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May 31, 2011

Handcrafted Egg Carrier

Yesterday was my birthday.  We spent Saturday with friends and they surprised me with wonderful presents.  One of those happened to be this awesome wooden egg carrier handcrafted by their friend!  It is so unique and versatile.  You can use it to carry eggs as you collect them from the nesting boxes or place it on a shelf in the fridge to hold your eggs, keeping them safe until ready for use.  I am so lucky to have such thoughtful friends that know how much I adore my chickens. 

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 30, 2011

Silkie Bantams

Silkie Bantams are some of the most adorable little chickens you will ever lay your eyes upon.  They are thought to be the oldest breed of ornamental chickens, first discovered by Marco Polo during his travels to China in the 13th century.  Marco Polo described them as "fur covered fowl with black skin".  They are unique for a number of reasons.  In addition to their black skin, their feathers grow such that they retain the soft fuzzy feeling of a baby chick.  They also have feathered feet and five toes instead of the traditional four.

Silkie Bantams are also much smaller than the standard sized breeds.  They will grow to about half of the standard size.  Their eggs too are miniature, equalling about half the size of a standard's egg.  Silkie Bantams are reliable egg layers when they are not in a broody stage.  That being said, Silkie Bantams are a chicken that tend and like to be broody.  They will even go broody without the presence of eggs.  They make excellent mothers and will easily adopt baby chicks of a different breed. 

Silkie Bantams also make fantastic pets and adapt easily and quickly to being handled due to their sweet and docile nature.  They are the perfect chicken for children.  Silkie Bantams come many shades including black, lavender/splash, buff, partridge and white.

Currently, Dolly, Feathers, Autumn and Fifi are our Silkies.  They all have won a special place in my heart due to their kindhearted nature.  Dolly is an incredibly dedicated mother and has raised her own brood as well as adopted a Silver Laced Wyandotte chick as her own.  She is an incredible nurturer and makes a fantastic mother.  They all do not mind being handled.  They also seem to influence one another to go broody.  Often they will pair off together, and sit in the boxes waiting for eggs to arrive.

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

May 29, 2011

Wisdom Learned from Chickens

Go to bed early.
Wake up when the sun rises.

Don't forget to look down at your feet sometimes.
If you look hard enough, you will always discover a reward.

Take care of those smaller than you.

Be cautious of large dark shadows.

Take a bath everyday.

Remember to eat and enjoy your fruits and vegetables.

Don't forget to kiss and make-up. 
Never go to bed mad.

Photo Credits: RhodeIslandRead, Merydith, Arkadyevna, DasMiller and hardworkinghippy

May 28, 2011

Chicken T.V.

Sometimes I find myself outside next to the coop or watching the girls free-range.  Often, I lose track of time, sitting there, just watching.  Frankly, watching chickens is like watching a good t.v. show and I find it not only incredibly therapeutic but relaxing!

Chicken t.v. is always different.  You never know what will happen and each time you tune in, you learn something new about your flock.  Plus, we have all sorts of genres occurring out there!  When Chocolate was still with us, it was like watching a romantic comedy.  He was a big flirt.  He would lure the girls over with treats.  Some of the girls adored him, and others, like Oyster Cracker, never fell for his charms.  Instead, she often treated his advances like one would treat a bad date.

We have westernlike showdowns too.  Lately, these showdowns have been occuring more frequently as the mini-chickens are finding their place in the pecking order.  First, they meet head on.  Then, they move their heads side to side.  If no one steps down, then they elongate their necks and stand as tall as they can.  Finally, someone gives, the other receives a peck and life continues on like nothing ever happened.

We also have game shows too.  These are the funniest times when the girls are playing with their treat ball.  The wire ball is filled with goodies like a halved apple, a head of broccoli, or a large juicy tomato.  The girls take turns wacking it like a pinata.  It swings wildly and sometimes spins.  It is a game to the girls.  It keeps them occupied and gives them tasty rewards.  This is one of my favorite things to watch.

We also have dramas.  Sometimes, they are like a good medical show.  If you saw yesterday's post Sunshine had an injury that we had to tend to.  Sometimes they are like a mystery, like when Dolly fooled the girls with her disappearing act!  Sometimes, they are even sad, like day we rehomed Chocolate and Meesha. Some days are filled with drama, complete soap operas.

Finally, we have an occasional Broadway musical, mostly from Tilly.  The girls will sing their little hearts out.  Some are altos and some are sopranos.  Some sing lead and others back-up.  I think that Tilly does most of the singing, especially when new treats come or she is laying an egg, or she wants to free range.

I love chicken t.v.!

May 27, 2011

Boo Boo #2

Poor Sunshine!  I came home today and realized that she not only had a bloody beak but she also had a bloody comb.  I was not entirely sure what happened but I found her sitting alone inside the coop on the roost.  I scooped her up for a closer examination, wrapping her in a towel to keep her still.  She had managed somehow to reinjure herself.

I gently cleansed her blood away with a moist paper towel.  The back of her comb and beak were both injured.  Truthfully, it looked a lot worse than it truly was.  She closed her eyes with trust as I cleaned her off.  I returned her to the run and then started looking around for the source of injury.

I had cleaned the coop out today, to freshen the girls up for the long weekend.  I looked inside and saw that the hanging feeder had dried droplets of blood on it.  Immediately, I realized that she had reinjured herself again on the chain.  I had removed the sharp piece that I found last time, but I soon realized that this is my chicken who loves shiny things like jewelry.  When I put the feeder back, I did not place it on the bottom link in the chain.  As she likes to eat from the top of the feeder, she must have caught her beak inside one of the extra links near the bottom!

I feel terrible.  I feel like a terrible chicken mom.  This is the second time she has been injured despite my best attempts.  I cannot help but blame myself for her injuries.  I am going to have to figure out a better way. It's times like these that a hencam would come in very handy!

May 26, 2011

Free Ranging Solution

Cooper's Hawks, like this one, used to be called
"chicken hawks" in the days of the early settlers.

Are you nervous to let your flock free range for a number of reasons?  I too find that I need to supervise the girls whenever they are out.  Here on Cape Cod, we have many predators including fisher cats, coyotes, raccoons, fox, hawks and weasels.  I find it entirely sad when my chickens come to the run door and ask to go outside.  They come and snuggle with me and sometimes the little Silkies pop out between my legs!  However, I usually cannot let them out unless I have about an hour to give to them while I babysit, standing by on predator watch.  The other issue that I have is that not all of the chickens are as easy to catch.  In the past,  I have spent over 3 hours trying to catch a rouge chicken.  As the days get longer, it is nice that the flock has so much daylight.  In fact, it seems to be getting dark around 8 pm lately.  At that time, the girls go into the coop and roost for the night. 

About 30 minutes to 1 hour before the girls go to roost, think about letting them out to free range.  At this time, most wild animals are transitioning from day to night.  It seems to be a relatively "safe" time for the flock.  Leaving the run and coop door open, the girls will naturally return to the safety of their coop before it gets dark. Once you see they have all returned, lock them in for the night.  If you find that one is still missing.  With a flashlight, look up in the trees.  You should find your girl perched upon a branch.  She will be easy to catch as chickens cannot see in the dark.  Scoop her up off the branch and return her to her family. This works perfectly for my small flock of seven hens. I can easily keep tabs on each and everyone of them.

Chickens love to free range.  They seem happier and the also seem to lay better tasting eggs as a result of their scavenging.  Free ranging your flock is possible.  It just means you need to take some precautions to ensure their safety.

 Photo Credit: P.Crosson

May 25, 2011

Mr. Sunshine Returns

Well Tilly, I think we found a patch of sun

The sun is finally shining once again.  I bet the girls never thought that they would ever see it again.  The were out free ranging and enjoying the sunshine.  The grass is finally greening up and the woods are filling in again with leaves. 

Dragging a branch!

The girls are so silly.  Tilly dragged this branch around like a prize for a while.  I have found them eating the seed pods of the oak trees.  I am a bit concerned as I think it does not make them feel good.  Oyster Cracker has especially been eating them.  Her comb and wattle seems pale throughout the day.  However, her spunk, attitude and egg laying remain the same.

The coop and run are beginning to shape up too.  The pathways are mulched and the grass is returning.  Everyone is happy the sun is out today.  I plan to put in a chicken herb garden in the flower beds around the coop.  I think the girls are going to love it!  What are your plans for your coop this Spring?

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 24, 2011

Three Feathered Heroines

Three Silkie Bantams enjoy a breakfast of bugs
Termites were found in one of the new planting beds at my son's school.  As we are practicing organic gardening techniques, it was only natural to think of the chickens to help eradicate these unwanted pests.  My friend who owns the farm in Cotuit arrived around 9:30am with a large wire dog crate and three Silkie Bantam chickens. 

We stirred up the soil and then placed the cage inside the raised bed with the chickens inside.  We kept the chickens caged for their safety and to help them focus on the immediate task at hand.  Within seconds of being in the enclosure they got to work.  As they dined on their delicious breakfast of termites, students came outside to see the chickens busy at work.

While the chickens did their part, we planted strawberries, beets and potatos.  Ever so often, we lifted the cage and retilled the soil to unearth a fresh batch of termites.  Soon enough, the chickens were full.  Their crops became pendulous and we knew that they had done their job.  Next time, you have a problem in your garden, don't forget about the skills of your chickens.  Mine even made their own resume sometime ago to remind me of their talents!

You can find more pictures in today's copy of the Cape Cod Times on page A3.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 23, 2011

Sad News

Something in my heart of hearts told me to reach out to Maple Farm Sanctuary and get an update on Percy.  I was deeply saddened with the news.  Here is part of Cheri's update:

...There is sad news however. Percy was not doing well. Her little legs seemed to be getting more distorted. The good leg didn't seem to be able to handle the work of two legs. I had started to hold Percy up to the food and water dishes for about six times a day. If I didn't hold her, every time she went to eat or drink her little body would fall backwards.  Her sibling was hopping out of the box to explore her new surroundings but she would always hop back in to cuddle with Percy.   Percy passed away peacefully on Thurs. with her sibling cuddled up next to her... It was amazing to see poor little Percy not grow hardly at all. Her sibling has grown at an amazing rate!  I'm sorry we couldn't have saved Percy.

I responded to her email with the following:

Thank you Cheri.  Thank you for the update and the care that you and your farm family gave to Percy.  I appreciate your kindness and heaven has a new friend at the Rainbow Bridge.  I only hope that her sibling will become fast friends with some of your other chickens.  Percy's sibling shows us that animals can feel compassion and love.  Thank you for reminding us all of this wonderful lesson.  


Percy Peepers was born February 2011 and passed away May 19, 2011.  She is survived by her six siblings.

May 22, 2011

Coccidiosis in Backyard Chickens

Wet weather and dirty water can make it rear its' ugly head.  With all the rain we have been having, I want to make sure that all of our fellow chicken keepers are diligent out there to prevent it and other types of nasty illnesses that can harm their own feathered families. So what exactly is it and how do I prevent it?

Coccidiosis ( käk-si-dē-ō-ses) is an illness caused by protozoa. There are 11 types that can affect chickens.  These parasites can live inside a host (chicken) or outside as well and loves wet moist conditions.  Chickens that appear healthy, shed the parasites in their stools.  With proper conditions, these microscopic parasites can multiply.  Chickens through scavenging, ingesting contaminated foods and drinking from contaminated water, such as puddles in the run, not knowingly, infect themselves.

Chickens that become infected will usually show signs about 3 days after infection.  The poor chickens droop, stop eating, pass bloody stools (these look like tar), and huddle together.  Typically, by the fourth day, the chicken will die, usually due to blood loss.

Treatment for coccidiosis usually entails treating your entire flock.  There are several medications on the market that can be purchased on the internet and at your local feed store.  Amprolium is a medication that is usually found in medicated chick feed. It is a safe medication that can be used in laying hens but is typically not used to treat coccidiosis. It is merely added to help prevent it from occurring. If you need to treat your flock,  Corid 9.6% is a safe option for laying hens. Your local avian veterinarian can also provide you more potent medications as well.  However, with a little preventative measures, your flock should never see this disease or many others for that matter. 

Here are some tips to keeping your flock healthy and keeping illnesses away:

Add probiotics, vitamins and electrolytes and apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water supply and boost their immune systems.

Add 2 % food grade diatomaceous earth to their feed

Keep water clean and free from droppings.

Consider using and cleaning dropping trays under the roosts daily.

Keep litter dry.  Pine shavings are great and noticeable wet areas can be removed and replaced easily.

Do not overcrowd your flock. Be sure to quarantine any new chickens you are adding to your flock for at least 1 month.

Keep puddles of water from developing in your run.  If you notice any, fill them with pine shavings to absorb the water.

Seek treatment at the first sign of a sick bird.  Your flock's life may depend on it.

Consider vaccinations for your chicks.

Here are some more sources of information on Coccidiosis:

Coccidiosis in Chickens
Biological Control of Coccidiosis in Small Poultry Flocks
Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens--with diet

May 21, 2011

Thai Chicken on the Grill

Memorial Day is fast approaching and on Cape Cod, this is when summer officially begins.  Tourism season starts and the beaches finally warm up enough for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic.  Often on beach days, we pack a cooler with lunch and snacks and stay all day at the beach.  Coming home is sometimes a chore spent de-sanding children and emptying the car.  However, I can say that summer dinners are a breeze when you take the time to marinade meat while you are at the beach and fire up the grill when you return.


1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons peeled grated fresh ginger
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped green scallions
6 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted, salted peanuts


1.  In a large bowl, combine orange juice, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper and scallions.  Whisk together and combine well.  Set aside about 1/2 cup for dipping  and pour the rest into a sealable 1 gallon plastic bag.  Add the chicken to the bag and seal it shut.  I like to place the bag with the chicken in a bowl in case it leaks.  Place the chicken in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I typically marinade mine for about7 hours.

2.  When ready, remove the chicken from the bag.  Discard the marinade and grill until juices run clear.  Remove from grill and place on a serving platter topped with peanuts and cilantro.

I like to serve this with white rice and a summer salad.  Don't forget about the 1/2 cup of marinade you set aside for dipping!

This recipe is adapted from one found on Food Network and can be found with all of our recipes in Tastebook.

May 20, 2011

Happy Chickens

Three fluffy bottoms
Finally, a day with sunshine.  The girls were just dying to get out and into the mulch and the woodland garden near their coop.  So, out the three big girls came.  The Silkies were content to remain inside of the run, so with camera in tow, we had some fun exploring.
Discoveries in the garden
You can always tell when a chicken is enjoying herself, when you see her fluffy bottom pointed straight up in the air.  You know that she is busy scratching and discovering wonderful bugs!

They make me laugh as they talk to each other.  It is truly one big party when they free-range.  They mix up their vantage points but are alway careful not to dig where a friend has just been.  They are smart that way.  They know when to move on.  They know when there are better things in better areas.  They love to scavenge and I love to feel their full crops in my hand when I pick them up and nuzzle into their feathers.

Oyster Cracker in scratching action

Unfortunately, they cannot free range at free will.  There are too many predators in the conservation property right next door.  So, to keep them safe from coyotes, foxes, hawks and the like, they are babysat when they free range.  It never seems to be enough time for them.  Today, I think they were just happy to be out and about, enjoying the sunshine and being spoiled chickens.

May 19, 2011

Chickens to the Rescue

I have been very involved in creating and developing an organic schoolyard garden at my son's elementary school.  This is the first of it's kind in our town and we have been working steadily, seeing our visions come to fruition.  In mid April, we built 30 raised child sized planting beds.  Slowly, we have been filling those with compost and soil.

Last week, as the children began to plant seeds in the classrooms, we were given some beautiful seedlings from our local organic farm.  Several parents and I began to plant the beets, swiss chard, thyme and lettuce.  As we planted in the earth, another parent called us over to look at some bugs she had found.  They were termites and they were already eating the wooden side of the untreated wooden raised bed.  Ugh!  What an upsetting moment.  As we discussed treatment options with our soil team, it was difficult to determine what we could use to treat the beds organically and not affect the produce grown in it's soil. 

These are worker termites like the ones we found.

Feeling disappointed, I came home and returned a call to my friend with the farm.  I told her of the situation and she said to me, "Why don't you just bring down a few chickens for a couple of hours to do the job?"  Genious!  With that said, we are going to bring an enclosure that will fit over the affected raised bed on Monday morning.  As we sit and sip our coffees, the chickens will be hard at work discovering tasty termites for their voracious appetites.  I was thrilled with this solution to say the least,  the chickens will be removing unwanted bugs and fertilizing our soil at the same time.  What a great learning experience for the students and grown-ups alike.  Somehow, I always seem to forget and underestimate the power of the backyard chicken.

Photo Credit:

May 18, 2011

Gardens and Supermodels

My poor girls, they are so sick of the rain!  I do have to say I am too!  We have had almost 7 straight days now and I just had to get outside.  So, with dinner cooking and camera in tow, I went to take some photos of the beauty after the rain.  Can I just say that Sunshine LOVES the camera?  Well, she does and loves to pose.  She is so curious and somehow in that little chicken brain of hers, she must know that she was destined to be a chicken model. 

Mom, whatcha doin?

Oh, you have your camera with you!

Do you mind if I pose for you?

Oyster Cracker in all her beauty. Her beak is healing too!
I always find the garden during Spring incredibly beautiful after the rain.  Everything is green and beginning to emerge from the ground.  Here are some of the beautiful things that I discovered today.


May 17, 2011

Moving On Up!

Truthfully, I have not had much time with my girls since the rain started last week.  We have had days on end of rain, which has made even the chickens a little frustrated.  Thank goodness I covered their run with plastic.  Today, however, I did have a moment to say good morning as the sky decided to give us a brief break.

As I was refilling the feeders and the waterers, I stopped to admire what lovely mini-chickens our 7 week old Silver Laced Wyandotte, Dottie Speckles, and our new 10 week old Black/Lavender Silkie Bantam, Fifi are becoming.  Then I saw it.  Dottie Speckles is now jockeying for her position in the pecking order.

I had seen her do this earlier and I feel she will be a very dominant bird in the flock.  Today, she was challenging her own surrogate mother, Dolly.  Dolly is the head of the Silkies. Sparring back and forth, I watched as Dolly puffed up her chest and then danced for a brief minute with Dolly.  Eventually, she did step down and Dolly gave her a gentle pecking reminder on the back of the neck.  After all, she is only 7 weeks!  However, I would not be surprised, that as she grows, she will one day challenge Tilly.

May 16, 2011

Pet Chickens

Oyster Cracker

I think how you view things in the world as an adult stems mostly from what you are taught as a child.  The debate goes on as to whether chickens can be pets.  Many people who have never owned or met a chicken view them strictly as livestock.  Livestock chickens are kept as long as they have a purpose, such as laying eggs.  Once their purpose is over, often they are culled and removed from the flock ending up on a dinner plate or in a compost pile. 

As a child, I was always taught to be kind to everything, be compassionate and empathize for those worse off than you, including animals.  I think it is pretty safe to say that although our chickens can be viewed as livestock, they are our pets.  Which leads me to another question that I get asked a lot.  "Do chickens make good pets?"  I believe they do.

I have almost had my flock for almost a year and I can tell you that as a human species in general, we definitely have not given chickens enough credit, and I'm sure even other types of livestock for that matter.  Mind you, I speak from my observations.  I can draw no scientific conclusions.  However, I tell you my own experiences.

Chickens are capable and do experience emotions.  I have seen fear, love, happiness and sadness.  I have felt them shake as nervous chihuahuas do.  I have seen love and camaraderie. My two buff Orpingtons are inseparable.  When one is missing for any extended length of time, the other calls out repeatedly in a very loud distressed voice.  They are best friends.  They are capable of being happy when new treats arrive and when I come to visit them. I see them saddened and confused when a flock member is no longer present.  I also see them sharing treats with one another, showing each other a great deal of consideration.

Chicken mothers share love and are incredibly intelligent when it comes to knowing exactly what to do.  Yes, some of it is most likely purely instinct.  They could just sit on the eggs and let them incubate.  Instead, they roll the eggs very gently and cautiously.  They talk to their eggs.  They know to be careful of the baby chicks.  They keep them warm and teach them how to survive.  The mother hen sacrifices her own needs for the sake of her babies.  It is not unusual that hens can loose a good amount of their body weight while being broody.

Just like in every family, every chicken plays a role in the pecking order that they have created amongst themselves.  It does not take long if you really take the time to sit and watch your chickens.  You will find that they all know their individual duties and responsibilities.

Every chicken in our flock appreciates me.  Some are friendlier than others and some just love me to pieces.  I don't think that anything such as pets vs. livestock can ever fall into such black and white categories.  If you ask me, I like to live my life in the gray.

Oyster Cracker loves love.

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

I'm happy to call my chickens pets.

 Photo Credit: 4JPhotography

May 15, 2011

Rainy Days, Mucky Runs and Back-Up Plans

We are due for rain this entire week!  As we have the mini-chickens now living outside, I actually dragged out the plastic cover for the run that I used this past Winter to cover it from snow.  With the cover, I figured I could keep the run dry and provide the girls with lots of leg room instead of being confined to the coop.  It should also prevent the run from becoming too mucky and muddy. 

I also would like to let you know that Tilly's Nest is still affected by the recent Blogger outage.  Please bear with me as I try to restore the deleted items and "Past Family Member" page to our site. I cannot tell you how upset I am with all of the work that went into creating those missing items.  You see, I never write down anything prior to sitting at the computer.  I blog from my heart and my head.   So, yesterday, I took a big step.  I decided to "Slurp" my blog into a book. 

Did you know that with the touch of a button, you can give the website, Blurb, permission to import all of your blog content into a book? They have many book options and you can choose from various sizes and number of pages.  I had been feeling so frustrated.  Now, my blog and my memories will be bound together printed on paper.  It is going to take sometime, but in the end, I know it is going to be worth it!

May 14, 2011


This post was originally published dating May 12, 2011.  Due to Blogger's problems and their 20 hour shut down, the post came back but with errors.  I went in to edit the errors and reposted it.  For some strange reason, it dated it for today. Today's post is called, "Sound the Alarm".  You can find it below.

It is an entirely different feeling in the flock now that Chocolate is gone.  Everyone is calm.  No one seems to be living on edge, with a certain level of rooster paranoia.  It seems, that's how it was. There is a calm harmony in the flock.  The mini-chickens have been completely accepted now.  They spend their time foraging for treats in the run and socializing with new friends.  They even enjoy taking mid-day snoozes, piling 4 of their bodies into one nesting box.  Today, the mini-chickens tried mushrooms from my kitchen for the first time.  It was so cute watching them try new things.  Dottie Speckles especially enjoyed it!  She was tearing off tiny strips.  I think it will take her at least 20 minutes to eat one piece of sliced mushroom. 

Dolly and Feathers are no longer broody.  Finally.  Can you believe it?  I think the two mini-chickens have, at least for now, broken the spell that surrounded them.  Do you think it could have something to do with Chocolate being gone as well?  Maybe without the male present, they do not feel such an instinctual drive to have babies.

The mini-chickens are also on organic grower pellets now. At first, I found it hard to believe that their tiny beaks and mouths could process a pellet of that size.  I was amazed when I watched them peck the larger pellets on the floor with their beaks and watched them swallow the smaller pieces whole.  The larger girls have been on the layer pellets and have no problem.  Personally, I like the pellets, as they leave very little waste.  Sometimes, I see the large chickens eating the mini-chickens' grower pellets.  I have been trying to make even more calcium available to the large girls.  I do not want to have any thin shelled malformed eggs.

Overall, life is good over here at Tilly's Nest.  Life is finding a new rooster free harmonious sense of normalcy.

Sound the Alarm

This morning I heard the girls yelling out their alert call.  After a few minutes I decided to investigate.  I peered out the window to discover a male turkey paying a visit to the girls!  Oyster Cracker was standing on the log in the run.  All the girls were yelling!  What a sight!  I snapped some pictures through the front door. 

Standing closely to the girls, admiring their beauty

50 feet between them
I am not sure if he heard the girls, realizing that Chocolate was gone, and decided to investigate.  Maybe he was looking for love and trying to start a new flock of his own.....I wonder if he will return?

May 13, 2011

Sunshine's Boo Boo

Sometimes things just happen and you have no idea how or why.  Yesterday, before the girls settled in for the night, I went out and visited them.  I happened to notice that Sunshine's beak was blemished.  It had a red streak running horizontally across the middle of the beak.  In the center, appeared to be a gash.

I went inside and grabbed a wet paper towel.  I returned to her in the run; grabbed her and held her in my lap.  I rubbed her beak with my finger.  The blemish was smooth and clean.  Even when I rubbed it with a paper towel, nothing came off.  How strange, clearly this must be a beak injury. It looks like blood underneath of a fingernail.  I needed to do some research.

I locked the girls up for the night and went directly to the backyard chickens website. There, I did a quick search revealing that beak injuries can and do occur.  The injuries occur while people trim them or if chickens get into injuring predicaments.  Little did I know, like dogs' toenails, beaks have a quick.  Beaks have an actual blood supply running through them!  Wow, what an interesting fact!

Armed with my new information, I racked my brain on how she hurt her beak.  I hope it doesn't cause her pain.  Truly, she seems unfazed by the whole situation.  I went to bed with Sunshine on my mind. 

When I woke this morning, I soon realized what could have caused the scrapelike injury.  Sunshine loves to eat her food out of the top of the feeder.  The feeder is hung from the coop ceiling by a chain and a hook.  Perhaps, there was a rough spot on the feeder or the chain.  I quickly went outside and investigated my theory.  As the girls scratched in the run, I discovered a sharp edge on the chain.  With metal cutters, I clipped off that portion of the chain.

So far, none of the other girls have beak injuries and I certainly hope that I have solved the mystery.  I just wonder how long it will take to get her beautiful beak to heal.  I hope that I was right on what caused the injury in the first place. I guess time will tell.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 11, 2011

Asian Dumpling Soup

I am not quite sure where Spring went yesterday.  It was rainy, cold and a blustery 47 degree F.  My 4 year old daughter was home with a fever and I was busy putting back the pieces after a pipe in the wall started leaking water into our bathroom.  The day was filled with phone calls, contractors, plumbers and appointments; not to mention that my eyes are having horrific allergies.  So, to me, soup was just the thing for dinner; just what Dr. Mom ordered!  Here is what I created with what I found in the fridge.

Serves 4:


4 cups of chicken stock
12 frozen Asian Chicken Potstickers (I like the ones from Trader Joes but wontons or dumplings will do)
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger ( I love using the ginger in the prepackaged tubes in the produce section of the grocer.)
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 green onions diced
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 cup  fresh sliced mushrooms


 In a large stockpot, bring the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.  Add all ingredients and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

I typically serve this soup with a salad with homemade Asian dressing. 

You can find all of the recipes featured on Tilly's Nest in our very own cookbook on Tastebook

May 10, 2011

One Rooster Allowed

Well, we knew that it was going to be inevitable.  Barnstable now has a law regarding chickens.  With the popular trend of gentleman farming and people starting to keep backyard flocks of their own, it only took a few careless chicken keepers to force the hand of the lawmakers in the Town of Barnstable.  With the assistance and guidance of the Barnstable Agricultural Commission, a new law regarding poultry keeping in the town was passed and will become effective come the beginning of June 2011.

Complaints have been few but those that have occurred have been difficult for mediators and town officials to resolve without having any laws to assist them with their efforts.  Noise caused by roosters has been the issue.  Can you believe that people in our town have gone so far as to tape record their rooster's crowing and play it back to the neighbors at extreme volumes?  Well, it happened.  So, now we have new regulations.

The new regulation is only in regard to roosters.  There are no laws or restrictions to keeping a flock of hens in your backyard.  You can continue to keep your flock.  The new law will enforce individuals living on less than 5 acres to only keep 1 rooster.  Unless you live on 2 acres or more and can show $1000 farming profit on your property, you cannot keep more than one.  All rooster will need to be housed and locked up between the hours of 7pm and 7am.  In addition, there are similar guidelines for noise complaints based upon the Dog Noise Ordinance in the town. 

The law no longer applies to Tilly's Nest as we have rehomed Chocolate, but I must say that he became incredibly symbolic to me while we tried to reach a fair and reasonable ordinance.  He represented backyard roosters.  We practiced good rooster management and our neighbors adored him.  He was one of the reasons why I became involved and eventually became a member of the Agricultural Commission.   It was important for me to make sure that people who were considerate with their rooster would be able to keep them and not be penalized for the behavior of a few bad eggs.

May 9, 2011

The Mini-Chickens Emerge

Feathers, Fifi, Dottie Speckles and Dolly
The mini-chickens, Dottie Speckles a 5 week old Silver Laced Wyandotte and Fifi, a Silkie Bantam, have now been with the big girls for 3 days.  Over the last two days, they have spent most of their time inside of the nesting box with Dolly.  However, by last night, it seems as though Dolly and Feathers have agreed to co-mother the mini-chickens.  Today for the first time they journeyed out into the run.

Dolly hovers around them while they scratch and peck in the dirt.  No one seems to care the least that the mini-chickens are in the family now.  I put some fresh vegetables out in the run to serve as a distraction.  I think it is working!  I can't wait to see where they will end up in the pecking order.  I am looking forward to a great summer with my henny girls!

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Foxglove after the rain

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. ~Honoré de Balzac

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. ~Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty

I love my mother as the trees love water and sunshine - she helps me grow, prosper, and reach great heights. ~Terri Guillemets

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. ~Lisa Alther

Wishing you all a very special Mother's Day from our nest to yours. 

Photo credit:  Tilly's Nest

May 7, 2011

Growing Pains

The transition of the little ones into the larger coop has gone okay.  I can't say that it has been entirely perfect but there has been no blood shed and Dolly is a natural mother.  A couple of days ago, under the cover of darkness, I placed both Fifi and Dottie Speckles under Dolly.  Little did I realize how upset broody Feathers was going to be.  I've now come to realize that she is jealous of Dolly having mini-chickens.  Thus she is not too nice.

A few times per day, I find myself having to empty the coop and give the babies time to eat alone without Feathers preventing them from doing so.  Just now, I opened the box to find the babies, Feathers and Dolly sitting in the same box with the mini-chickens panting beneath the two Momma hens.   I had to intervene and allow the mini-chickens some air.  I can't tell if Feathers wants part of the motherhood action or if she wishes the mini-chickens were dead!  Nonetheless, with a few sips of water, the panting immediately subsides and the mini-chickens go about their business. 

As time goes on, I am hoping that the little girls will become large enough to defend themselves. Today is better than the day before; at least the mini-chickens are not trying to escape!  As the chickens reestablish their pecking order and the mini-chickens realize their place in their new world, the flock will hopefully plateau off into a peaceful existence.  For now, Dolly growls and spreads her wings as a protective mom should.  I find it amazing that she has taken these chickens literally under her wings despite the fact that they are 8 and 5 weeks old!

May 6, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Well, sometimes the best laid plans can change.

After I finished posting yesterday, my friend with the farm called and asked when I was going to bring my chickens over!  Her ears must have been ringing!  She also asked about Chocolate and if I was ready to bring him too.

Past Winter, reminding Chocolate who is boss by cradling him on his back.
 I went through the motions almost trying to numb the reality that today was going to be the day that Chocolate would be rehomed.  Chocolate became very symbolic to me.  He helped me advocate with the town to allow individuals to keep backyard roosters.  He graces the cover on the Agricultural Commission brochure that I helped to create.  He also served his flock well, protecting and warning his girls from danger.  He is the father of our first brood.

 I caught him and gave him the most love that I could.  As tough as it was, I placed him in the box.  I also decided that Meesha our little Silkie girl who has been broody for over 2 months was going to need a change of environment if she was going to survive.  Sitting in the nesting box had made her very thin.  As much as I could, I intervened but it was just not enough to break her broody spell.  Next, I took all of the chicks from the brooder except for one of Dolly and Chocolate's chicks and Dottie Speckles.  I placed them in another box.

We drove over to the farm and the little Silkie Chicks went right into the run with my friend's twenty or so baby silkies of mixed ages.  Soon they blended in so well and seemed so happy that they were no longer decipherable.  They were happy.  Next Chocolate and Meesha were placed in their very own cage.  I had done it.  Chocolate could no longer try and harm my daughter.  Meesha would be nursed back to health and the babies were now in a large chicken daycare waiting to find new homes.

Later that evening, Dottie Speckles and our little Silkie newly named Fifi joined the larger flock under the cover of the night.  I placed them in the nesting box with Dolly. 

Photo Credit:  GLC

May 5, 2011

All Grown Up

Eight weeks old

Tomorrow the Silkie Chicks will be 8 weeks old and Dottie Speckles will be 5 weeks old.  The Silkies are looking all grown up and have just about completed their awkward teenage stage.  I am planning on moving them all outside over the next couple of days.  I utilized the extra coop that I had as a brooder, so transitioning that coop outside should be relatively smooth. 

Today, I took out one of the female Silkie chicks to walk on the grass and have her meet the larger flock.  She looks so tiny compared to the rest of them.  Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Chocolate were the first to meet her.  Chocolate stood watch observing while Tilly and Oyster Cracker pecked the poor little thing on the neck.  Then they just stared at the little girl.  I scooped her up soon realizing that she was going to need to be bigger to defend herself against these girls.  I will probably have to wait until they are about 20 weeks old or the same size as the other Silkie hens to be sure they are integrated safely with the large flock.

Stretching to meet an ant

We have decided on keeping one female.  My friend sells Silkies in the next town over and offered to sell the Silkies for me.  I was very pleased when she told me this.  Somehow, knowing that the little Silkie chicks will go to a good home will make the transition and parting with them so much easier.