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February 28, 2011

A Great Big Mess of Broody Poop

Over the course of my nursing career, I have seen some pretty disgusting things.  I've smelled things that were even worse.  However, nothing could have prepared me for the wrath of Dolly's broody poo!

As I started my typical morning routine, I went outside, refilled the waterers and gave the flock their morning scratch.  Next, I came into the garage to check on Dolly at "Camp Broody".  As I picked her up off the nest to encourage her to eat, drink and poo, I saw it. Then it hit my nose like a ton of bricks.  She had a great big broody poo in her nesting box with the eggs! I quickly cleaned out the nesting box the best I could.  Then I assessed Dolly's backside.  Disgusting!  It had caked on poo from the night. I knew yesterday that she hadn't pooed.  Now I know that I need to be more persistent.  I let her climb back onto the nest.  I should have known better.

Quickly, I brought her inside to the kitchen sink.  I grabbed some wet paper towels and tried to clean her off the best I could.  It wasn't working and to make matters worse, out from her butt shot the motherload of more poop!  This was going to need more attention but I had to get the kids off to school.  I returned her to "Camp Broody" in the meantime.

Finally, the kids were off and I could return to Dolly.  I pulled her off the nest.  I thoroughly wiped out the nesting box, changed the bedding and wiped off the eggs that came in contact with the poo.  Next, I grabbed two bowls, baby shampoo, the hair dryer and two towels.  In one bowl, I made warm soapy water.  In the second bowl, I added plain water for rinsing.  I wrapped Dolly in a towel.  I have found that this works wonders to keep a chicken calm.  With her backside exposed, I dipped her into the soapy water.  With my fingers, I worked at the gross mess surrounding her vent.  I then dipped her in the clean water.  I repeated these steps until I was satisfied, then I dried her off with a towel.  Finally, I set the blowdryer on low and completed drying her feathers.  She seemed to be feeling much better!

I returned her to the nest and she was so happy to see her eggs again.  We had a long talk about pooping in the box.  I think she was glad that I cleaned her off.  Oh, the joys of chicken motherhood....I think I will take a shower now.

P.S.  Aren't you glad I spared taking pictures today?

February 27, 2011

Beat the Blues with Chickens?

I have lived on Cape Cod for seven years and find the winters here very depressing.  I am now convinced that I suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder.  I have never ever experienced the Eeyore blues as I do here when I am deprived of sunlight and warmth.  The ground is frozen.  The trees have no leaves and I am the only splash of color in this gloomy gray landscape.  I have had a hard time grappling with this because I have never experienced these feelings before.  As spring arrives, instantly the dark veil of gloom is lifted.  It is replaced by robins in my yard pulling worms from the ground, glorious buds on the ends of branches swelling with new life, and beautiful hints of flowering bulbs waking from the icy ground.

I am convinced that over time, people become acclimated to a certain climate.  I also think it is much harder to adapt the older we get. Change is never easy.  Even my husband, a native New Englander, now sees the winters as being a little more difficult than they were when he was a kid.  It's days like these when the snow has begun to fall, yet again, that I yearn for that old warm southern California.  However, this winter was different.

Usually, I fall victim to the blues around the end of November.  This year, it has been mid-February.  I think it has a lot to do with the chickens.  I look forward to waking up and greeting the chickens each morning.  Now they are the burst of color on the gloomy landscape during the Winter.  They constantly entertain me and keep me smiling.  I love it when they talk to me.  I love it when Oyster Cracker is so excited at the prospects of getting treats that she jumps enthusiastically into my lap.  I love feeling warm fresh eggs in my hands.  I love hearing Chocolate crow.  It took me a little while to piece this all together.  In years past, I had considered getting a special light box to sit under.  I now know that it is not necessary.

February 26, 2011

Candling the Eggs

A new life in the making

Yesterday, the kids and I candled the eggs for the first time. We did not entirely know what we were doing, but thought that all good farmers candle their eggs for viability, so we should probably do the same.

I went in to the garage and found a small hand held flashlight with an old fashioned bulb; none of this LED stuff. I cut a piece of cardboard into a 3"x3" square. Then I cut into the middle of the square, a hole the size of a quarter. Next I took an empty toilet paper roll and cut it down to a 2" tube. As the Silkie eggs are much smaller than standard eggs, I had to adjust the diameter of the toilet paper roll. I cut the tube down the side and curled it into itself until it was the diameter of a quarter. Once satisfied, I taped it into place. Finally, I taped the toilet paper tube onto the cardboard square. My contraption was built.

Quickly, I grabbed egg number one from underneath Dolly. I turned on the flashlight, placed my cardboard contraption on top, then placed the egg on top of the light. Then I saw it. The most spectacular sight of early life. A beautiful intricate spiderweb of veins spiraling outward from a dark center spot. As, I turned the egg, it all seemed to float in space, gliding along the egg's shell. Magical.

Within a matter of 5 minutes, the kids and I candled eggs 1-6. We decided to wait a couple more days on eggs 7-9 as they are younger by a couple of days. My eight year old son was truly amazed by the experience. He asked a lot of questions about the experience and I answered them as best I could. The children are learning life's lessons. Thanks to Dolly, patience and dedication are currently the curriculum of the month at Tilly's Nest.

Here I am candling our eggs in the basement

Top Photo Credit: Chickens in the Road, Bottom Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

February 25, 2011

Taking a Break

Mama Dolly takes a break

I am finding that Dolly needs to be removed a couple of times from the nest during the day.  When I do, she quickly eats and drinks, then she returns to her eggs.  She had a large broody poo yesterday.  Boy, did that stink!   I think she feel stiff from all of that sitting.  When I touch her eggs, they are toasty warm.  Yesterday the kids and I candled some of the initial eggs that we placed underneath of her.  We can confirm that at one week of incubation, we have at least 5 viable eggs! 

February 24, 2011

You Can Take the Girl Out of LA...

...but you can't take LA out of the girl.  I lived in Los Angeles for over half of my life and it is the place that I identify as "home".  Prior to moving to Cape Cod, I was surrounded by designer handbags,beautiful people and designer puppy dogs.
Now that I live on Cape Cod, I consider my chickens to be "designer" chickens.  No expenses have been spared for them.  If I could, they would strut around the run with painted toenails but I am sure that they would peck each other's toes to pieces.  Their favorite color is red!  Yes, I've even thought about having a pet psychic come to finally tell me what the girls are talking to me about.  Do they like me?  Are they happy?  Do they have dreams?  What does it feel like to lay an egg?

This all got me thinking about Dolly.  Yesterday, I physically had to remove her from the eggs and nest.  She is doing such a good job that she is not eating or pooping.  Finally, when removed she ate.  Her crop is mostly empty.  The zen-like state that she achieves is amazing!  Where does she go?  Does she achieve chicken nirvana?

Then it dawned on me, maybe I could provide her a little comfort with some nest aromatherapy!  I sprinkled some of the nesting box blend around her. Surrounded by her 9 little eggs, straw, shavings and all the chicken treats she could dream of, she settled down and closed her eyes for a well deserved nap.  Maybe I am onto something....I just might have to talk to someone about my idea for broody hen aromatherapy!

February 23, 2011

Business Affairs of Chickens

Left undisturbed, with no other members of her chicken family, Dolly has gotten down to business!  She is vigilantly sitting on all of the eggs.  After yesterday's concerns about eggs 1,5, and 6, I added two freshly laid Silkie eggs to her clutch.  Her total now comes to 9.  This should be sufficient to see some little chicks in 2 1/2 weeks.

Most of yesterday she remained in her deep zombielike trance.  She is drinking water but I am not too sure about the amount of food she is eating.  I can tell you, she is dedicated.  I have tried to tempt her off the nest with treats and fresh greens.  She is not interested. 

Out in the main coop, the rest of the flock does not seem to notice that she is gone. I am concerned that when I do bring Dolly back, they will not remember her.  She was in the middle of the pecking order.  In her absence, the chickens continue to scratch and find goodies.  They are happy to sunbathe and take dust baths.  Chocolate continues to share his discoveries with his girls.  He even alerts them to potential danger from a threatening looking Chickadee. As you can see, it's business as usual at Tilly's Nest. Life is good.

February 22, 2011

Emergency Exit

I have been quickly catching up, reading as much as I can about broody hens and hatching eggs.  My learning curve has been on an upward trajectory!  Most resources suggest separating the broody hen from the rest of the flock.  Some jealous hens can become saboteurs or even have nesting envy, only to kick the broody hen off the nest at day 20 and reap the benefits of motherhood.  In turn, the broody hen who sat all those long days is robbed of her children.  I was still in the process of making my decision whether to leave Dolly with the flock or not.  So far, for the most part, they have left her be.  I did however, find Tilly's egg underneath her yesterday.
This morning was a different story,  perhaps because I was later than my typically punctual arrival.  I let the flock out, added fresh water, scratch and then ventured over to visit Dolly.  She was sitting on her nest but what I saw I could not believe.  Egg number one was rolled into the center of the coop.  Eggs 5 and 6 were found in the nesting box next to Dolly.  Eggs 5 and 6 were still semi-warm but Egg number 1 was chilly.  This was not good.  As quickly as I could, I gathered the three eggs and returned them under Dolly.

I next went to the garage and began to set up my temporary brooder.  I gathered an old shipping box, an extra waterer and an old Tupperware container for food.  I created a nest with shavings and straw.

Food and Water
Temporary nest

As I was setting up this brooder, I could hear squabbles from the coop.  I went over and saw Tilly sitting in Dolly's nesting box. I looked in the run.  I could not see Dolly.  Dolly must still be in the same box as Tilly.

It seemed like forever, but Tilly finally laid her egg.  My window of opportunity had arrived.  Quickly, I scooped up all of the eggs. I placed them in the makeshift nest.  Next, I ran to the coop and grabbed Dolly.  I placed her in the new brooder.

Dolly was not happy about leaving the coop.  I think she thought that I was taking her from her eggs.  Little did she know, I was taking her to their new location.   I placed her in the brooder.  She was nervous.  I showed her the eggs.  She stood in the nest, rolled two eggs with her beak and got out. She looked around and was talking.  Taken back by confusion and utter nervousness, Dolly was apprehensive of her new surroundings.  I decided to scatter some scratch on the ground. She started to eat the scratch.  When she was done.  I showed her the eggs again.  Time was marching on.  The eggs were getting cold and Dolly was showing no signs of broodiness!

Looking out
I showed her the eggs a few more time.  Each time, she panicked and hopped off the nest.  Thoughts entered my mind that I was going to have to abandon any attempts of Dolly and parenthood.  Finally, just as I had my doubts, I showed her the eggs once more.  She squatted on them.  Then gently rolled each egg on the outer cusps into the center, puffed out her body and wings, then settled down on the eggs.  Thank goodness! As she sat, I praised her.  I then noticed that her comb was bleeding.  My best guess is that it was from her earlier squabble with Tilly.  I think I made the right decision.  I just hope I was not too late for her eggs.

Dolly's clutch
Finally settled

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

February 21, 2011

Our Attempt at Motherhood

Dolly has been sitting on eggs for 3days.  She seems to be a great broody hen!  As of this morning, she has a total of 5.  Today will be my last opportunity to place anymore eggs underneath her.  You see, the mother hen will sit on the nest for 2-3 days after her first chick hatches.  This is to see if any other eggs in the clutch will hatch.  However, after about 3 days, she will abandon any unhatched eggs and begin to raise her brood. 

I have been collecting Silkie eggs from the nesting boxes to place under Dolly.  If they are still warm when I pick them up, I quickly number them with a pencil and place them under Dolly.  She seems so pleased when I add another to her growing collection!

I am also amazed at her instinct.  Yesterday, while peeking through the window, I witnessed her turning the eggs.  With the most amazing grace and gentle touch, she inspected each egg and rolled it according to her liking.  Wow!  How in the world did she know how to do that? 

She seems to leave the nest a couple of times a day, but it is only for fleeting moments at a time.  I have placed fresh water with vitamins and electrolytes near her as well as food.  In a few days, I will attempt to candle the eggs to insure viability.  I have never done that, so it will require some research.  I too am learning all about this fascinating process.  If all goes according to plan, we might just have some chicks in time for Easter.  The whole family is rooting for Team Dolly!

February 20, 2011

Incredibly Easy Chicken Potpie

This is a very simple and delicious family friendly recipe.  It looks like this week we will be reminded that Spring has not quite yet arrived!  This is my own take on a classic Campbell's soup recipe. Give it a try this week.

Image courtesy of Campbell's


2 cups of rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups of mixed frozen vegetables
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
1/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
salt and pepper
1 box Pillsbury premade pie crusts---in the refrigerated section at the grocery store


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1.  In a small pot, add 1/2 cup of water and the vegetables.  Cook the vegetables lightly until they are thawed and warmed.  Drain from pot and set aside.  This step can also be done in the microwave.

2.  In a large pot, over medium heat, combine the Cream of Chicken soup, milk and parsley.  Mix well.

3.  Next add the chicken and the vegetables.  Combine and heat until warmed through.  Add salt and pepper to your liking. 

4.  Unroll one pie crust and evenly press it into a pie pan until it conforms to the shape of the dish.

5.  Add the Chicken filling mixture into the pie crust.  Using a spoon, spread it evenly to all areas of the pan.

6.  Unroll the second crust onto the top of the mixture.  Press the sides of the pot pie together around the edges of the glass.  Insert a knife into the center of the upper pie crust to create 4 vents for steam to escape.

7.  Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes on center rack.  Remove when pie crust is golden brown.

You can find this and all of our recipes featured on our website at Tastebook.

February 19, 2011

Chocolate's Silver Lining

I called my friend who lives locally over in Cotuit.  She has a lovely farm with a menagerie of animals.  She is involved in so many wonderful organizations and she always goes above and beyond to assist animals in need.  Most recently, she has decided to raise Silkie Bantams.  The other day we were visiting and she showed my daughter her incubator and about 10 newly hatched Silkie chicks.

When I picked up the phone to call her, first day of school butterflies were fluttering about my stomach.  I had not felt this way in years!  As I waited for her to answer, my mind was bombarded.  How could I ask a friend to "take care" of my rooster?  I guess I felt badly not knowing entirely what went on between my daughter and Chocolate.  Did he give her just a warning peck that startled her or was it something more?  At some point in his future, Chocolate would most likely need to be culled if he continued on his aggressive path.  I surely could not do it; especially because I love him so. On the other hand, farmers consider their animals livestock and view their animals differently from pets.  I could not take another chance with Chocolate being aggressive toward the children.  The risks are too great.

I expressed all of my concerns.  With much patience and understanding she listened.  Then she said, "He can come live with me on the farm".  I was so shocked.  I asked her if she was going to cull him and she said no.  "He is too beautiful, plus he is docile and gentle.  He was most likely doing his job, letting her know that those were his girls."  My heart was overjoyed.  My eyes welled up with tears.  Chocolate's life would continue on the farm with her Silkie Bantams.

She only asked one thing of me.  As Dolly is broody, she wanted me to let her try and have a set of chicks.  I agreed.  Yesterday, three silkies laid eggs.  Dolly had them all nestled under her breast.  I quickly removed them and penciled a number on each egg.  With each Silkie egg laid, I will place it underneath Dolly until the total reaches around 10.  Numbering the eggs will help me keep track of the eggs.  If all goes according to nature's plan, we should have baby chicks in about 21 days.

Instead of losing the life of Chocolate, my beloved rooster, we will be creating new ones. At times like these, I am grateful for fellow chicken owners.  This journey's rain cloud has a brilliant silver lining after all.

February 18, 2011

Numbered Days

Yesterday's weather was a Spring teaser.  Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining.  In late afternoon, I decided to let the flock free-range.  They were so happy.  Chocolate was especially feeling good.  He was definitely the one in charge dictating each new destination in the yard to the girls.  He was also spoiling them with each new treat he found, generously giving them to each of his girls.

My almost 4 year old daughter was out there with me as well.  She loves to visit each chicken, say hello and stroke their heads and backs.  The chickens enjoy her company too.  To be completely honest, I was a little nervous about having her out there with Chocolate, but I was there.  I gave her a quick reminder on rooster etiquette and closely monitored their interactions.  I was never more than 5 feet away from her at any time.  Chocolate usually loves her holding him and showering him with affections.  For the most part, the chickens that like her best are Chocolate and Feathers.

Standing there, I noticed that the waterer was dirty.  I took it out of the coop and tilted the waterer to the side; refreshing the water.  All of a sudden, I heard my daughter scream.  I literally looked away for about 15 seconds and Chocolate decided to give her a warning.  He seized the small crack in the window of opportunity.  I quickly grabbed my daughter and tried to figure out what had happened.  She was shaken and said that Chocolate had pecked her on the knee.  I saw no marks.  Once she was consoled, I walked over, picked up Chocolate and returned him to the closed coop and run. 

I decided in my heart of heart I needed to act sooner than later.  I could never forgive myself if something that I can prevent from happening indeed happens.  I called a local friend with a farm.

February 17, 2011

A Package Addressed to the Chickens

Well, the girls are officially know as "The Feathered Ladies of Tilly's Nest"!  This package arrive a couple of days ago for them.   I placed an order from Treats for Chickens last week.  I was so touched by the thoughtfulness of their company to personalize the address label.  It brought a great smile to my day after the sadness of my last entry about Chocolate.
I bought all sorts of goodies for the flock.  I purchased electrolytes with probiotics, Nesting Box Blend, a Pest Pistol for my friend to use with the food grade Diatomaceous Earth, and something new; Full Crop Pumpkin Feed Snack.  I cleaned out the coop today and as I was doing so, I sprinkled the pumpkin treat out in the run.  They went berserk over it.  All the chickens loved it.  They also love getting the Nesting Box Blend sprinkled in the freshly cleaned nesting boxes.  It is like catnip for chickens.  I have never heard so much chicken talk as they scratch in the shavings to discover the delicious tasty morsels.  I am glad that the package arrived on Valentine's Day.  I wanted to get the chickens something special too.

Chock full of goodies

Thought you would want to know, I receive no financial incentives from Treats for Chickens in mentioning their products.

February 16, 2011

Walking with Chocolate

Today, Chocolate must have sensed something in the air.  He came over to me and I decided to pick him up.  I held him for a little while.  He was docile.  He nuzzled his warm comb, face and beak underneath my chin.  I could feel little breaths of air from his nostrils.  I decided we needed to take a walk.

I grasped him under my right arm, all 3 pounds, and we were off.  We started looking for birds in the yard.  He loves to do this.  He loves to give them a warning and scare them off.  We looked at the snow and ice patches.  We talked.  I told him about his potential fate.  We eventually sat in a rustic cedar chair on the front lawn.  We sat for a long time, looking at me as I spoke.  He was calm.  I think he enjoyed the warmth of my lap.  After a while, he heard his girls.  I decided to bring him home.

As we walked over to the coop, Chocolate and his girls were talking back and forth to each other.  When I placed him on the ground at the entry of the run.  They all came over, even the tormented little Silkies and welcomed him back.  I realized that they do love him and he is part of their family.  Soon enough,  he was back in the run calling the girls over to share his tasty finds. 

I think this is going to be harder than I thought.

February 15, 2011

The Inevitable

When is a rooster mean?  I am not sure that it is entirely easy to draw a line in black and white.  How much does nature and hormones play in their actions?  Can a rooster suddenly turn mean?

I guess I have been thinking about these things lately because Chocolate, for better or worse, is starting to really get more aggressive over these past two weeks.  I can still grab him and hold him. He sits quietly and seems to enjoy my affection.  However, he is really becoming very territorial with his girls.

I can say that all the girls respect me.  They understand that I am the human leader of the flock.  They are curious to see me, giddy almost, and the conversations that ensue as I make my way over to the coop are priceless.  On the other hand, Chocolate does not appear to be so thrilled.

About a week ago, I was going into the nesting boxes to collect the eggs.  All of a sudden Chocolate came storming into the coop.  He had has wings extended outward and fire in his eyes.  I felt like I was going to be dealt with by the rooster.  I was entering his house.  I narrowly escaped his fury by quickly closing the nesting box.

These past few weeks, he has been asserting his dominance with me; dancing his rooster dance trying to let me know that he is the boss.  I was truly nervous when I had to go into the run myself.  I thought that if I bent over for a second, he would surely have his rooster feet implanted into my backside.  His need for humpty love is becoming insatiable. I feel bad for the girls. Finally, today as I was retrieving the waterers for cleaning and refilling, I was pecked. 

My heart is heavy.  Chocolate is just being a rooster.  In my heart of hearts, I feel as if we may have to rehome him soon.  I know that his fate may not be nice and that saddens me.  I am still dealing emotionally with rehoming Peanut. I would love for Chocolate to live a long full life.  Unfortunately, it does not come easy for me.  I am not a farmer.  These chickens are our pets.

I have to come to terms with the reality of the issue at hand.  I think it is now safe to say that I'm pretty sure the answer is not if the time comes, but when.

February 14, 2011

Chickens in Church

My son had is First Communion retreat this past Sunday at the church.  Here is what he drew on his placemat during snacks.  Apparently, he thinks about his chickens everywhere!

February 13, 2011

Return to Broodyland

Dolly fluffed out in her box

I did everything I could. I cleaned out the coop. I continue to empty the eggs from the nesting boxes three times a day. I bring out all sorts of delicious treats as distractions. I visit the flock multiple times daily. But I spoke to soon.  Dolly is once again broody. She is starting to pull out her chest feathers, growl and sit on an empty nest all day long. I suppose there is something to be said about a Mother's instinct. 

She maintains her trance-like state
I find it interesting that some breeds tend to be broodier than others. I know that Silkies tend to be broody.  I wonder if there are hens that go broody more often than others?  Like people, do some hens just make better mothers? Well, if that is the case, I guess I should feel fortunate that I have Dolly in the flock.  I hope she decides to go broody this Spring.  It will be a great experiment for our family to see if she can actually hatch some eggs.  Springtime chicks would be wonderful. 

In the meantime, Oyster Cracker was coughing and sneezing this morning.  She is still eating and drinking and her comb is red. I do not want to take a chicken to the vet this week.  I hope that this too shall pass.  I can't help but worry about these chickens sometimes. 

February 12, 2011

Silkie Eggs

Assorted Silkie Eggs
 Silkie eggs are so wonderfully adorable.  Here are six resting upon a dessert plate.  Two of their eggs equal one regular size eggs.  Thinking ahead to Easter, they are going to make the sweetest colored Easter eggs.   Silkie hens are wonderful additions to your flock, even though they may not lay the largest eggs, they make-up for it with their sweet docile personalities; perfect for families with children.

Caramel colored egg from Tilly
This week our seven girls laid about 3 dozen eggs.  They have been busy.  Even thought Tilly is a larger standard breed, her eggs are not very large.  I would say that they are somewhere between a Silkie and a standard breed eggs.  However, once in a while, she delights us with unique shades of brown.  This one laid yesterday is a rich deep caramel color. It is almost too pretty to eat.

Oh, by the way,  Dolly does not appear to have continued with her broodiness.   Maybe she was just having a Calgon moment!

February 11, 2011

Not Again...

I think that there is the distinct possibility that Dolly just might be going broody again.  Last night about half an hour before I locked them in for the night, Dolly was sitting in the nesting box.  Once again, I could pet her.  I reached underneath and found a warm egg snuggled into her chest feathers.   I removed the egg.  She did not leave the box.  If she is broody again, I can not believe it!  She has only been out of her last broody state for 2 weeks! 

I thought about her all evening.  This morning, I went out and they all came out together.  Dolly was outside enjoying fresh water and scratch.  Just now, I went to check if she was in the box.  She was outside in the run.  I found an egg. Tilly laid an egg and somehow it ended up outside the box.  Tilly never lays outside the box.  Last time Dolly was broody, I found her stealing other chickens' eggs and rolling them into her box.  She was so desperate that she tried to sit on everyone's eggs.  What is going on in there?  I think that I am going to clean the coop today; maybe that will throw the flock off and distract them.  We might have some adverse weather tomorrow. I just hope the forecast doesn't call for rain and snow with a chance of broodiness.

February 10, 2011

Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide

Rating: *****

One of my favorite things to do is visit the local bookstore and just get lost in the shelves.  I always head first to the chicken section.  I love discovering new books.  It seems that there is always a new one nested between old favorites.  I stumbled upon this book the last time I was there.

I love this book.  What initially drew me in when I skimmed through the contents was the accurate and fantastic description the authors used to describe the dance of a male rooster.  The rooster uses this dance to assert dominance and seek attention.   Their attention to detail is impeccable.  It was at that point that I realized that I had to have it.

While taking a closer look at the book, I realized that the authors, Rick and Gail Luttmann, wrote this book in 1976.  I would never have known.  This book is current, thorough and an enjoyable read.  Topics that are covered include typical subjects but also how to protect your garden from you flock, dealing with a broody hen, incubation eggs, advice and solutions.  I found this book enjoyable even though I would consider myself to have some experience.  I think that this is a great book for anyone interested in getting started.  I was able to read the entire book in one sitting; all 148 pages.

February 9, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Soup

A cold snap has blown over Cape Cod again.  I thought that it would be another great week for soup.  This one is easy and has a wonderful blend of spices.  I do not make soups very much in the Spring or Summer.  I mostly reserve them for Fall and Winter.  So, I am taking advantage of the cold before we warm up for good. 


1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion-finely chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
5 cup chicken stock
1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
2 (15.5 oz.) canned chick peas
2 zucchini- cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup plain uncooked couscous
1 rotisserie chicken-skin discarded, meat removed and cut into bite size pieces
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.  Over medium heat, saute onions until slightly caramel color.  Stir in garam masala and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.

2.  Add remainder of the ingredients.  Simmer covered over low heat for about 20 minutes. 

3.  Serve with warm crusty bread.

I discovered this recipe in our local supermarket courtesy of Cook's magazine. I have also put the recipe on Tastebook for your convenience as well. 

February 8, 2011

Baby Pictures

Peanut, our rooster, who we rehomed this past Fall

Tilly, the head hen
 Last night I was reminiscing about the chickens as babies. They were so cute.  I guess I was thinking about them especially because I have been getting all sorts of information about ordering baby chicks for this Spring. I know that I will not be getting any, as we now have a full flock of eight.  I still however enjoy looking back at their baby pictures; the same as I do with my own children.  They have all grown so very much.  I still can not believe that they now are full grown chickens.

The picture above of Peanut is one of my all time favorites. You can see the curiosity in his face that I wrote about so long ago. I think about him every day.  I wrote the farm that we rehomed him to.  I never heard back.  I'm afraid to reach out again.  I'm not sure if he suffered a terrible fate.  I do keep him in my prayers though.  Every night, I send him a little blessing wherever his little soul might be.  I miss him.

Fluffy bottoms at 2 weeks old


These photos were taken July 7, 2010. The chicks were about 2 weeks old.  It must have been at least 85 degrees outside. I had the run set up. I would sit in the grass with the kids and let the chicks outside to explore for about a half an hour. They sure did love their early adventures. I remember them getting tired fast too.  Looking back, Sunshine always had that long prominent beak. At two weeks of age, they were still peeping.  Low quiet happy peeps for contentment.  Loud fast peeping for being too cool.  I wonder if the chickens remember being that little. I wonder if they would remember Peanut? I wonder if they realize how lucky they are? I know how lucky we are. 

Looking in the grass for goodies


We have truly be blessed by the discovery of backyard chicken keeping.  It is so easy with so many wonderful rewards that we experience on a daily basis. If you are even considering getting chickens, this walk down memory lane has made me realize even more that the chickens were one of the best things that could have happened to this Cape Cod family.

February 7, 2011


Today's treats for the chickens
  Spring sure does feel like it is just around the corner.  This entire Winter, I have tried to give the chickens a generous helping of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday.  In addition to the scratch, the chickens look forward to their late morning variety of treats.  Today they enjoyed mushrooms, red grapes, strawberries, arugula, romaine lettuce and a tomato.

Treat frenzy
  I try to make sure that everyone in the flock gets to enjoy the treats including Meesha and Autumn at the bottom of the pecking order.  While the larger girls dominate the treatball, I toss many smaller pieces into the further section of the run.  This keeps everyone happy with little arguing.

Treat for me
 Chickens are happy when they have treats.  I especially have enjoyed them leaving treats for me on a daily basis this Winter.  Their freshly laid warm eggs feel great in my cold hands after thawing out their frozen waterers.  We definitely take care of each other.  Isn't that what families are all about?

February 6, 2011


Chicken's make people feel good.  There was a lovely article in the NY Times this past week.  It was about a kidnapped chicken named Gertrude.  It affected the entire community.  It was a touching article.  My favorite part was of course the ending, but also the way the author describes chickens.  To me, the author truly "gets it".  She can appreciate what I see.

"And what’s not to love? There’s something intrinsically happy about a chicken. The name: a little hiccup in the mouth. The shape: a jaunty upswing of feathers, a grin. The ceaseless bobbing, scratching, pecking. It’s nearly impossible to feel melancholy in the company of chickens. They are a balm for the weary urban soul."

The story is touching and warmed my heart.  Chickens can unite neighborhoods; even in New York City.

If you would like to read the entire article click here.

February 5, 2011

Sunbathing and Dust Baths

Yesterday I actually felt that Winter might soon be over.  It was still cold out, but the sunshine was glorious.  It was one of those days where you could actually feel the sunshine warming your face if you closed your eyes and looked to the sun.  It felt nice; warm, comforting and most of all made me feel happy.

I also took the time to put a lot, 50 pounds, of Ice Melt on our frozen driveway.  Right now, it is literally a downward skating rink.  The ice is 8 inches thick in some spots, making the it virtually impossible to melt.  Sometimes the Cape has these types of winters.  Snow is followed by freezing rain.  It warms in the day then freezes at night.  This vicious cycle creates icy dangerous conditions that many cannot prevent.  I spent about an hour outside dusting the driveway.  I didn't mind because I got to enjoy the chickens.

They too were enjoying the glorious sunshine in the form of suntanning while dust bathing.  The first time I ever saw my chickens having a dust bath, I thought that something was surely wrong.  They get in the strangest positions.  The lay on their sides with their legs outstretched.  They contort their wings into supernormal positions.  They wiggled as they toss dirt into the air. 

Yesterday, each chicken after having treats of apples, celery and carrots dug out their very own dust bath hole.  The run looked like it had just been bombed.  I could see them rolling around in the dirt; from their tummies to their backs. Some together in the same giant potholes, some alone.  Then after a while, they would snuggle together in the largest hole to soak up the sunshine.  Sunbathing chickens!  They had so much fun. 

As I was thinking about closing them in for the night, I thought about the repair work to the ground in the run that I was going to have to do.  The entire run seems to need regrading after their escapades today.  But when I went out to lock them in for the night, the run was completely back to normal.  It was one entirely flat surface again.  The chicken tidied up their run prior to going to bed.  Sometimes, they are so thoughtful. 

February 4, 2011

Roosters in Barnstable

Two nights ago, roosters in the Town of Barnstable were met with more debate.  Fresh from the town's attorney, the Agricultural Commission was presented with another draft of the inevitable law.  Interestingly enough, some parts were entirely different than what were discussed at the last meeting this past December.

The beginning of this new draft was similar to local right to farm laws.  The new draft would allow individuals other than farms (over 5 acres) to keep 1 rooster at any given time.  If you have between 2-5 acres and could prove $1000 profit/acre than you could be considered a farm.  This would provide you with the ability to keep more than 1 rooster.
The second portion of the law went on to read as follows:
"The rooster would be kept in between the hours of 7pm to 7am in a fully enclosed structure impervious to light and weather, separate from all dwellings and set back at least 50 feet from all boundary lines."

The majority of members on the commission agreed unanimously that this second portion should read as follows:
 "The rooster would be kept in between the hours of 7pm to 7am in a fully enclosed structure." 

They recommended eliminating the remainder of the clause because it prevents individuals from practicing good livestock management.  Chickens, roosters or hens, need to have fresh circulating air at all times.  In regards to the 50 feet, if the rooster is quiet, the setback is not an issue.  The remaining portion of the law does include a noise nuisance clause.  This would regulate noise that is 150 feet from the rooster's dwelling and continuous noise lasting over 10 minutes.  A three strike fining rule for each violation remained.

Slowly but surely this law is going to come to fruition. I want it to be fair to roosters.  Crowing roosters should have the same rights as barking dogs.  At times they are both capable of annoying the neighbors.

February 3, 2011

Bad Hair Day

Clockwise from top left: Autumn, Feathers, Meesha, Feathers
 The northeast was slammed again with more snow.  The Cape got rain and let me say, lots of it.  The ground was already frozen with a combination of old snow and ice.  This did not allow the freezing rain to go many places.  In some areas of our yard, the ice is at least 6 inches deep.  Salting and sanding our driveway did little to help.  The salt drilled holes into the ice but did not melt it. 

The chickens were kept pretty dry thanks to my weatherproofing.  However, most of the Silkies ended up today having bad hair days.  Dried mud caked onto their head feathers made for pretty silly looking birds this morning.  Dolly was the only one who maintained her gorgeous coif.  That doesn't surprise me, she is our most sophisticated and proper Silkie in the bunch!

Lookin' good Dolly
By the way, we are officially moving to  If you still use our old address, Blogger will automatically redirect you.  Thanks for moving with us to our new address!

February 2, 2011

Bad Chicken Dream

Don't worry Mom, it was only a dream!

Last night both kids were up at various intervals of the evening.  One was up with a dry hacking cough, the other kept wanting tissues to blow their nose.  It was also a night when I had a very strange, weird and disturbing dream that I actually can remember.

Chicken predators have been on my mind an awful lot lately.  I have been seeing more road kill these days and I know the wild animals are hungry.  They are taking risks.  Their food supplies are running low and I think they are hoping for Spring's arrival more than myself.

It was an culmination of dream styles.  It was in color.  It was an opera, stop animation and at the same time, felt real.  A raccoon was after my chickens.  The coop was now in my backyard next to a swing set on AstroTurf.  It was nighttime.  If I had to guess somewhere between dinner and bedtime.  I saw a raccoon skulking around my coop.  I watched from the door.  Strangely, I did not do anything.  I did not try to scare it away.  In fact, the dream jumped ahead.  Suddenly, I felt anxiety.  I ran to the door.  The light was off.  I turned on the light.  Both side coop doors were open.  Pine shavings were strewn all over the ground and there I saw Sunshine maimed in a very cartoonish way; whimpering.  My eyes were then drawn to the hill.  The raccoon was now very cartoonish.  Sitting on his rump, Tilly dangled from her neck in his tightly clutched hands.  He was singing to her.  His eyes were dancing.  Then to the racoon's left, I saw the rest of the flock huddled together, alive but still as stone statues...

I was abruptly awoken at this point.  Someone needed a tissue.  I returned to bed and lay there thinking, should I do more to predator proof the flock?  Maybe I should reinforce the latches.

February 1, 2011

Swearing In

Well, I have been officially appointed as a member to the Agricultural Commission in the town of Barnstable.  Today I am going down to the town hall to be sworn in. Our next meeting is tomorrow night.  I am looking forward to it.  I believe that we will be voting on the matter of roosters in the town of Barnstable.  I feel a sense of self pride with this appointment.  I hope to serve in my position well.  This is a new chapter for me.  My involvement in local town politics comes as a surprise to me.  I am constantly reminded that life's journey is full of surprises.  This one is especially important for my flock.  I hope to make both my human and feathered families proud.