Month : December 2011

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Chickens Health Issues

How To Fix a Broken Beak

Sunshine has always had a longer more glamorous beak. Even though Sunshine and Oyster Cracker were born on the same day, their beaks could not be more different. I like to think of beaks as noses. There are short ones, blunt ones, fat and wide ones.  Some are pointy, narrow or rounder. Some hook off the the side and others down toward the ground.  Some even have what appears to be a beak “overbite”.  Oyster Cracker has a short perfect little beak, not too wide yet perfectly straight and blunt. Sunshine on the other hand has a more glamorous beak. Her beak is narrow and long with a tiny downward hook at the end.

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Chickens DIY Projects Health Issues

Chicken Oatmeal

We have had an unusually balmy Fall and Winter this year.  I counted my blessings too soon as yesterday our weather went from mid 40s to mid 20s overnight.  The wind picked up and the dampness set in, typical Cape Cod Winter weather.  I was sure the girls would have a frozen waterer as I peered out into the yard at the rhododendrons with their curled leaves.  It was time to start making them one of their favorite Winter morning treats, chicken oatmeal.  When the girls saw me walking toward the run yesterday with two bowls, they were giddy!

chicken oatmeal

It is very easy to make and I feel better when I can warm up their tummies first thing in the morning.  It takes about 5 minutes.  The recipe is versatile and can be adapted to whatever you have in your kitchen.  I make it as you would an ice cream sundae.  The base flavor, in this case oats, is the same.  The toppings vary and your own creations are endless.

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Chickens DIY Projects Seasonal Care

It’s Okay, I Speak Chicken

Learning a new language is tough.  They say it can take years to master any new language.  Some say you can never truly be proficient with slang and your accent unless you have lived for some time in the country where the language is spoken; total immersion.  When we began to keep chickens over a year and a half ago, I never in a million years would have believed that I could actually learn to speak chicken.

I had an epiphany in the yard this morning.  As I was tossing some scratch in the run, I was interchanging English with Chicken language.  Apparently, I have learned well.  Having completely immersed myself in their culture, I realized that I had had an entire conversation in chicken language with Tilly!

Chickens do have their own language and if you listen closely, you can hear and understand just what they are saying and doing by the actions surrounding them.  I enjoyed watching Tilly cock her head from side to side as I greeted her and then called her over to see what I had.  She sat on my knee for a brief moment.  As I told her she was safe in chicken talk, I could feel her relax.  I have learned how to mutter, coo and purr their tiniest of calls.  These are what I call “comfort calls”.  They are used when they are getting ready to roost in the evening. Consisting of slow little murmurs, they are quiet, deliberate and repetitive.  I too now repeat much of what they are saying as I tuck them in for the night.  I use this when I coax them out of the nesting boxes for sleep.  I use this as I guide the Silkies up onto the perches in the fading light of dusk.

I talk to the chickens to get them to return to the coop after free ranging or when I need to catch them in a hurry.  Somehow they listen to me, as I give the flock a warning in chicken language that a hawk is overhead. They run and take cover under the rhododendrons and they freeze like statues with their heads turned on their sides with one eye up toward the sky.

I talk to the chickens when a new visitor is meeting the girls for the first time.  They immediately recognize new people as strangers and are fearful and skittish until I quietly cluck to them that they are safe.  Immediately, you can sense them let their guard down and begin to welcome their new friends with their sweet chicken talk.

In warmer weather, I also talk to Oyster Cracker when I give her a bath.  When I speak chicken to her and copy her sentences, her body relaxes. She asks me questions and I answer her using her same “words” but with a calming demeanor.   I can feel she trusts me even to the point of enjoying having her feathers dried with the hair dryer.  Just by speaking her language, she feels safe in a foreign situation.

You too can learn to speak chicken.  It’s easy.  Immerse yourself in their culture.  Listen.  Observe and then try to say hello.  The chatter that you hear as you near the run is how your chickens say, “Hello!”

Click here to hear the girls and myself on NPR.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

2011: A Year in Review

Here I am sitting at the computer as I did last year. I am reminiscing about this past year with our chickens.  We had an amazing year filled with many surprises. This year, our flock said goodbye to Chocolate and Meesha and we added Dottie Speckles and Fifi.  Dolly hatched seven of our own eggs.  We experienced joy and sadness with sweet Percy Peepers.  We learned how to take care of chicken boo boos.  We troubleshooted in our coop.  We shared many Tour De Coops of fellow chicken keepers.  We even created the first ever Hug A Chicken Day on November 5th.  The highlight of the year was when our blog was discovered by Country Living Magazine and received a Blue Ribbon Blogger Award in New York City.  Yet, the best part is how many friends we have made by sharing this blog.

Here are my favorite top 5 blog posts of 2011 that I would like to share with you.

#5  Percy Peepers

#4  Sunshine Necklace

#3  Smiles from Chickens

#2  Tour de Coop~Mary Ann

#1 Country Living Magazine, Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards

I can’t wait to see what next year’s adventures bring for Tilly, the girls and my family.  Thank you for allowing us to share every step of our journey with you and I hope that you will be with us in 2012.

Cheers to 2012!
Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

 

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Hide and Seek

Late this past Summer, I surprised the girls with a chicken toy. It was perfect. They loved it and looked forward to me tossing it into the run. It kept them entertained for hours. Sometimes I would fill it with scratch or with sunflower seeds and other times with dried meal worms and the like. It was great fun tossing it in the run every few days and watching them run over to greet me and the chicken toy near the run door. We got into a new routine and like Pavlovian puppies, they knew just what to expect when they saw me and heard me call out, “Girls” as I neared the run. At the end of the day, as the girls settled in for the night, I would retrieve the chicken toy and store it away near the treats. Until one day this Fall, the unexpected happened.

I had gone about my regular business and filled the chicken toy with a mixture of sunflower seeds and meal worms. I then went off to run my errands for the day. When I returned to check for eggs, the chicken toy was nowhere to be found. I looked around with a rake and never did find it. The girls had buried it. I figured in a few weeks, I would be cleaning out the run in preparation for Winter. I would surely find it then. It was mid October.
November had arrived. I found myself, as expected, out in the run giving it one good raking, removing compost and setting it aside to cure during the Winter. All the while, I kept an eye out for the chicken toy. Despite my efforts, I never found it. The chickens must have really buried it deeply. I had written it off as a loss and planned to order another one next time I placed an order online. The ground would soon be frozen.
Today, I went out to share some broccoli with the girls before heading out on my errands. I returned around 3 pm and all the girls were standing near the coop door calling to me. They always do this when they hear my car pull up the driveway. I went over and saw eight happy chickens and the chicken toy laying in the middle of the run. My heart skipped a beat. I could not believe it! They must have found it and dug it up! I went inside the house and grabbed some rice as a distraction and then tossed it into the run. With a child’s rake, I reached inside and rolled the chicken toy within my hand’s grasp. As the girls enjoyed the pilaf, I brushed off the chicken toy and returned it to where I store the treats. I could not believe that after 2 months, like a dog retrieving a bone, the girls decided to unearth the chicken toy just in time for Winter.
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Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

Chickens

Merry Christmas

We received word that we won Cooper Boone’s Christmas Tree contest after midnight last night.  We are so incredibly excited and thankful to so many of those who supported and voted for our family Christmas tree.

Over 30,000 visitors on Tilly’s Nest website this December
Over 370 fans on my personal Facebook page and their friends
Over 600 fans and friends of Tilly’s Nest
Personal friends and relatives
Over 200 employees and their family’s at my husband’s workplace
Countless members of our Armed Forces stationed in the US and overseas.
Co-fans from Facebook chicken pages
Co-fans from pages that we like and follow on Facebook
Twitter friends
Fellow Blue Ribbon Blogger Award Recipients
We feel so loved and blessed with all of your amazing repeated dedication and time that you took out of your days during this holiday season to support my family and all of our endeavors.  Thank you for such a fantastic Christmas gift and a wonderful way to end this whirlwind of a year for Tilly’s Nest.
Merry Christmas
~Melissa xo 

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Spirit of the Season

Chickens do not celebrate holidays.  Yet, they are far from humbugs.  In fact, they are jovial.  Everyday they live life to the fullest. Everyday is Christmas for the chickens.

Chickens remind me that everyday is worth celebrating. 
Chickens are generous, sharing their gifts of eggs daily.
Chickens never need holidays as reasons for actions.  
Chicken families never dine alone and are generous with their findings.
New flock members are always included even though the first few weeks can be rocky.
They make it a point to talk with each other.
They have deep loving friendships.
The older birds remain a part of the flock and still live under the same roof.
They care for their young.
They fend for themselves if need be.
They seek out physical comfort especially when retiring for the night.
They have their moments but they always forgive one another and find harmony amongst themselves.
Their lives are about quality not quantity.
They never worry about their appearances. Have ever seen a chicken go through a terrible molt?
They seek and keep peace.


Christmas is about sharing gifts from the heart. Yet sometimes, they are the most difficult to give.  The chickens serve as a reminder to all that no matter what people’s situations, your actions can always make a difference in the lives of those around you.

~Share the spirit of the Season~
 

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

 

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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Not A Word

When I see the girls look at me like this, I can’t help but wonder what are they thinking?  Oyster Cracker was staring intensely at me and our souls seemed to connect.  Usually, these stolen moments occur when the girls visit me as I go about my daily coop duties.  This is how the girls and I communicate best.  Thoughts, feelings and emotions can be conveyed without speaking a word.  Today, I was able to capture one of our moments to share with you.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

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Desserts Recipes

To Die For Toffee

My husband named this recipe.  It is so incredibly addictive that it is hard to pull yourself away from it and stop eating.  Delicious and not too sweet, this recipe is amazing.  I make it during the holidays every year.  Now, you too can make it and share in our tradition.

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 tbsp of water
1 tbsp of corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 bag of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips/morsels

Supplies:
Cookie sheet with lip/edge all the way around.
Candy thermometer (other digital ones work fine too)
Non-stick sauce pan (2 quart)

Preparation:
Combine sugar, butter, water and corn syrup in the sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir constantly while cooking.  During this process, the sugary concoction will turn a caramel color with varying degrees of bubbling.  This is normal and part of the candying process.  Heat until the sugar mixture until it reaches 290 degrees F.

Immediately remove from heat and pour on to the cookie sheet.  Gently shake the cookie sheet back and forth to help spread the mixture to about 1/3 of an inch.  The shape will be irregular.

Quickly while the sugar mixture is still hot, evenly sprinkle all the chocolate chips on top.  Take a spoon and swirl the melted chips together to form a uniform layer of chocolate.

Immediately, sprinkle the nuts on top of the melted chocolate.

Refrigerate promptly and cool for two hours.  Once the chocolate and toffee have hardened, remove the cookie sheet from the fridge and break the toffee into small pieces.

You can find 40 more wonderful recipes from Tilly’s Nest here.

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Chickens Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

First Snow

We received a dusting of snow in the early hours of morning.  As I went out to the coop, there was one of the Buff Orpingtons eagerly awaiting my arrival.  When I opened the nesting box lid, Dottie Speckles was waiting in the wings.  She had never seen snow before in her life.

 

As I opened up the nesting boxes, she craned her neck outside to see the white stuff falling from the sky.  She cocked her head side to side to try and understand.  She even pecked at the flakes that had accumulated on the side of the nesting box roof.   She must have enjoyed it, because she kept pecking.  The scene to my right was no different.

 

 

Once again, Mother Nature had shared her gift of snow with the flock.
 Like last year, they remain mesmerized, just like the kids.
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Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest