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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
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
Please take a moment to support Tilly’s Nest and vote for our tree #20. Thank you.
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.
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.