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March 31, 2011

Oyster Cracker's Favorite Things

 Well it all started back with the pearl earring.  Oyster Cracker gave me a real scare.  Now, I am just realizing that she is a fancy girl that loves to investigate what I am wearing.  None of the other chickens can be bothered.  But for some strange reason, I feel like Oyster Cracker is always planning her next move with me. In fact, just the other day, she was at it again.

I was wearing another set of pearl earrings.  She came to visit me as I was collecting eggs in the afternoon.  She poked her head out of the open nesting boxes and the next thing I knew, she went for the pearl earring.

I quickly scolded her and she dropped her treasure into the center nesting box.  I retrieved my jewel from the sea and searched for the back.  I never did find it.  At least, if swallowed their was nothing sharp for any of the girls to harm themselves inadvertently.  I suspect if eaten, it probably would just come out in the end.

Oyster Cracker also loves the gold necklace that I wear everyday.  This one, I can understand.  It is shiny and does glisten in the rays of the sun.  I even catch it casting reflections in the run as I bend over to refill the waterers or rake things clean.  She first fooled me by playing coy and faking me into thinking that she was going to take a nice long drink of fresh water.  In reality, she was only after my necklace.

I am now realizing though it is not always just jewelry.  She is a gal that likes shiny things; like the snaps on my Winter and Spring coats.  Thank goodness that they are so strongly fastened to the fabric.  When she see my coats, she comes running.  She loves to peck continuously at the buttons.  Do you think she will ever realized that they belong to the coats that belong to me?

 I also have worn two fish bangles from Eden on Cape Cod.  I was given one each when my children were born.  They clank about on my wrists.  I have never really taken them off except for the occasional cleaning.  They have great sentimental value to me.  I even find it more amazing that my second born is a Pisces and I wear two fish!

As I wear them everyday, I do not notice the gentle clanking noises that they make as I move about my day.  However, I bet you can guess who notices them...Oyster Cracker!

I thought to myself that my wearing jewelry days were over.  I could not have been more wrong.  Lately, she is no longer interested in just shiny metallic objects.  She has developed a love for buttons. It can be any size button and any color.  She loves to peck at those too.

 My goodness, she is so perceptive.  Sometimes, she reminds me what I am wearing. I need to be careful with her.  We seem to like the same things. 

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest 

March 30, 2011

Room to Grow

I would like to say a great big HELLO to Mrs. Keenan's class who has been following the adventures of Tilly's Nest in their classroom! 

We need more room to grow!

The chickens and Dolly are quickly out growing their space!  They were born almost 2 weeks ago.  They still had the old nesting box in the brooder.  They also continued to make a complete mess of the newspaper lining that I placed underneath of the pine shavings.  I contributed it to Dolly as she scratched and looked for goodies to share with the chicks.  I found myself constantly cleaning out the feeder and the waterer of pine shavings.  It was time to make some changes! I removed everything from the brooder and started from scratch.

Don't mind if I do, I like this new waterer!

 I elevated the waterer off the ground to prevent the pine shavings from being inadvertently scratched into the waterer.  Soon, I realized that it was too high for Percy Peepers to reach.  They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions.  So, I remembered that I had created a device that could hang off the nesting boxes for Dolly when she was ill last Winter.  Voila!  It worked.  I made it out of a coat hanger and a small stainless steel serving dish.  Hung from the wire wall, it is just the right height for Percy!  Plus his brothers and sisters enjoy drinking from it too.

Food to the left, chicken play area to the right

I also removed the nesting box to open up more room.  I decided to place all of the food in the chillier end of the brooder.  Dolly's food is now out of reach from the chicks.  I have it perched upon a brick.  The chicks cannot eat Dolly's food because it contains too much calcium.  The calcium could adversely affect the growth of the chicks' bones.  I placed the chick food in the middle and the elevated waterer at the top. Finally, I added 8" cardboard walls around the perimeter of the brooder.  As the current walls are hardware cloth, I thought by doing so, I could prevent the shavings from flying everywhere as the chickens scratch. 

View from above

It has been about 17 hours since I changed the brooder yesterday afternoon.  The chicken family seems happy.  The chicken family seems to really be enjoying the added room in their brooder.  Soon I will search outside for a perch that I can make so the chicks can practice roosting.  The waterers and the food dishes seem relatively shaving free and I am hearing lots of pleasure trills!  Life is good at Camp Broody.

March 29, 2011

3 Broody Hens

Broody hens, I've got 3
Won't somebody rescue me!
They sit all day and growl and squack
They do not leave to take a walk
Fluffed out upon the nest they sit
Tail feathers spanned to throw a fit
No Silkie eggs that they protect
No Silkie eggs for us to collect
Invisible are the eggs they see
Broody hens, I've got 3

-Tilly's Nest

I am at my wit's end with these girls.  Spring is definitely in the air.  I don't mind that they are broody really,  I just miss their eggs.  Sometimes the best things do come in small packages. I just hope they start laying for Easter time.  Won't the Silkie eggs make the most adorable dyed Easter Eggs?

March 28, 2011

Rustic Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

This was a huge hit for dinner!  It was quick, easy and delicious.  I made two quiche for dinner.  One had only bacon and cheese for the kids.  The other was a rustic bacon and mushroom quiche that my husband and I shared!  Serve this quiche with a side salad and fresh strawberries.  I hope you and your family enjoy this Tilly's Nest original!


6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 premade pie crust ( I prefer Pillsbury)
1 medium sweet yellow onion-diced
1/2 pound maple flavored bacon
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1.  Line a pie plate with the pie crust and set aside.

2.  Cut strips of bacon into small 1/2 inch pieces.  In a medium saucepan, add the bacon and cook until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan, place on a plate with a paper towel to drain the grease.  Drain the remaining bacon grease from the pan, leaving a small amount to saute the onions.

2.  Next add the onions to the pan with the remaining bacon grease.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the thyme and the mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are softened. Remove from heat.

3.  In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and milk until thoroughly incorporated.  Next add the cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onion and thyme.  Stir to combine.

4.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.  With your fingers form the edge of the pie crust and place the quiche in the oven.  Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes.

This recipe and all of the other recipes featured on Tilly's Nest can be found in one convenient cookbook at Tastebook.

March 27, 2011

Dolly's Time Out

Dolly sits proudly over her chicks

Well, yesterday, I found out the hard way.  Up until now, I have cleaned portions of the brooder but never the whole thing.  The brooder could wait no longer.  It was messy and dirty and to top it off, I had to deal with overprotective Dolly.  The chicks seem to panic now whenever my gloved hand goes in to gather Dolly's poop a few times per day.  I don't think they recognize it as my hand.  Either way, Dolly goes into a natural tizzy, spreads her wings and the babies are pipping and popping all over the place; brooder chaos.

Look how big we've grown!

I knew that I was going to have to remove Dolly from the scene and that was the first thing that I did.  I placed her outside with the rest of her grown-up family.  I grabbed a cardboard box, placed it on the ground in front of the brooder and redirected the heat lamp into the box.  One by one, I caught the baby chicks and placed them in their temporary holding pen.

Quickly I gathered up all of the newspaper and the two inches of soiled shavings. What a mess!  I washed out and returned the waterers and the food dishes.  I spread out clean newspaper and made a soft bed of clean pine shavings.  When I went to return the babies to their clean brooder, they were all huddled in the corner of the box.  One by one, I grabbed them.  Sometimes two at a time, they returned to the brooder.  I went outside and there was Dolly waiting by the coop door.  I opened the door and scooped her up.  She was happy.  She called out to her babies on the walk back to the brooder.  However, I know that she did enjoy herself for a while when she was without the chicks.

While cleaning the brooder, I peeked out at the large coop and run periodically.  I saw Dolly socializing, telling stories, taking a dust bath, eating scratch and revisiting favorite places of hers in her home.  She let loose for a while and momentarily took a break from her motherhood duties.  We all need breaks, even chicken moms.  I believe we are better mom's for it.  By taking time for ourselves, sometimes stolen moments, we replenish ourselves and can, in turn, be better parents. 

As Dolly reentered the brooder, she greeted each of her chicks.  They touched beaks and nuzzled together.  It was a happy reunion and Dolly did miss her little ones.  After a while, they settled in for a nap.  The chicks were tucked safely underneath of their Dolly Mama and she got right back to her motherhood duties.

The happy family is always close to each other

Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest

March 26, 2011

Evil Broody Twins

Meesha and Autumn are broody.  They have both been broody for about 2 weeks now.  This week, they have earned themselves the nickname, The Evil Broody Twins.  As they perch upon empty invisible eggs, their wrath is apparent when you even whisper their names.

They spend most of their day in the boxes, as expected.  Sometimes I find them sitting on others' eggs and sometimes only air.  No matter, their greeting is always the same.  It starts out with a lot of low growling.  Meesha puffs up her neck.  I can see her labored breathing around her wattles.  Slowly, I try to pet them to reassure them that I come in peace.  With a quick whip of the neck, PECK!  They get me every time.

This morning, they were both together in the left nesting box, facing in opposite directions.  I think they planned it this way.  If I grabbed one from behind, the other's head was there to peck my hand and vice versa.  I thought for sure they were fighting over a large egg that the girls laid this morning.  After about 5 minutes, I mustered up my courage and I grabbed them both, lifted them and revealed...nothing.  It was all over nothing.  Don't ever listen to anyone that says chicken are not smart!  This morning those evil broody twins had a strategy.

March 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Nice and Clean

Today after yesterday's snow, I could not wait to get out and do a little cleaning.  I originally planned to just clean the interior of the coop. However, as I began, I decided to clean the whole entire thing!  I let the original flock out to free-range.  I locked Meesha and Autumn in the run and started with the coop.  It is usually a rather quick job taking about 15 minutes.  However, today was different, I had to contend with Chocolate.

In his rooster efforts to keep his girls safe, he could not stop coming over by me.  It used to be friendly, now, I think he is determined to claim me as one of his girls.  I do have to admit, he makes me a little nervous.  I would dread to think of him hopping on my back with his claws out!  Everytime, I scraped out the dirty shavings from the coop with the dustpan, he would come running.  Almost, like an attack dog.  I would have to stop and go pick him up.

I tried with all my might to get him to know that he was okay.  I was not going to harm him or his girls.  I know that he just couldn't help it.  Despite all my holding, snuggling, and love, which he reciprocated,  he was still on high alert.  Finally, I had to scoop him up and put him in the run with Meesha and Autumn.  Within a matter of minutes, I finished cleaning the inside of the coop and then opened the door from the coop to the run.  Meesha and Autumn were thrilled to run inside.  They are both still broody and were in a hurry to get back to their nesting boxes and sit on their invisible eggs! Chocolate followed the girls in the coop and then I locked all three of them in the coop.

On all fours, I climbed into the run.  I regraded the run and removed some large roots that the chickens had unearthed in their digging frenzies.  I filled in their sunbathing dust bowls and raked the area clean.  I also removed the plastic tarp that had been draped over the run.  It acted to keep the snow out and did a beautiful job. However, it was covered in chicken dirt and dust.  As a matter of fact, so was all of the wood and hardware on the run. I got out the hose.

I just could not stand it any longer.  I scrubbed and rinsed off the entire run and the exterior of the coop.  The entire process from beginning, cleaning the coop and scrubbing the run, took about an hour.  The girls loved free ranging during that time.  They made a happy chicken mess.  Leaves were strewn about and dirt was flying.  Once the coop and run were clean.  I returned the girls from free ranging and opened the coop door so that Chocolate could reunite with his girls.  Meesha and Autumn were content to stay in their nesting boxes.    In the yard, I went around to all of the areas where the chickens left their mark.  It is never difficult to tell where a chicken has been.    As I raked everything back into it's place, I could not help but smile.  Chickens would never make good spies.  There is nothing stealthlike about them!

Photo credit:  Tilly's Nest

March 24, 2011

Spring Snow

Winter is not ready to leave.
 It snowed.  As I went out to see the chickens this morning I discovered snow on the garden gate. Slowly it is beginning to melt and turn into tiny droplets and beads of water that trickle down to meet the thawing earth.

 It dusted the garden pathways and the tiny signs of Spring  that I saw last week emerging from the ground; flower bulbs, sprigs of Lady's Mantle and Catmint.

It snowed upon the bee skep cloche that has quietly been awaiting Spring's return all Winter long.

 It's an inside kind of day for the flock.  A kind of day for them to do a little Spring cleaning.  They enjoy tidying up the nesting boxes, looking for undiscovered treats and just taking a nap upon the roosts.

 Sometimes it's nice to be inside and have something yummy to eat.  This morning I gave them warm water with vitamins, electrolytes and apple cider vinegar. They seem to enjoy it while eating breakfast.

It's these kind of days, where you question whether you should just remain inside or venture out into the cold mix of rain and snow.  Tilly's was wondering the the same thing as she peered out the door today.  I wonder what she decided to do?

Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest

March 23, 2011

Chicken Littles

We love to poke out from the safety of Momma Dolly
 The chicks are becoming so adventurous now.  It is rare that I find many of them underneath Dolly.  Only during naps, do some prefer to snuggle underneath of her while some prefer to lay in front of her on the soft shavings warmed by the heat lamp.  They are also becoming faster everyday.  They are starting to develop tail and wing feathers and enjoying hopping all over the brooder.  Dolly is also becoming more protective as I try to inspect her chicks.

Dolly and her brood
 Today, I had to treat two pasty butts.  She was not happy about me trying to catch her chicks.  She became frantic.  As the chicks peeped louder, she danced around in circles with her wings fully extended.  Poor Percy Peepers.  Percy was being trampled in the frenzy. Finally, I had to remove Dolly to the outside run, catch the chicks, treat the pasty butts and return them to the brooder while Dolly knew nothing of the sort!

Percy always near Momma's side
Percy continues to thrive and does not seem to be in any pain.  Percy never ventures too far from Dolly and spends most times underneath of her.  Percy does continue to grow and develop.  Wing feathers are emerging and Percy is getting faster everyday despite having to adapt to the bad leg.  My attempts at physical therapy with Percy seem so futile, although I still think a little exercise is good, so I continue. My Pet Chicken has even offered to donate a reusable chicken diaper if Percy will need to become a house chicken.  The outpouring of support for Percy has been absolutely amazing and I am grateful for everyone's kind words and thoughts.  I am awestruck that something so tiny as Percy, fitting in the palm of your hand and weighing less than a few ounces, can move people in extraordinary ways.

Much love and thanks,
Tilly's Nest

Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest

March 22, 2011

Sticky Toffee Banana Cake

Over the weekend, we had dinner at our friends' house.  My friend is an awesome baker and she wowed us with this one!  In all, with chilling time, the recipe takes about 2 hours.  It was incredibly delicious and my tastebuds are craving more!  I can not wait for the bananas on my counter to get mushy!


Toffee Sauce

1 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp heaving whipping cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt

Banana Cake 

2 cups all purpose flour
1/ 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup very ripe mashed bananas (2-3)
1 tbsp rum (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Fresh bananas for topping


Toffee Sauce (can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated)

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 1/4 cups cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil.  Whisk continually until sugar is dissolved.  For the next 15 minutes, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until sauce thickens and  thickly coats the back of your spoon.  Remove from heat, and whisk in 3 tablespoons or so of heavy cream to thin the sauce to desired consistency.  Cover and chill.  Rewarm slightly prior to use.

Banana Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a non-stick 8"x8"x2" pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.   Set aside. With your electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until well blended.  Beat in 1 egg at a time.  Then add the mashed bananas, rum and vanilla and continue to beat them until well incorporated. Next, slowly add the dry ingredients.  Add a 1/4 of the dry ingredients at a time, blend until just incorporated then repeat 3 more times.   Spread batter into baking pan.

Bake cake for 35 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and spread 1/2 of the toffee mixture onto the top of the cake.  Return the cake to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and thick.  This should take about 6 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. 

Serve pieces of cake slightly warm or at room temperature with toffee sauce, sliced fresh bananas and even a dollop of fresh cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.

This recipe has been adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine.  The original recipe can be found here. You can find all of the recipes shared on Tilly's Nest at Tastebook in our very own cookbook.

 Photo Credit:  Dan Forbes


March 21, 2011

Spring Visitors and Traffic Jams

Well, the girls must know Spring is in the air.  Except for Dolly with her new brood of seven chicks, all of my Silkie Bantams are experiencing degrees of broodiness.  Yesterday, Meesha and Autumn monopolized two of the nesting boxes.  Today, Feathers joined them occupying all three.  Tilly has taken on the role of nesting box police officer.  When she is not distracted by treats and scratching, she is inside of the coop chasing the little girls off the nests and out of the boxes.  Today, I found a traffic jam, a line waiting for the boxes.  Oyster Cracker was in one box, Autumn in the other.  The other two Silkies were at the door waiting to return to their boxes!

Autumn in the right box
Oyster Cracker in the left

As the two girls waited by the door, a lot of growling was occurring between the Silkies.  Oyster Cracker on the other hand was getting down to business laying one of her large gorgeous brown eggs.  I know that when I return to the coop in a little while, one of the tiny Silkies will be perched upon Oyster Cracker's humongous warm egg. 

Will you hurry up already!
This morning I also had the pleasure of meeting Maryann and her husband Bob.  Her flock of Buff Orpingtons can be found here.We actually live only a few miles from each another and never knew that one another existed until we both discovered each other through our love of backyard chickens.  We had a very lovely time this morning.  I introduced all of our chickens to them.  The chickens were happy to have some visitors.  Chocolate loves showing off his beautiful girls to others.  He even crowed about them to Mary Ann and Bob.  Of course their visit would not have been complete with seeing Dolly and her baby chicks.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to connect with people and share your experiences both good and bad with others.  As she held Percy, it seemed as if she already had a special connection with the chick.  It was a very touching moment. 

A gift of Spring from Maryann and Bob
I was also touched by their thoughtfulness.  They brought the most beautiful arrangement of Spring pansies for me and my flock. We made plans for future visits and I will be featuring her flock in my Tour De Coop series sometime this Spring.  They say it is supposed to snow on Cape Cod today, our first day of Spring.  Today, I don't mind.  My heart has been warmed by this experience!  Once again, another reason to keep backyard chickens.

Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest

March 20, 2011

So You Want To Raise Backyard Chickens: 5 of a 5 Part Series

Well the flock will be one year old in June.  We have survived our first Northeast Winter and we just just hatched our own eggs.  I think it is now time that I write the final chapter in my guide to raising chickens. I've touched upon these topics now and then with some of the blogs over the past few months.  For some of these topics, I am going to refer to previous posts as added references for you.  I am by no means an expert in keeping chickens.  I am also positive that I am not going to cover all the ins and outs of keeping backyard chickens.  However, I do know what I have discovered along our journeys and I am happy to share them with you.


Most pullets will begin laying eggs around 20 weeks.  However, don't be surprised if you are waiting until 6 months of age for your first egg.  Larger breeds take longer to get there.  Remember, you will need one nesting box per four chickens.  Often, one box turns out to be everyone's favorite.  It is not uncommon that I find two chickens in the same box laying eggs, while the other boxes remain empty!

Once chickens reach 20 weeks of age, make sure that you have plenty of calcium available to your flock.  This will help the chickens create nice strong eggshells.  Some individuals even refeed the chickens' egg shells back to them.  Spread the egg shells on a baking sheet.  In an oven on low, dry the egg shells to remove the moisture.  Once removed from the oven and cooled, gently crush the egg shells into small unrecognizable pieces.  These can now be re-fed to the chickens.

Sometimes, though rare, you will find that one of your girls becomes egg bound. This can happen for a number of reasons. The egg becomes stuck in the vent and you will need to assist the egg out of the chicken.  If you can visualize the egg, you can help.  Wrap your chicken's head and body in a towel, keeping the back end exposed.  I find this keeps the chicken calm.  With some Vaseline, gently lubricate the egg and try to coax it out of the vent, taking great care not to break it.  There are techniques available as well if you cannot visualize the egg.   After success, you will see that the vent area will have pink tissue exposed.  The vent is prolapsed.  Apply some Neosporin and if severe, Preparation H to the vent area and place the chicken in a dark (does not stimulate egg laying) warm place to rest. Be sure to provide food and water.  After a day or so, return her to her flock.  Hopefully, the next egg she lays will be easier for her to pass.


You will find that your chickens love to eat kitchen scraps as well as tasty findings around the yard that they discover on their journeys.  Once pullets reach egg laying age, they should be eating layer grade food.  Roosters are fine to eat layer pellets.  It does not harm them in any way. 

Chickens love to eat apples, berries, breads, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, lettuces and greens, melons, oatmeal, rice, squash, zucchini, grapes tomatoes and pumpkins. Chickens should NOT EAT salt, citrus, processed foods from the kitchen, potato peels, avocados, sodas/carbonated beverages, chocolate, coffee/coffee grounds, garlic and onions.  They should also avoid greasy foods as well.  Kitchen scraps should always be fed in moderation.  The chickens will lay best if they primarily eat their layer pellets.  Here is a more thorough list.

I also supplement my flock's diet with food grade diatomaceous earth and I put apple cider vinegar with the mother in it in their water, 1 tablespoon per gallon, as well as electrolytes and vitamins during times of stress.  In addition, once a week, I give them organic plain yogurt. In my experience, it does not give my chickens diarrhea. It helps with preventing egg eating and also acts as another calcium source.


Depending on where you live, there are many predators that would like to have your flock for their next meal.  If you are a responsible flock owner and you take proper precautions, the risk of losing one of your beloved chickens to a predator can be minimized.  Potential predators include fox, coyotes, bob cats, fisher cats, raccoons, weasels, rats, snakes and hawks.  Here are some helpful tips:

1. Use predator proof locks on all your coop’s and run’s doors.

2. Use only ½ inch hardware cloth on your coop and run. Do not use chicken wire.

3. Bury the hardware cloth 18 inches around the perimeter of your run and coop, bending the bottom portion of the buried wire out a couple of inches. This will help deter digging predators.

4. Remember to lock up your flock every night in the coop.

5. Install motion activated lighting near your coop.

4. Remember to lock up your flock every night in the coop.

5. Install motion activated lighting near your coop.


We never intended on having a rooster.  However, because Sikie Bantams are difficult to sex, we ended up with two roosters.  Unfortunately Peanut was rehomed and Chocolate was too.   If you decide to keep a rooster,  you will need to take a few more steps to be sure that he does not become a nuisance to those around you.  I would also recommend that you check with your local laws and verify that you can keep a rooster.

Roosters are noisy and do not crow only during the daylight hours. Roosters will crow at any time of the day, even in the middle of the night. They crow for several reasons, not only due to light exposure. They crow to assert their territory, ward off danger and to alert the flock.  When keeping a rooster, you need to be respectful of your neighbor's rights. Like barking dogs, rooster can become annoying to those within earshot.
1. Keep your rooster in the coop during evening and early morning hours.

2. If your rooster crows for more than 5 minutes consistently, investigate the cause.

3. Provide distractions to help with crowing, such as treats and scratch.

4. Discuss the rooster with your neighbors. Consider sharing your eggs with them. A dozen eggs can create an amicable relationship with your neighbors.

5. Welcome neighbors to stop in and visit your flock. The chickens might enjoy your neighbors bringing them treats like celery and lettuce.

6. Re-home aggressive roosters.


I have now been through 2 broody episodes with Dolly and now it appears that Autumn has gone broody too.  I have blogged an awful lot about broody hens these past few months!   Hens go broody when they seek to hatch some babies of their own.  Often you will know that a hen has gone broody, because she sits on the nest even when it is empty.  Broodiness, if let to run it's course, lasts about 20 days.  While she is broody, she will briefly come off the nest one or two times per day to eat, drink and poop.  There are techniques that you can try to break a hen of it's broodiness.  In my opinion, they are cruel.  I prefer to let nature run it's course. It is a good habit to harvest the eggs from the nesting boxes a few times per day.   This helps to decrease broodiness.  Be sure to keep a fresh supply of water and food close too.  She will not venture too far away from her nest, eggs or no eggs.


If you have a broody hen and a rooster, you can try hatching some of your eggs.  A hen will sit on any fertilized eggs.  You can even purchase eggs from a hatchery, if you have a broody hen.  You can also incubate eggs on your own with an incubator. 

Either way, it takes any where from 19-21 days to hatch eggs.  We just hatched our own Silkie eggs with Dolly and Chocolate.  If you are hatching eggs the natural way, you will need to create a brooder and a safe haven for the mother hen to be!  Also, it is a good idea to set up visitation of the broody hen with her original flock.  This way they remember each other.  It will be easier to reintroduce them with minimal disturbance of the pecking order and avoid you having to deal with broody poop!

Be sure to candle your eggs at about one week and then at 14 days to determine that they remain viable.  Eggs that are not fertilized or no longer have developing fetuses within them will turn rotten.  They can emit harmful gases and can even explode!  It is best to remove them as soon as possible.


At some point sooner or later, one of your chickens will be under the weather.  It is best to remove that chicken from the rest of the flock.  Some people will cull their chickens once they appear ill.  I take mine to a veterinarian that specializes in birds/chickens.  There have been two instances where the vet has helped restore my chickens' health.  Although there is a lot of information on the internet about dealing with sick chickens, it is my opinion that they should only serves as guides.  It is always best, when available in your area, to see the chicken vet.  They are the experts.  They had many years of schooling regarding avian illnesses and they cannot be replaced by the internet.

Raising chickens has been a very easy experience.  I would highly recommend it to everyone that is interested.  It is addictive and provides fresh eggs for you and your family as well as many other life lessons.  Spring time is here and so are the chicks at your local feed and grain stores.

March 19, 2011

Chicken Physical Therapy

Well, I had to do something.  As a nurse practitioner with a specialty in rehabilitation, I had to try.  So, last night after the bedtime routines were finished and the kids went to bed, I fetched Percy Peepers from the brooder.  I found it not under Dolly like the rest of the them.  Instead, it was sleeping next to the heat lamp.

Here I am, my toes are all straight!
Waking from it's sleep, I brought it inside to the TV room where my husband was watching the Tar Heels.  I first assessed it walking on the carpet.  In the afternoon, I had removed the splint from its' foot.  The toes are now nice and straight.  Still, hobbling around, Percy seemed stronger and a bit faster.  Next, I moved onto range of motion.  I first took the strong leg and found out what was normal flexibility for a chicken's leg.  Then I went over to the affected leg.  A scab remains on the back of the knee.  The leg is now stiff.  Slowly, I gently extended the knee past the area of restriction.  Over a period of several repititions, the knee started to relax and gain better range.  Then we practiced proprioception, knowing where your foot is in space and time.  Gently, as I supported Percy's weight, I helped to support, place and guide Percy to stand correctly on two feet.  Between repetitions, we rested.  We worked for about 20 minutes together.  Finally, when we finished, I gave Percy Peepers some love. 

As I laid on the couch, Percy climbed into the crook of my neck between my chin and chest.  The chick quickly fell asleep.  I even heard what I think was a pleasure trill.  A half hour passed, and I decided to return Percy to its' family.  I brought Percy over to Dolly.  All of the other chicks were still sleeping underneath of her.  I guided Percy to Dolly's breast feathers and Percy quickly scuttled underneath of Dolly. 

Photo credit:  Tilly's Nest

March 18, 2011

An Irish Treat

Cabbage on St. Patrick's Day

Despite all that has been going on in the brooder with Dolly and the seven new baby chick, the rest of the flock has still been getting lots of attention.  Yesterday, was their first St. Patrick's Day!  I could not resist giving them their own St. Patty's Day treat of cabbage!  I tore up half of the cabbage and scattered it on the ground in the run.  This would ensure that even those at the bottom of the pecking order would get to have a treat.  The rest I placed in the treat ball.  Tilly loves to dodge at the swinging treat ball after it gets pecked by one of the girls.  They have so much fun together!

Here is the flock enjoying the treat ball and the cabbage that was all over the run.  The girls and Chocolate had so much fun!  In the meantime, Dolly is finding that the chicks are becoming more independent.  Afterall, Egg number 3 is now 1 week old!  The older chicks are started to develop wing feathers. 

I am also finding that they do not seek shelter under Dolly as much as they used to.  Yesterday, they were all snoozing together in front of the heat lamp.  They were sheltered by the heat lamp on one side and Dolly on the other creating a fluffy patchwork quilt of chicks.  They are thriving, eating and drinking like crazy!  I don't remember my original girls from the hatchery last Spring eating this much.  It seems like Dolly is constantly suggesting to them that they eat.  She pecks at the chick food with much enthusiasm.  She even takes tiny bits and gives them to some of the chicks individually.  She is doing a great job. 

Percy Peeper is also hanging in there.  The toes on its' right feet are straightening and hopefully on Monday, I will be able to take off the brace and start some chick physical therapy.  I might just need to call my friend who is a therapist to help!

Eating as usual with Mama Dolly

March 17, 2011


It feels like I didn't sleep a wink last night.  I tossed and turned about poor Number 8.  Yesterday, shortly after my post, I went to check on everyone in the brooder.  In the middle of the brooder, I found the hobble splint but no Number 8.  All of the chicks were napping under Dolly.  I removed Number 8 and quickly discovered that the back of it's knee was bleeding on the bad leg.  I can only assume that maybe it was pecked while the hobble was removed by the chickens.  I also noticed that the bone was poking through the skin.  I did not replace the hobble.  I put some Neosporin on the wound and returned Number 8 under Dolly.

Sitting in my daughter's hands

Yesterday afternoon, I called the vet and made an appointment for this morning, but I actually called this morning and cancelled it.  Number 8 this morning looks much improved and seems stronger.  Still hobbling around, it is eating and drinking and in the middle of all of the other chicks.  The wound is now scabbed over with no obvious signs of infections or visible bone.  As for the foot, it seems a little worse.

You can see my foot with it's brace

Number 8 has been holding the leg up while resting.  Perhaps because it hurts from the wound.  I am not sure.  The outer toes were curling under the foot a little. So, I took a bandaid and splinted the foot.  If Number 8 is going to ever walk normally, the foot needs to remain functional.  I think that I will try the hobble splint once more early next week. I also posted to Backyard Chickens my concerns with Number 8.  I had some very positive and nice advice.  People say that Number 8 can lead a normal life, even laying eggs if it is a girl, despite having a handicap.  For now, I am taking Number 8 under my wing at Tilly's Nest.  If Number 8 does survive and turns out to be a female, she will live a very spoiled and pampered life remaining with us despite where her siblings are rehomed.  Number 8 is also the first chick with a real name. The kids have named Number 8 "Peeper".  Peeper because the poor thing is really loud when I have to bring it in the house for medical attention. I have decided to name Number 8 "Perserverance" or "Percy" for short...Percy Peeper! I cannot think of a name more fitting that that!

I felt so safe and warm, I feel asleep.

March 16, 2011

Splayed Leg

Poor baby, my little egg number 8, the Lavender Silkie, has a splayed leg.  The right leg is not working properly.  Since the baby was born, the leg was floppy.  Today, it is two days old and the leg is jutting out to the side.  I discovered that sometimes, trauma or hatching can injure the legs.  I needed to create a hobble splint in order to try and save the chick's life.  I gathered my materials.

Some websites recommend using bandaids, masking tape or pipe cleaners.  I found one that recommends using this type of adhesive bandage.  It is not too sticky to tug at and stick on feathers.  The best part was that I just happened to have some in my first aid kit at home.  Here is what I did:

I unrolled the  flexible fabric-like tape.
I cut a 1/4" piece lengthwise
I fastened the tape around the chick's legs as shown
(you may add plastic tape where the ends attach for reinforcement)

Here is number 8 standing tall.

I am hoping that this does the trick and corrects the foot problem over the course of the next week.  The chick continues to eat and drink and move around the brooder as best as it can.  Unfortunately, if I am not successful, the chick will have to be euthanized.  I don't even want to think about that for one minute.  Please keep number 8 in your chicken prayers. 

Photos credits: Tilly's Nest, GuineaFowl

March 15, 2011

Chick Fever

Number 8's pip hole
Yesterday evening, both eggs number 8 and 9 had pip holes.  Number eight arrived around 7 pm and what a shock!  Once number 8 was completely dried after sitting underneath Dolly, I discovered that egg number 8's color was different.  I was mistaken in my last posts.  After some researching, it appears that most of the chicks are going to be Black Silkies.  However, not number 8.  Number 8 is a Lavender Silkie. 

According to sources, there is about a 25% chance per clutch that you will get a lavender Silkie.  Well, we got one!  Egg number 8 is so very fair and definitely a silvery color.  There is absolutely no black anywhere.  All the others are black with yellow tipped wings, yellow bellies and yellow feet feathers.  Some of their toes are even yellow.  Egg number 8 has black toes, just like Mommy.

Number 8!
Yesterday, egg number 9 started peeping as well.  Even though both eggs 8 and nine both had pips at the same time.  They did not hatch at the same time like the twins did two days ago.  Finally, egg number 9 hatched this morning about 8:45am.  For now, it is still to wet to determine the coloring, but I think it is a Black Silkie. 

I have also photographed the inside of the empty egg shell.  I am absolutely amazed at the shell.  I love to see the remains of the chick's life source.  I am amazed at the remaining thin membrane and the vasculature that supported this chick's life over the last 21 days.
Life support

When I started out on this journey with Dolly, I read that the mother hen will abandon any eggs that she feels are not viable.  With my inexperience, I placed eggs underneath her over a four day period.  I knew that the hatch dates would be staggered.  I did not know if Dolly would remain on the eggs for the entire time but she did.  She knew. 

While Dolly patiently waited on the nest for the others to hatch and strengthen, she allow the older chicks to leave her safety.  The older chicks come out from underneath Dolly and walk over for food and water. 

All of our remaining eggs have hatched!  We have a total of seven live chicks. I consider this experience life changing for my family. It is wonderful to raise day old chick like we did last Spring from the hatchery.  However, it is an amazing family experience to have hatched them on your own!