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The Nest

Catching a glimpse


It's not only the girls at Tilly's Nest that are having babies.  We've had a few house finches busy in our topiary by our garage.  Today I peered in and this is what I saw; three light blue eggs with brown speckles.  I was so touched by the nest's tranquil beauty. 

Today, I am spending most of my time in the gardens preparing the beds as they wake from their Winter slumber.  I am also cleaning up around the outside of the coop and reseeding some of the lawn that the chickens enjoyed to death! 

This is my favorite time of the year.  Signs of life are everywhere.  Take time to enjoy life's beautiful quiet moments.  You'll find you are surrounded by them.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Lovey

Peering up at me while getting comfortable

My four year old daughter has had a blanket since she was one day old.  Her blanket is called Lovey.  Lovey comes everywhere with us.  Over the years, she has been loved, has stains that no longer wash out and she has a smell that only my daughter could love.  Somehow, that never quite goes away no matter how many washings!

Dottie Speckles was in the house yesterday and it did not take her long to discover Lovey.  In fact, she was very quick to settle down into the fleecy snuggles of Lovey.  Then, she fell asleep.

Fast Asleep
It was so sweet seeing Dottie sleep on something so loved. It was even sweeter to see my daughter share something that she loves so very much with our baby chick.  Somehow, Lovey just makes everything better, even for Dottie Speckles.

You Know You Love Chickens...

Miss Tilly
When you dream about them at night.

When they all have names.

When you feed them special treats.

When you give them baths.

When you take them to a vet.

When you watch them more than the TV.

When you hug and kiss them.

When you tuck them in at night.

When you babysit them from hawks while they free-range.

When you add items just for the chickens to your grocery list.

When they can brighten the worst possible day.

When you find yourself constantly reading about them.

When you are always thinking of expanding your coop and run.

When your children call you a chicken grandma!

Hand Wash, Dry on Low Heat

Well, I could no longer stand looking at Sunshine's poopy bottom.  So, today, I took action.  Did you know that chickens are washable?  Poor Sunshine likes to sleep the first half of the night on the floor.  Often when I lock them in for the night she is laying right in front of her family.  Then, sometimes before I go to bed, I check on them. I always find that she has relocated to the roost for the evening.  Little does she know that this pattern is creating her poop to collect around her vent.

Here is what I used:

A plastic bin from the hospital
Dawn dishwashing detergent
A rinsing bowl with clean  warm water
A hair dryer
Two bath sized towels

I went out and easily grabbed Sunshine.  She was eager to go.  I think she thought that she was getting special treatment.  Little did she know... 

I placed her on the ground and wrapped the bath towel over her wings and around her body a couple of times.  This would help to keep her calm and prevent her from flapping her wings.  Then I placed her in the plastic bin filled with a little Dawn detergent and warm water.  She liked it.  She talked to me the entire time.  It was sweet talk.  She was not nervous at all, in fact, it seemed like she knew that it had to be done!

With some gentle massaging of the soiled feathers between my fingers, the poop let loose and clean feathers were back.  It took me about 5 minutes.  When I was satisfied, I rinsed her feathers with cupped hands of water.  Then I brought her over to the dry towel.  I stood her there.  Still mummified in the other towel with her only her head, feet and bottom exposed,  I gently dried her with the second towel.  Then I turned the hairdryer on low and warm heat.  She instantly sat down.

She was adorable!  Her chicken legs and toes were straight out in front of her.  The fluffing of her bottom soon began.  Which once were wet, sparse feathers, soon became fluffy, beautiful, light and airy.  Sunshine's bottom was wonderful again. 

New Beginnings, Bright Futures


My last moment with Percy

Percy and his sibling, Peanut Butter Cup, made the hour and a half journey from our home on the Cape to the new farm this morning.  Last night and this morning, I spent much time observing the chicks intereact. I ended up selecting one of the chicks that was always curious about Percy.  In fact, last night Percy spent the night next to this little chick.  As I took the time to locate Percy's companion, the little chick came to me.  It peered into my eyes, almost as if it knew.  I grabbed him first.  Then I grabbed Percy.  I placed them in a cardboard brooder and into the car they went.  I covered the box of the brooder lightly with a towel.  I hoped that they would nap on the trip.  I grabbed a check from the checkbook and we were off.

Next, we stopped at our local feed store and picked up a new chick feeder, new waterer, chick grit, 10 pounds of chick starter, and 50 pounds of grower feed.  We were not sure if they had little items for chicks and we wanted to ensure that the chicks would be as comfortable as possible.  I was nervous driving the entire time.  Every possible worry passed through my stream of consciousness.  No, this was going to all work out fine.

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at Maple Farm Sanctuary.  Immediately upon stepping out of the car, I could sense peacefulness.  I quickly was introduced to Cheri and her husband, the owners of the sanctuary.  I was instantly struck by the kindness and caring heart of Cheri.  She already had love in her heart for these two little chickens, especially Percy Peepers.  She was very thankful of the donation and goods that we gave to the sanctuary.  I took some pictures of Percy's new home and spent a few moments giving him love and more kisses.  I knew, however, that despite the ache in my heart, this was the right decision.  Percy and Peanut Butter Cup were going to have a wonderful life here amongst cows, horses, fellow chickens, llamas, goats, geese and a large pig named Johnathan! 

New friends
New sights





















Today was not easy for me.  I tried to create as many memories as I could about Percy.  I wonder if he will remember me?  I hope that he knows that he is loved and that I did this out of my love for him.  I hope Peanut Butter Cup knows too that I will be forever grateful for his companionship to Percy. I'm glad that they will be together.  I know that that little bird will continue to touch many more peoples' lives.  He is a special little chicken. 

Interestingly, Cheri believes that Percy Peepers is female and Peanut Butter Cup is male.  We agreed to be in email contact with one another over the coming months.  I can't wait to hear how everything is going!  Good luck little chickens and may your guardian angels watch over you.  You will both be missed but never forgotten.


Beautiful grounds



Maple Farm Sanctuary is always looking for donations, donated goods and volunteers.  If would like to help make a difference in the lives of animals, please click here.


Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

An Easter Blessing

View from above,  sleeping Percy tucked safely by the food dish.
As many of you have been following the story of Percy Peepers, I was blessed with wonderful news this morning.  I have found a farm sanctuary about 1 hour from our home who has agreed to take Percy. At the sanctuary, Percy will be able to live out his natural life, however long that might be. 

I have grappled with this decision for a very long time. I have lost many hours of sleep and cried many a tear over the entire situation.  In my heart of hearts, as I watched Percy grow and develop, it became clearer to me that he would require much more attention than I was able to provide. With Percy's bad leg and his constant wing flapping while getting around, I would not be able to take Percy into the house.  I also knew that Percy would never be able to integrate into a new flock. Most likely, he would be seen as a weak bird and constantly tormented by the others.  Percy would need to be in a separate cage.  Chickens also need companions.  Therefore, I made the decision to send Percy with one of his healthy siblings to the farm sanctuary.  His siblings have accepted him.  I know this because they all still sleep together huddled together on the pine shavings.  Best of all, Percy will not be alone.


2 week old Dottie Speckles pays a visit to 5 week old Percy

Percy is now almost six weeks.  I will try and watch over the next 24 hours who likes to be with Percy the best.  This is the sibling that will accompany him to his new home.  I will also allow my children to name Percy's companion.  Giving something life that was not intended to live is miraculous in itself.  I am proud to share this lesson with my children.  I am also glad that my children were able to witness believing in something that given the circumstances might not have been allowed to persever.  Our family has all been touched by Percy Peepers.  He is a brave little chicken with a big heart, courage and perseverance. 

Our trip is planned for tomorrow.


If you would like to make a donation to the farm sanctuary where Percy and his sibling will go, please click here.  Thank you to Cheri for believing.




http://www.homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/



Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest


Happy Easter

Happy Easter to you and your loved ones. 

~From our nest to yours




Some Enchanted Evening

Do you ever have those moments when you can't wait any longer to fix something wrong in the coop?  Well, after dinner last night, I did.  I knew that I needed to adjust the hardware cloth that I had buried in the ground last Fall to guard my flock from predators.  I needed to rebend and relocate some of the cloth. The girls were digging such deep holes that lead to exposed wire edging.  I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.

So, with tools in hand, especially my Cobrahead (which just so happens to be one of the best digging tools I own), I set out.  It was around 5:30 pm and I knew that I had about 2 more hours before sunset.  The best part, was that the girls could free-range for almost 2 hours!

Everyone was let out except for the broody girls and Dolly.  They preferred to stay in the coop as I worked.  I locked them into the coop and then removed the run.  My set-up is easy this way,  nothing is attached permanently.  This makes for easy cleaning and reassembly.  As I worked, the girls could not be more curious.

Tilly came to visit me the most.  I would call out to them when I found a tasty bug or worm.  In my best chicken impression, deep and low, I called out their names then, "Duht, duht, duht, dut".  No matter where Tilly girl was, she would come running!  It was fun.  As I redug some of the trenches, the girls could also not help peering into the sides of the 12 inch trench.  They would jump from side to side and stick their long necks into the deep abyss.  They also could not help knocking the dirt back in.  I think they thought it was funny watching Mom dig holes like chickens.  At one point they all dug around me.  So much dirt, leaves and woodchips were flying, I had to take a moment and just smile.

Chocolate too was on his best behavior.  He romanced his girls one at a time.  Strutting around the yard with them and offering up all tasty morsels.  I guess it wasn't quite so Disney when it came to Tilly.  My goodness, I think he lured her in for loving!  That poor girl, there was no end in sight.  Finally, I had to pull him off her.  She can only take so much feather pulling!

All in all, despite the hard work, I had a great time watching the evening shadows begin to appear after sunset.  It was a magical time with the girls.  It had been such a long time since we were able to spend so much time together in one gathering.  It was enchanting.  As I came into the house, the Spring Peepers had just begun their evening serenade of the woodland creatures of the night.

I'm Just Saying

I never really connected how old chicken sayings came to be.  Sure, I knew what they meant, but after experiencing chickens first hand, somehow, they are so much more understandable.


Fly the coop-- to leave in a hurry.  Oyster Cracker tries this every chance she gets!  Yesterday, while I was collecting eggs, she came running at full speed and forced her large feathery body right out the top of the nesting box.  Her freedom was short lived, but she did get a good amount of love before I returned her back behind the run. 

Don't count your eggs before they hatch--Don't plan an for a certain outcome before it happens.  After having hatched our own eggs I can completely relate.  We started out with 9 eggs.  1 was infertile, 1 failed to progress much farther along than 1 week.  Out of all of our chicks, 6 are completely healthy and thriving and one, Percy Peepers, is handicapped.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket--Don't plan for an outcome before it occurs.  Note to self , heed this when collecting our own eggs especially when young children are involved.

Hen pecked--Nagged.  I sure have seen this, especially when one of the broody girls does not want to leave the box for another gal higher up on the pecking order to lay her eggs.

Pecking order--Finding your position.  I have seen this a couple of times.  Often the girls gently reassert their positions in the flock.  I always see this as babies are growing from chicks into young chickens.  It also happens whenever I introduce/reintroduce someone to the flock.

As scarce as hens teeth--rare.  So far, I have yet to see one.  Have you?

Rules the roost--The one who is in charge.  Chocolate definitely thinks he is the king in his kingdom, while Tilly is our head hen.

Nest egg--Saving up money over time.  It takes a while to develop a full clutch of eggs to sit upon.  During that time, they eggs are treated with the utmost care.  I also find it amazing that once the hen sets, she is patient and attentive to them.

Shake a tail feather--Get moving.  After the girls come out of their dust bowls from their baths, they not only shake their tail feathers, they shake their entire bodies. 

Empty nest syndrome--Sadness and loneliness after children leave the home.  We just witnessed this with Dolly.  She was so torn about leaving her babies.  She was sad for about a week.  Then she made her decision to join her old flock.

Chicken Scratch--poor handwriting.  Let's just say, I cannot even imagine what those girls would write if I gave them each a pencil!


Can you think of any other chicken sayings that you can now relate to?


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Live and Active Cultures

Oyster Cracker, Sunshine and Dolly enjoy their yogurt.

The girls love yogurt!  It had been a little while since they had some and they were so happy when I arrived with two bowls filled with plain organic yogurt.  As I called out to them to announce my arrival, they knew.  They saw this time that I was carrying two bowls and that could only mean that yogurt was on its way.  The energy at the door was frantic.  Oyster Cracker pushed her way through and got the first taste even before I could place the bowls on the ground.  Usually, I bring two bowls.  Each filled halfway, to ensure that even those on the lowest of the pecking order get to enjoy this delicious treat.

I love watching the chickens as they eat the yogurt.  I think this is as much of a treat for me as it is for the flock.  Yogurt eating is a messy endeavor.  Be prepared for lots of yogurt flinging and feathers dotted with white yummy goodness.  When they do come up for air between bites, their beaks are dipped in gooey yogurt.  If only they had longer tongues.


Coming up for air
I have always felt that yogurt is beneficial to my flock for a number of reasons.  Although some folks say that it causes their chickens to have loose stools, I myself, have never witnessed it.  In fact, I have seen the opposite.  I find that my chickens are happier when they have the yogurt.  It brings calcium and probiotics to their gastrointestinal system.  It helps to maintain and promote the balance of normal bacteria that live in the gut. Did you also know that the University of Florida, believes that feeding milk based products to your flock can help prevent egg eating by the chickens?

This morning the three broody girls were in the boxes, as usual, before the yogurt arrived.  Feathers saw it first and darted out of her box.  The other two soon followed.  They came running when they saw the yogurt.   You know they love it if it can break the broody spells over three of my chickens.  If you do decide to try yogurt with your flock, I recommend only serving plain unflavored yogurt with live and active cultures.  It might just be their next favorite treat.

Closely guarding one of the bowls


Henny Spurs

Hen spurs

Did you know that hens can develop spurs?  I had no idea. I was under the impression that only roosters develop spurs to use as a weapon against potential threats.  I guess I was wrong. Hens can get them too!

I first noticed that Dottie Speckles,  at one week of age, appeared to be developing tiny bumps where spurs would grow.  I, of course, panicked.  I would be so upset if she was a rooster.  I quickly started to do some research.  Of course, I went to the community forum of backyard chickens.  Within minutes, I soon discovered that I was not alone in my quest for answers.  Apparently, to no surprise, there were multiple responses to my own questions!

According to the site, hens can develop spurs.  Sometimes they grow no further than tiny bumps and other times,they will grow actual spurs.  The spurs will never grow to the size of their male counterparts, but they are believed to be a very old genetic trait that expresses itself in some breeds of chickens.  People then went on to say that some of their hens with spurs are the best egg layers that they own.  Thank goodness! However, just to be sure, I took a trip to the feed store where I purchased Dottie.

Once at the feed store, I was able to take a peek at the little Silver Laced Wyandottes still for sale.  They were from the same delivery as Dottie.  Upon closer inspection of the little girls in the brooder, about half of them had mini-spur bumps.  Once I pointed this out to the sales girls, she too was amazed, but reassured me that they definitely had ordered all female chicks.  When I came home yesterday, for the first time, I noticed that Tilly herself has had spur bumps all along!


Photo credit:  Backyardchickens.com

A Few Days Away

Today was a traveling day. We returned home from a couple of days visiting relatives in the Berkshires.  I am usually anxious after a long trip to return to the girls and see what they have been doing.  I am also curious to see if they remember me. 

First I visited with the chicks.  Apparently, the chicks decided to grow like little weeds!  They all seem so much bigger than when I left.  Their bodies are completely feathered and now their head feathers are beginning to appear.  Dottie Speckles is also growing.  As she is now one week old, I am beginning to see signs of wing feathers. Can you believe the chicks are eating about a pound of food per day?  It is amazing that at 5 weeks, the older chicks are starting to look like mini-chickens!

Next, I went out to the main coop and flock.  Everyone was so happy to see me.  They came running across the run.  I even think I saw Oyster Cracker leap for joy.  It is so nice to get such a warm welcome! Everyone enjoyed taking their turns with me. Later, as I opened the nesting boxes, the three broody girls were still sitting on their invisible eggs.  This made me smile the most.  Everything is just as I left it.

Holy Moley!

Yesterday morning, I let Dottie Speckles, our one week old Silver Laced Wyandotte, come into the house to see the kids and spend a little time with her human family.  It is very important to me that we encourage her to like us and not fear humans.  We had fun getting to know her.  She enjoyed nuzzling into the notch of my neck.  Then I felt it; OUCH!

That hurt.  She was pecking at my mole.  I repositioned her on my chest and moved my t-shirt up higher on my neck. She walked around on my chest for a little then returned to my neck.  The kids enjoyed petting her.  She too was enjoying it so much that soon enough, she was closing her eyes.  Then, again in a different spot, OUCH!  She was after a different mole!  I thought that time she drew blood.  Who knew that moles were so sensitive?

I decided to move her down to my belly.  There she sat.  As I was teaching my 4 year old daughter to pet with 2 fingers, Dottie went after another mole on my arm!  Goodness, I think she is addicted.  After spending about 30 minutes together as a family, we returned her to her chicken brothers and sisters back in the brooder.

I smiled as I closed the door to the tiny coop.  Thinking to myself, now I have a chicken that not only steals jewelry from my ears, but also one that loves to attack my moles.  Who knew that chicken keeping could be so dangerous!  Somehow, I am not so afraid to try bee-keeping now.



www.homesteadrevival.blogspot.com

Decisions

Percy Peepers stands alone

I haven't talked much about Percy Peepers lately.  I guess because part of me finds the entire situation sad.  Percy Peepers continues to eat and drink but does not seem to be growing much.  He is about half the size of his siblings and it seems that Dottie will soon surpass him. In addition, Dolly Mama who cared so tenderly for his special needs decided a few days ago to return to the large flock.

Percy is having a very difficult time getting around the coop.  Often, I find him alone to the side.  His weight now seems too much for his little legs to bear.  Usually I find him in a corner off to the side, observing his siblings participating in chicken life. Some stop over and say hello, but their time together is very brief. Luckily at night, I still find Percy Peepers sleeping together with the other chicks. I do not think that he will ever survive outside.

I know that over the next few weeks, I must make some difficult decisions. Some may say that he is only a little chick, but to me he has conquered so many hurdles and touched my heart along the way.  It is very hard when you love something to make a difficult decision. 

Not alone for long

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

If you are like me, you clip out recipes that you would someday like to try but haven't gotten around to it.  This one is from Alton Brown, of Food Network fame, and got fabulous reviews.  I think I am going to try and make this one this weekend.  It seems so easy and delicious. Let me know what you think too!


Ingredients:

1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
11/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
6 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise (prefer Hellman's or Best Foods)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Directions:
Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender and drain. Discard liquid. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.

The original recipe can be found here.


On a side note, today I am posting a recipe. I am heading up the organic schoolyard garden at my son's school and this is what we built this morning.  Tomorrow, I promise more chickens.  The recipe did call for mayonnaise. Mayonnaise comes from eggs!



30 raised beds built and filled with organic soil and compost

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Homecoming

Last night, Dolly slept with the large flock out in the coop.  She has decided to return home with her older flock now that her chicks are 4 weeks old.  It took her a few days to make her decision.  Dolly and I worked together to help her transition easier.  Over the past few days, she spent more and more time out with her old family and less and less time with the chicks.  Today, she no longer calls for her chicks when in the large coop area. She also no longer cares to find me to help her return to the brooder and her chicks.  She has made her decision.

I do have to say that keeping the chicks is a bit easier for me without Dolly in the brooder with them.  I find that I do not have to clean out the waterer and feed dish as frequently.  Perhaps, it is because there is not an over sized chicken in the brooder scratching pine shavings everywhere.  The chicks are also not as afraid of my hand.  Still timid, I can reach in and not have panic ensue.  I also do not have Dolly pecking at my hand and warning her babies of my hand's arrival.

Last night, the babies slept well.   They did not look for Dolly to help them fall asleep as they did two nights ago.  Instead, they nestled together,creating a downy patchwork quilt amongst the brooder floor.  In the middle of it all, was Dottie Speckles, our 4 day old chick, laying her head on the wing of her new found sibling, our brooder's alpha rooster!

Finally, a small pecking order is starting to develop.  At the helm is Dottie Speckles!  She runs the show.  I find it so funny.  Everyone in the brooder follows her lead.  She holds her head high and carries herself as though she is very important.  When she drinks and eats, everyone follows her lead.  She is a hot ticket. I also find that the roosters are starting to have mini-battles to determine the alpha male.  I laugh, as it reminds me of a real western showdown.  Everyone is growing up so quickly.

I am glad that Dolly is happy to be with her old family and in her original home where she can relax, visit and scratch amongst familiar surroundings in the run.  There truly is no place like home; even for chickens.  Meanwhile...three other hens are broody in the coop!


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A Matter of Size

She is the tiny little head toward the top right.
   
Dottie Speckles is growing up fast.  While the others are almost 4 weeks old and appear to be in their awkward teenage stage, Dottie is 4 days old.  Yet, she thinks she is one of the big kids!  I often find her shouldering her way in between the others that are taking a drink and eating.  She also loves to stand in the middle of their morning scratch treat.  She is not afraid of the scratch frenzy that occurs!  She enjoys preening and scratching amongst the floor shavings.  I think that she has even begun to pick-up the others' bad habits!  Dottie loves to be the center of attention.  I think that Tilly is going to meet her match when I introduce Dottie to the rest of the flock.

Dolly decided this morning that she wanted to be with her big family.  I returned her early to the run this morning.  She is having a great time.  Later, I will see if she wants to return to her chicks.  It's up to her today.  In the meantime, I would not be surprised if Dottie is running the entire show next week.


Here she is next to one possible rooster
Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest

The Sleepover

Yesterday around 4 pm, Dolly desperately wanted to go outside into the bigger run.  I really could not blame her, as I too would be tired of living  in a brooder with 8 little chicks.  She needed sometime to herself.  I obliged.

Out in the run, she was having a fantastic time.  She took a dust bath and enjoyed standing on the log with Chocolate shouting out to the world her return.  She was having so much fun that she did not want to return.  Around 5:30pm, I needed to leave to run an errand and I knew that I would most likely not be back until after they went to bed for the night.  I tried to bribe her to return to her chicks.  I tried treats, love talk and reaching into the coop without any success.  Finally, I decided to just leave her.  Meanwhile, things were quiet in the brooder as the babies were all taking a nap.

When we returned, it was after 9pm.  Everyone including Dolly was asleep.  I locked up the coop and then came inside to spend time with the babies.  Everyone was sleeping except for Dottie Speckles.  She was having a party at night, like most newborn infants do. She was peeping and eating and drinking and having fun running over her new siblings' backs.  Despite her silly antics, no one got upset at her.  Finally, she did settle in amongst the downy blankets of chicks and fell asleep.

Last night it poured.  We awoke to thunder and lightening and a deluge from the sky.  When I went outside to the large coop and run.  Dolly was inside the coop looking for her babies.  She was calling for them.  She seemed upset and kept trying to look underneath the broody twins, Meesha and Autumn for her babies.  She was easy to grab.  I picked her up.  She did not fuss one bit.  I returned her to the brooder.  It was a sweet little reunion.  They were all happy to see each other.  Dottie Speckles kept jumping up to pull on Dolly's upper chest feathers. 

They say that Mother Hens will let their babies on their own at about 6 weeks.  Everyone is now 3 and 1/2 weeks old except for Dottie Speckles.  Over the next coming week, I think that I will let Dolly determine what she wants to do.  I will continue to give her choices.  I can tell that she is torn between freedom and her babies.  I wish I could let her know that her chicks will be just fine no matter what.

Dottie Speckles

Ever so tiny


Here she is!  The kids want to call her "Dots" for short.  She is now two days old and I could not have asked for a better outcome.  Yesterday, continued to be a day of getting to know each other.  Interestingly, I have noticed a difference with chicks hatched by a mother hen vs. an incubator.

While Dolly, brooded over her eggs last month, I would often find her talking to them, touching them, rocking them and rolling them.  It seems as though the babies knew Dolly long before they met her in person.  Once the babies hatched, they all spoke the same language.  When Dolly told them to eat, drink and let out a warning signal, all of the babies seemed to know just what to do.  She is a fantastic mother; incredibly careful and tender with all of her babies.

I have gorgeous legs!

Right from the start, it was clear to me that Dottie Speckles had no idea who Dolly was, nor did she have any idea what a mother hen was.  In the hatchery, she never felt or heard her Mother's touch.  Instead she heard the whirring of the heating fans and felt a machine tilt her from side to side in a methodical timed fashion.

Last night before bed, I checked on everyone in the garage.  All were sleeping.  Dottie Speckles was sleeping amongst and closely nestled into her new found siblings' warm little bodies.  Usually, a day old chick would normally sleep underneath their mother.

This morning, I awoke and checked on the chicks.  Everyone was happy and alive.  Dottie Speckles was pipping and popping all over the place with a smile in every step that she took!  As I was changing out the feeder and waterer,  I purposefully tried to go in and grab Dottie Speckles when she was right in front of Dolly.  Dolly pecked me!  I was overjoyed, this could only mean that Dolly has accepted Dottie Speckles as one of her own.

I quickly finished my business and sat quietly in front of the brooder watching Dolly and the chicks' interaction.  Dolly settled down on the floor of the brooder surrounded by her chicks.  Then, Dottie Speckles went over to Dolly's wing.  She curiously and gently tugged on a feather of Dolly's wing.  Dolly lifted up her wing and Dottie Speckles in turn tucked herself into the space between Dolly's wing and her body.  I was so touched and overcome with emotions.  I have learned many things about life from our chickens.  Today, Dolly reminded our family of tolerance and acceptance for those that are different.

Speckled feathers adorn my face. They look like freckles to my human family.


Shopping

Today I ventured to the local feed store to pick-up more food for the ever growing baby chicks.  They are eating so much lately, almost a pound per day.  So, on this drizzly and foggy Cape Cod morning, I went on my way.  When I arrived, I knew that it was going to be instant temptation.  Our local feed store has been getting weekly deliveries of baby chicks.  Everytime I go into the store, I find myself resisting my chicken addiction.  However, this time there was no escaping meeting the newest member of our flock.

I was good at first. I went over and picked up the food and supplies.  I even was standing at the checkout counter.  Then, I glanced over at the divided brooder.  It had some Jersey Giants left from the previous week and the other two sections were filled with Silver Laced and White Laced Wyandottes.  Uh oh; I have always wanted a Silver Laced Wyandotte.  I watched them eat, drink and sleep.  I had to have one.  After about 10 minutes of watching the chicks, I picked out the most adorable girl with a freckled face.  She was worth the every penny of the her five dollar cost.  They boxed her up and soon enough, I was heading home with chick food and a new chick!

Every chicken expert says, do not mix chicks of various ages.  Today, was going to be my experiment.  If worse came to worse,  I could always separate the group with chicken wire.  I took the chick's Mom, Dolly, out to the large run and coop with the rest of the flock.   I opened the new box and placed it under the heat lamp.  Next, I grabbed Percy Peepers from the brooder.  I figured, Percy was about the same size as the day old chick and did not have much of an advantage with his bad leg.  I watched their interaction; no aggression.  In fact, they were snuggling after about 3 minutes.

I removed the rest of Dolly's chicks into another separate box, cleaned the brooder, refilled the waterers and feeder and returned all of the chicks, including the new one to the brooder.  I sat and watched.  The new chicks definitely recognized the new girl as not being an original chick.  They were at first scared and cautious.  I gave them some scratch as a distraction.  Soon enough, they were ignoring her.  Our new little chick on the otherhand, journeyed closer to the heat lamp to take a nap; so far, so good.

I went and retrived Dolly who did not want to return to the brooder.  She was busy taking a dust bath.  When she entered the coop, she soon realized that there was a new little baby amongst her brooder flock.  All of the original chicks were standing behind Dolly seeking protection from the newbie.  Dolly gently pecked at the baby.  It just stood there.  As if nothing ever happened, Dolly and the chicks moved on and went about business as usual.  I sat and watched for 40 minutes.  Everything seemed fine.  After all of the  morning excitement everyone decided to take a nap.  The new chick nestled close to Dolly, not underneath, but in front.  Everyone, including Dolly, closed their eyes. 

I am optimistic that this transition will go smoothly.  I will continue to closely watch and intervene for the little chick as need be. I am excited to have a new little chick amongst the ever growing teenage chicks now.  They are goofy looking as patches of real feathers emerge.  Soon enough, our new little Silver Wyandotte will be bigger than the Silkies.  As she is a standard breed, she will grow at a much faster rate.  I will never claim to be a chicken expert.  I will never know as much as my fellow chicken keepers. I am only a novice with a big space in my heart for chickens. However, even experts can be wrong.


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Silkie Bantams


Spring chicks and Feathers

Silkie Bantams are a fantastic breed for individuals who enjoy birds that are docile, good with children and are cold hardy.  They enjoy being broody and make excellent mothers.

Silkies have feathers unique to their breed.  They retain a plumage similar to young chicks.  Silkies are also different from most chickens as they have black skin, black bones, blue earlobes and five toes as opposed to most chickens that have four. Silkies are believed to have come from Asia and were described in the 13th century by Marco Polo.

We currently have four Silkie pullets, one rooster and a new batch of Silkie chicks.  Silkies are the sweetest nicest chickens.  They are smaller than standard breeds.  I would say that the hens are about 1/3- 1/2 the size of a standard breed.  The rooster seems to be the size of a standard hen.  The hens lay tiny eggs.  Two of their eggs are equivalent to one standard size egg.

Feathers is the sweetest little girl that we have.  She is a very friendly and curious little hen.  She is the first to come running when I call "girls" for treats.  She is very smart too.  Often, she is the one who sneaks into tight areas to find the tastiest of treats that the other girls cannot reach.

Chocolate is our rooster and he is, well, a rooster at that.  He is chivalrous and generous with his ladies.  However, he is going to be rehomed.  I have zero tolerance for aggressive roosters.  He is not friendly to my children or my husband.  He is doing his job; however, he fails to realize that his human family is not the enemy.  He will be rehomed this Spring to a nearby farm.  He is beautiful and will help my friend breed Silkie bantams.  His life will be saved and I can visit him. The hardest part is that he loves me to pieces.  He loves snuggling, talking, and going for walks. Despite that, I must do what I know is right.

Dolly, Meesha and Autumn were added to our flock last Fall because Chocolate was terrorizing the other girls.  Four girls proved not enough for Chocolate,  as he needed more ladies to keep him company.  When I purchased the chickens, they were not accustomed to being held and were not raised as pets.  They have now been with us for about 6 months.

Dolly is just that, a doll.  She is so sweet and friendly.  She is content and loves to be tucked underneath of my arm and relax.  She just hatched chicks about 3 weeks ago.  While broody, she has never pecked at me.  We worked together and she learned how to be a fantastic first time Mom.  She is protective with her chicks, as she should be.  She is an excellent mother. 

Meesha and Autumn are a bit different.  They have never warmed up to us humans.  They are skittish and shy.  They are also impossible to catch.  Currently they are broody.  They love to peck at me, especially Meesha.  They are not the nicest of chickens.  At this point, these two are not necessarily considered pets like the rest of the flock.  Instead, we see them as friends for Chocolate.

We love Silkie Bantams.  In total, we have 12 Silkies right now.  Our flock will need some rearranging this Spring, as we cannot keep them all.  Tilly's Nest can only hold 7-8 chickens.  We are going to have to make some tough decisions in the days ahead.  Chickens are addictive!  Once you get them, especially the Silkies, you are going to want more and more!

Broody Strategies

We are in this together!




















Just another Saturday in the life of these two broody girls. 

Here are the facts:

These two have been broody since the beginning of March.

They are sitting on invisible eggs.

I found these two together in the center nesting box.  They are smart that they sit in opposite directions, that way, they can attack any hands that comes to check for eggs.

We miss their eggs.

Yesterday they both took a dust bath together.  It had been a long time since I last saw them take one.

I think that they are in cahoots with one another.

Often I catch them in the act of rolling another gal's freshly laid egg into their nesting box.

I think these two are going to be broody forever.

Cupcakes


I made these cupcakes for the kids to bring into school to share with their friends.  They were extremely easy to make, plus what is not to love about Spring chicks!  These would make a wonderful Easter dessert where children will be present.  They would also make a terrific centerpiece displayed upon stacked cake plates.  The possibilities are endless with these adorable cupcakes.

Here is how I did it:

For the cupcakes, I used a box mix, following the directions to make two dozen.  Next I frosted them with store bought chocolate icing.  To each top, I added yellow peeps surrounded by colorful jellybeans. They were a huge hit!


Photo credit: Tilly's Nest

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Tattletales

Believe it or not, Meesha and Autumn are still broody.  Many a day now, I go into the nesting boxes and find them sitting together.  I am not sure if they will ever snap out of it!  I guess there is nothing like having a good friend to get you through these times.  I am sure they sit together in the box and discuss their dreams and aspirations.

This morning, I needed to clean out their favorite nesting box.  Over the course of the week, it has become very matted and littered with spare feathers and dirt.  The good news was that everyone was out in the run this morning enjoying scratch.  As I returned to the coop with my bucket and gloves, in came Meesha.  I placed the wooden piece that runs across the bottom of the nesting boxes up in the air at an angle across the boxes to keep the chickens out.  Meesha was not happy.  Quickly she stormed out of the coop.  She immediately returned with Autumn to evaluate the situation.  Timidly they inspected my work. I heard them talking.  They must have concluded,  "This doesn't look good."  They left.

I continued to clean the box.  Suddenly, as I looked up, Meesha and Autumn returned with Chocolate, our rooster.  He immediately, unafraid, came closer to investigate.  He had a fury in his eyes.  Who was keeping his broody girls from entering their boxes?  Luckily, I had the wooden piece barricading him out of the boxes.  Otherwise, I would have been his next victim.  Finally, I was done.  I waited until the girls and Chocolate exited.  I returned the wooden piece and latched the nesting boxes closed.

I'm curious what the girls said to Chocolate in the run.  Whatever they did say, it was enough to make him protect his girls, investigate and "take care" of the nesting box invader. I'm sure they are not happy that I took away their old nest.  One thing is for sure. Chocolate is a great rooster and does his job well.  If only I could talk to him about convincing his Silkie girls to end their broody insanity and lay some tiny eggs for Easter.

Black Australorps

Tilly from chick to hen
People often ask me how I decided on my chicken breeds.  Well, I needed to get breeds that were cold hardy, docile and good egg layers.  My Pet Chicken was incredibly helpful both on the telephone and also on the internet in helping me chose the right breeds for my family.  The other great thing is that you can mix and match breeds when you order from My Pet Chicken.  This allowed me to purchase only six chicks and get the flock that I wanted.

The first breed that I chose was the Australorp.  Tilly, our head hen, is an Australorp.  Black Orpingtons were imported from England to Australia in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  At that time, the Black Orpingtons were crossed with Rhode Island Reds and possibly Plymouth Rocks.  They called their result of cross breeding Australian Black Orpingtons or Australorp for short.  The breed was launched internationally in 1929.

Australorps first captured the world's attention in 1922 when six Australorp hens laid a combined total of 1857 eggs in a 365 consecutive day period without any added artificial lighting.  That is approximately 305 eggs per hen per year!  They also make excellent broody hens and great mothers.  All of these attributes lead to global popularity of the breed. 

Tilly has always been very curious and docile.  She has beautiful black feathers with a green sheen and flecks of gray.  She has a comb with 5 distinct tips.  She is happy to please and eager to meet new company.  She lays beautiful golden brown eggs and enjoys conversation. Even though she is considered a large heritage breed, she weighs about 5 pounds.  She is very sweet and enjoys being held.  She makes a wonderful pet.  I love the way we have conversations between one another.  I like to pretend that I know what she is saying and vice versa. 

Australorps are a fantastic breed and I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in starting or adding to a backyard flock.


Photo credits: Tilly's Nest

Book Review: The Joy of Keeping Chickens

Rating *****
The pictures in the book alone will make you want to keep chickens.  I picked this one up after it grabbed my attention on a rainy day at the bookstore.  This wonderful book by Jennifer Megyesi/photography by Geoff Hansen truly appreciates and displays the beauty of backyard chickens. 

I have picked up a great many tips from this book including, using a flashlight and a paper towel roll for candling the eggs, an indepth look at predators, great coop designs and information on marketing eggs.   I LOVE the section about abnormal eggs and possible solutions for those issues.  It also has a fantastic reference section in the back.  Another thing I liked about this book is the very nice recipe section.  It covers both eggs and chickens and even covers canning.  This could easily be tied into your canning process during the summertime. Why not try pickling eggs?

This book makes a wonderful addition to your coffee table and is a fabulous find to share with friends who are thinking about getting chickens.  I have added it to my steadily growing library of chickens reads.

Being Different

The chicks are now an entire 2 weeks old!  I have forgotten how quickly they grow.  They are starting to develop their wing feathers, while little tufts of feathers emerge through the fluff on the back of their necks. They seem to love hopping and flapping their wings wherever they go!  Even their little necks are beginning to stretch out and the baby roosters are starting to challenge each other with western style stare downs.  A pecking order is developing amongst the chicks.

Today, I tried to get some photos but I must admit, they do not like to hold still.  Everyone was on the move...
We have new wing and neck feathers.

We love to find wonderful treats among the shavings.
Mom love to remind us to eat!


...that is except for Percy Peepers.

Percy Peepers and his handicapped foot

Most of the time, Percy Peepers is found underneath the comforts of Momma Dolly.  Percy is rarely seen eating with the others.  Most times, he waits until everyone else has had their fill and then hobbles over to the food dish when the dangers of being trampled are gone.  Everyone is so fast and hops so much, that I think Percy is afraid of getting hurt.  Percy is also about half the size of the other chicks but still growing and finding feathers in new places like the rest of them.

Percy is never picked on by the others.  I believe that he is accepted leg and all. Sometimes, I find him snuggled in front of the heat lamp with one of the other chicks.  Percy seems happy and is feisty when we try to hold him, which I see as a good sign.  Percy is enjoying being a chicken even if he is a handicapped one.  It is nice to see Percy hold his own in his family.  It is also nice to see the other's accept someone who is different.

Photo credits:  Tilly's Nest



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Freedom

It always feels nice to get outside and enjoy the breezes of Spring and the sun's warm rays.  During the Winter I feel cooped up inside.  I stare out the window at my sleeping gardens.  The only thing alive are the  bird feeders with chickadees, cardinals, finches and sparrows.    I sit and dream about Spring and the arrival of the good things that it brings.  Today was a beautiful sunny Spring day.  I seized the opportunity.  I was able to escape the confines of my home and so were the chickens.

I let the chickens out to free-range first thing.  The best part, is that they were able to be outside for hours as I got to work.  I took large ceramic planters from the garage and replanted them for the Spring with evergreens and pansies.  I cleaned out the garage.  I planted lettuce in some containers and in the garden.  I raked the stones in the driveway after they had been shoveled into all of the wrong places over the Winter.  I even did some minor repairs to the chicken run.

Finally, after about 3 hours of free-ranging, the girls were actually tired.  They needed a nice nap in the sun.  I went inside and fetched some celery, lettuce and strawberries.  It did not take much effort to convince the girls to return home.  As I tossed the goodies into the run, all of the girls and Chocolate filed in one by one. 

As I tidied up my tools and put away any stray gardening items, the girls settled into the dust bowls of the run.  They closed their eyes and snoozed in the sun.  Before I came into the house, I went over to visit them.  They were content and tired.  Happy and dreamy, they did not move from their spots.  Our freedom in the yard was exhausting, even for me.

Photo Opportunities

This morning Dolly spent a really long time taking a dust bath!  She could not seem to get the hole deep enough and could not seem to scratch enough dirt up into the air.  Finally, she was exhausted and just lay there, contourted into the strangest of positions; panting.  For a moment, I thought that she was dead.  I tried calling her to return to the chicks.  She wanted no part of it.  This was her moment.  I was enjoying watching her.  I sat near her for about 15 minutes.  Then I thought that I should get my camera.  This was a moment that I wanted to capture.  However, when I returned she was in the coop eating.  Luckily, though, the moment was not lost.

Instead we were also able to get two nice pictures of Autumn and Meesha.  Since those two girls are still broody, I was easily able to grab them out of their respective nesting boxes.  With some initial resistance and pecking, they calmed right down in my arms.  These will finally complete our family portraits!  I have been waiting months for these two shy gals to pose for the camera.  I think they turned out great!  Our wall of fame is complete.  Here they are.  Don't they look like tough gals?



Meesha
Autumn

Photo Credit: My husband

Muddy Buddies

Mother Nature decided to play an April Fool's joke on the Northeast.  For most, it started last night and was forecasted to continue through today.  Just when we thought that Winter was over, more snow settled in over the Northeast.  Fortunately, for Cape Cod, we had a mix of sleet and rain. 

Yesterday, the bad weather was not forecasted to start until late afternoon.  I did not bother to recover the coop with the tarp.  It was in the 40's and the chickens do like the rain,  besides the coop could use a rinse from Mother Nature.

Before I could return home from picking my son up at school, stronger bursts of rain fell from the sky.  As I pulled into the driveway, it was raining pretty hard.  The kids and I had a bet to see if the chickens were still outside in the run.  I was hoping they weren't.  However, there they were, out in the rain.  I got the kids in the house and then decided that I needed to cover up the run.  I could not believe what I saw; soaked chickens! 

Dust and dirt covered the chickens from head to toe.  Their feathers were coated with dark rich dirt.  They looked awful.  They must have forgotten what rain was.  Even worse, Oyster Cracker was attempting to bathe herself in a dust bowl of wet dirt.  I felt so bad.  I was worried about my chickens.   Would they ever be clean again?  I was also worried about them going to bed with wet feathers.  I did not want them to get sick.  I covered the run and later in the evening returned to lock the coop. I knew that those dirty chickens would have to wait until Saturday for spa treatments from Mom.  At this point, there was nothing that I could do.

This morning, as they emerged from the coop, they ran into the run.  They were clean.  Their combs were bright red.  They were happy. The girls must have cleaned themselves.  I could not believe my eyes!  Time and time again, those chickens surprise me.  I never would have believed anyone that told me how dirty they were the day before.  Amazingly, the chickens have done it again.  I am speechless.





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