely budged an inch.   There was also no rain, just wind.  A few weathermen were equating Irene’s behavior to a familiar Nor’easter.  I went out early to check on the girls.  It was around 7am and there were already 2 eggs in the nesting boxes.  So far, the storm had no effects on their typical day.  Around 10am, I made a decision.   The winds, although scary at times, were predicted to decrease as the day progressed.  I took a chance and I let the girls out into the run.  They were incredibly happy.  They looked at me as if to say, “Ma, what took you so long to let us out?”  Apparently, they were not fazed.

Quickly, I returned inside.  I kept a close eye on the plastic tarp and the chickens from the window.  They were as happy as little chickens can be.  They were scratching around, finding treats, protected from most of the wind and acting as if Irene was not even in the neighborhood.  I was shocked.  For us powerless humans, the day dragged.  We read books, played board games, relaxed, took naps and even ordered pizza for dinner.

I went outside around 4 pm again, and the winds seemed to have subsided.  I brought the girls a bunch of arugula.  They were so glad to see me.  I think they had missed my presence.  Little did they know, the dangers of Irene!  At around 6pm, the power was finally restored.  The chickens went to bed early, as the sky was still darkened from the thick gray clouds.  As I was saying goodnight, I noticed that Tilly was still outside.  Unusual for her, she was making sure that her entire flock made it safely into the coop. Finally satisfied, she retired as well and I locked them in for the windy night ahead.

4pm and the plastic is still secure

I awoke this morning, to no internet and a yard that was a complete mess.  Sticks, branches, leaves and the like were scattered everywhere.  The flower beds were blown flat and blooms cracked off.  I did not care.  Everyone in the family was safe including the chickens.  Today,  I spent 4 hours in the yard with the kids trying to put it back together again.  The chickens were so happy to see us all outside.  I finally went over and brought the girls some snacks this afternoon.  As they flitted across the run, filling their crops as fast as they could, I checked in the nesting boxes.  There were 5 sweet gifts; eggs from the girls.  I could not help but smile myself.  For all my worrying, it was nice to know that the girls were laying eggs and thought of yesterday as another windy day on Cape Cod.



This post is linked up to Homestead Revival’s Homestead Barn Hop.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Main Dishes Recipes

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chicken Sausage in a Thyme Butter Sauce

Last night, as the beginning of Irene began in the form of rain over Cape Cod, I was really craving something rich and savory.  I also have been taking items from the freezer for the past two days and preparing them, just in case we lose power for an extended period of time.  Looking into the frozen abyss, I decided to prepare this dish for the first time.  It was a hit!  It was very rich and very tasty.  It was also very simple and was prepared in about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients:

4 Chicken Sausages cut on an angle into slices~  I used the Trader Joe’s Andouille variety (spicy)
1/2 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese~ I used the type in the canister, not freshly grated
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup of pasta water
Black Pepper to taste
1 package of fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli~ I used the Trader Joe’s variety

Preparation:

1.  In a saute pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil, sausage and onion.  Cook until browned and the onions are translucent.  While the sausage mixture is cooking, cook the ravioli according to the package directions.

2.  Once the sausage mixture is browned, add the black pepper and the thyme.  Combine well.  Reduce the heat to low and add the butter.  Once the butter is melted, remove 3/4 of a cup of the water that the ravioli are cooking in and add that to the pan.  Add the Parmesan cheese and mix.  Turn off the heat once all ingredients are combined.

3.  Drain the ravioli and add them to the sausage mixture.  Combine well and serve.

This recipe can be found in our very own cookbook.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

IMG_2190.JPG
Chickens Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

Calm Before the Storm

In all of the craziness on Cape Cod caused by the flurry of frantic people preparing for Irene, I needed a break today.   I took the kids and we went and picked flowers at the Cape Cod Organic Farm.  In the fields, the children and I made our selections and assembled a beautiful bouquet.  Once home,  I trimmed the flowers and arranged them in a vase at the backyard table.  A bumblebee paid the freshly cut flowers a visit.

We have done as much as we can at this point preparing for Irene.  We are stocked up on supplies.  The chicken coop was cleaned out early this morning. Tomorrow, we will finish tying down the grill and patio furniture.  The girls will have their last day outside before we hunker down.  Today is a beautiful sunny summer day, the true calm before the storm.



This post is linked up to Deb’s Dandelion House Farmgirl Blog Hop.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Coop Care Seasonal Care

Batten Down the Hatches

Today we spent preparing for Irene.  I have never experienced a hurricane before.  I have lived on Cape Cod for 8 years now and last year Earl, did not live up to the hype.  The Weather Channel is saying that this will be one of the worst disasters for coastal New England.  They may be sensationalizing a bit, but with two young children and a coop full of chickens, we need to be prepared.

In addition to insuring that we have adequate supplies including water, food, a first aid kit, batteries and flashlights, it is also necessary to prepare for our chickens’ needs as well.  When Bob hit Cape Cod in 1991, it took 1 week to restore power.  Today, I was preparing as if we would be without power for a few days.

It is important, if you are not evacuating, to factor in your chickens’ water needs into the quantity of water that you put in reserve for you and your family.  Whether it is bottled water, or water filled bins that you prepare ahead of time, you do not want to overlook this detail.   Be sure to put aside what your chickens drink in a one week period.  There should also be medical supplies to deal with any injuries incurred during the storm for the flock as well as two weeks worth of food just to be on the safe side.  Also, be sure to secure the coop’s roof and inspect and repair any areas that might be damaged further in the heavy rain and gusts of wind.

Only you can best decided where your flock will weather the storm.  Some individuals lock the flock in the coop with ample food and water, crack the window a hair and hope for the best.  However, because some coops are not as sturdy, some will choose to spread out a plastic tarp in the garage, basement or other sheltered location within the home and weather the storm there.  During the storm, do not give into the temptation to go out and check on the flock.  Debris can and will be flying and can certainly injure you in your efforts at kindness.

After the storm, be sure to assess the run and the coop for external damage prior to letting the flock out.  Once the run is deemed secure, feel free to let the chickens explore.  They will be happy to stretch their legs.  Damages will be unknown initially.  Will the power will go out?  How long will it take to restore? Will the water will be safe or available to drink?  With a few preparations, damages to your home and your chickens will be minor.  We may have to survive a few days without our normal creature comforts.

As long as the girls are not swept away like Dorothy and Toto, I can be sure that despite any situations we are in, our breakfast will still be delivered to our door by the cutest little feathered delivery girls I have ever met!

What are you doing to keep your coop and flock safe?  If you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to share them in your comments.  We would love any advice you can share!

DSC_3849.JPG
Chickens Eggs Stories from Our Nest

Record Egg

 

Ouch!  This beauty is from Oyster Cracker.  She laid it this morning.  It takes up my entire palm and two of my daughter’s hands.  I can’t believe some of the eggs she has laid, but this today is by far the largest!  I am so fascinated by the entire egg laying process.  As the hens sleep in the night, the outer egg shell is being created. Hens that are disturbed or scared in the night can lay malformed eggs or even stop laying them at all.  Full crops right before bed help too.  My girls enjoy a little chicken scratch right before bed, sort of like milk and cookies for the kiddos, only instead of insuring that they will sleep through the night, I am hoping for nesting boxes with eggs in the morning.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

IMG_2181-1
Chickens Coop Care

The Waterer Has Arrived

Yesterday afternoon, I installed it very quickly with just two screw.  I love it.  The girls took to it immediately and the best part is that it is staying clean!  The plastic parts, red and white, slide out of the metal holder for easy filling, access, and cleaning.  My coop is small and it takes up not much room at all.  However, I am still thinking of ways to keep it from freezing in the winter time.

Yes, it is sold as a piglet feeder.  I turned the label to the back as not to offend the girls.  Sometimes thinking outside the box, might just lead to a solution you are seeking.

If you would like to read more about this waterer, click here.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens

Penikese and Cuttyhunk Islands

This weekend, my husband and I took an excursion to the Elizabeth Islands.  The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of islands adjacent to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.  They were used as stop overs for many years by merchants and pirates, as well as the Wompanoag Indians.  The Wompanoags spent their summers over on this small chain of islands fishing.

Penikese Island has a very rich history.  It was owned by many until the State of Massachusetts acquired ownership in the early 1900s.  It served several purposes, including serving as the state’s leper colony, a research aquarium and more recently, as a school for troubled boys.  We took the trip last year and had a wonderful time.  I was looking forward to revisiting the island and it’s chickens.  The school kept a few farm animals and chickens were one of them.  However, when we arrived, we had learned that the school was now closed due to lack of funding.  The coop was locked and the run was overgrown with invasive weeds as tall as my husband.  I was so saddened that this place was looking so different without the boys’ school to attend to it’s needs.  Then, as we walked a path up to the leper cemetery, there were the two Helmeted Guinea Fowl!  They were still here.  Most likely, they were unable to be caught and were left to forage for themselves.  Apparently, it was working.  As soon as I had caught a glimpse, they were gone; hidden within the underbrush.

After Penekese we went to Cuttyhunk.  I was sure that I would find someone on this island with backyard chickens.  This island has approximately 30 people that live here year round.  In the summer, the population reaches 300.  The island is known for its striped bass fishing.  In fact, years ago, President Taft was a member of the Cuttyhunk Bass Fishing.  The inhabitants of the island get around via golf cart or by foot.  It is easily walk-able.  As we walked I looked for backyard chickens.  I saw lots of beautiful clothes lines.

I saw beautiful scenery.

I never did find a backyard chicken.  This was the closest that I came.

Someone was saving egg cartons on the side porch of the only little market on the island.  Maybe I just hadn’t found them.

Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest