Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Even Chickens Need Love

I have said it time and time again, that animals are capable of emotions.  It is underestimated and under publicized but I know this to be true, without the need for any scientific evidence.  Strangely enough, my girls are my science experiment.  I watch them like a petri dish experiment, except only good has grown from keeping them!  We have learned so many lessons from the chickens and have been reminded about the importance of living simply.

Dolly is one of our Silkie Bantams.  She is the head of the Silkies but the Silkies always keep to themselves.  They let the big girls eat the treats first and use the best nesting boxes.  The little ones stay out of the way.  However, they are still a family and they care about each other. All eight chickens sleep on a 3'roost, despite that fact that ample roosting space exists.

For the past two weeks, Dolly likes to steal moments with me.  While the other girls are busy in the morning gobbling up scratch in the run, I like to do light coop housekeeping.  Dolly always sees this as an opportunity.  She peeks in the door as the others are not looking.  Then she comes into the coop and just sits by me on the roost, watching.  She quietly converses with me.  She never tries to escape out the door, rather, she waits.  Then, interestingly enough, she stands on the coop floor in front of me and goes into the submissive position.  Up until this point, I have not even tried to pet her.  She is just there, telling me that I am allowed, like a rooster, to interact with her.  I pick her up and place her upon my lap.  She is warm.  I smell the top of her sweet little fluffy head.  She snuggles right in, sometimes under my armpit, sometimes in the crook of my neck.  There, I pet her gently.  I offer to place her on the ground outside of the coop.  She just stands there and then tries to hop back into my lap.  She wants nothing more than my love.

Dolly and I bonded when she was having her clutch of chicks this past Spring.  I find it fascinating that she comes to me, on her own, alone in need of nothing more than love.   Love is universal, even in the world of chickens.

Teenage Drama

It's hard being a teenager.  I can remember those years.  They were difficult.  New found freedom was met with the thoughts that I knew everything and somehow at the same time, unbeknownst to me, really knew nothing about being a grown-up.   Plagued by braces and over sized glasses, it was a miracle that I survived.  I never really thought that chickens would have awkward teenage moments, but Dottie Speckles is playing the teenager role to a tee.


She pushes her boundaries.  She often does not know her limits with the other girls.  She is assertive and tries to boss them around.  Most times, she is completely unaware of her position in the middle of the pecking order.  She talks back to the other girls too, especially when they are all after the same treat.  If she was a real teenage daughter, she would be the one, breaking curfew, sneaking out wearing make-up and meeting up with her boyfriend.  Thank goodness I do not have any roosters.

She stays up past her bedtime.  As the others are sleeping on the roost, I find that she waits for me to tell her gently to get out of the nesting boxes when sleeping.  Fifi, her sibling, only took three nights to learn to sleep on the roosts.  Dottie Speckles, on the other hand, just can't seem to get it.  As I open the nesting box door, there she is in the middle box.  She gently gets up, complaining all the way, and finds herself a place on the roost.  Sometimes she goes on her own and other times, I have to gently pet her and nudge her along.  She can still be heard complaining back to me even after I close the nesting boxes for the night.

She picks fights with her siblings.  I don't know why, but sometimes, she will run up to the other girls for no reason and just peck on them.  Not hard, but it makes me wonder, why she does that?  Goodness, is it just girls being girls.  Has she yet to accept her role in the flock?  Is this just teenage strife that needs to be lifted off her chest?

She loves sleep.  In the afternoon, Dottie Speckles loves to nap sitting on the log in the run.  There she roosts peacefully as the world continues.  Time passes her by.  She is my only chicken that enjoys napping.

She thinks that laying an egg makes her a full grown adult.  Oh, yes, she is laying an egg almost daily now.  They are still small, somewhere between a Silkie size egg and a standard's egg.  I think that this egg laying was what created this teenager stage.

Even after all is said and done, I must say that Dottie Speckles is a good girl.  She listens and is quite sweet.  Next to the Silkies, she is the softest.  Her feathers are incredibly soft and silky.  They remind me of my daughter's hair after it has been washed and dried and is silky smooth from the cream rinse and brushing.  She is also docile. She has never attempted to peck at me and always comes when I call her.  I am proud to say that she is one of my girls.  I just can't wait for her to outgrow these teenage years, that is, if chickens even have them!


Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

""What Hurricane?" asked the chickens

Yard at dusk
Irene packed quite a punch for Cape Cod.  Bracing for the worst, we truly had battened down the hatches in the days prior to her arrival.  As Irene's projected course veered West, we were spared the worst.  However, we did have wind and lots of it!  We woke to the winds and by late morning we were experiencing 40 mph gusts and no power.  The power was out for most of the day.  However, that did not stop the chickens from being, chickens. As I went outside, I could see the tree tops tossing in the wind.  Swaying dramatically, they would dance from side to side.  The dance was intense, often jarring.

The night before the hurricane, I had covered the run with the plastic that I use in the winter.  It was still intact from the night before and had barely budged an inch.   There was also no rain, just wind.  A few weathermen were equating Irene's behavior to a familiar Nor'easter.  I went out early to check on the girls.  It was around 7am and there were already 2 eggs in the nesting boxes.  So far, the storm had no effects on their typical day.  Around 10am, I made a decision.   The winds, although scary at times, were predicted to decrease as the day progressed.  I took a chance and I let the girls out into the run.  They were incredibly happy.  They looked at me as if to say, "Ma, what took you so long to let us out?"  Apparently, they were not fazed.

Quickly, I returned inside.  I kept a close eye on the plastic tarp and the chickens from the window.  They were as happy as little chickens can be.  They were scratching around, finding treats, protected from most of the wind and acting as if Irene was not even in the neighborhood.  I was shocked.  For us powerless humans, the day dragged.  We read books, played board games, relaxed, took naps and even ordered pizza for dinner.

I went outside around 4 pm again, and the winds seemed to have subsided.  I brought the girls a bunch of arugula.  They were so glad to see me.  I think they had missed my presence.  Little did they know, the dangers of Irene!  At around 6pm, the power was finally restored.  The chickens went to bed early, as the sky was still darkened from the thick gray clouds.  As I was saying goodnight, I noticed that Tilly was still outside.  Unusual for her, she was making sure that her entire flock made it safely into the coop. Finally satisfied, she retired as well and I locked them in for the windy night ahead.

4pm and the plastic is still secure
I awoke this morning, to no internet and a yard that was a complete mess.  Sticks, branches, leaves and the like were scattered everywhere.  The flower beds were blown flat and blooms cracked off.  I did not care.  Everyone in the family was safe including the chickens.  Today,  I spent 4 hours in the yard with the kids trying to put it back together again.  The chickens were so happy to see us all outside.  I finally went over and brought the girls some snacks this afternoon.  As they flitted across the run, filling their crops as fast as they could, I checked in the nesting boxes.  There were 5 sweet gifts; eggs from the girls.  I could not help but smile myself.  For all my worrying, it was nice to know that the girls were laying eggs and thought of yesterday as another windy day on Cape Cod.



This post is linked up to Homestead Revival's Homestead Barn Hop.




Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest



Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chicken Sausage in a Thyme Butter Sauce

Last night, as the beginning of Irene began in the form of rain over Cape Cod, I was really craving something rich and savory.  I also have been taking items from the freezer for the past two days and preparing them, just in case we lose power for an extended period of time.  Looking into the frozen abyss, I decided to prepare this dish for the first time.  It was a hit!  It was very rich and very tasty.  It was also very simple and was prepared in about 20 minutes from start to finish.


Ingredients:

4 Chicken Sausages cut on an angle into slices~  I used the Trader Joe's Andouille variety (spicy)
1/2 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese~ I used the type in the canister, not freshly grated
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup of pasta water
Black Pepper to taste
1 package of fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli~ I used the Trader Joe's variety

Preparation:

1.  In a saute pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil, sausage and onion.  Cook until browned and the onions are translucent.  While the sausage mixture is cooking, cook the ravioli according to the package directions.

2.  Once the sausage mixture is browned, add the black pepper and the thyme.  Combine well.  Reduce the heat to low and add the butter.  Once the butter is melted, remove 3/4 of a cup of the water that the ravioli are cooking in and add that to the pan.  Add the Parmesan cheese and mix.  Turn off the heat once all ingredients are combined.

3.  Drain the ravioli and add them to the sausage mixture.  Combine well and serve.

This recipe can be found in our very own cookbook.


Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

Winner: Tilly's Nest Notecards

                                



Thank you everyone for entering the giveaway!  I thought about all of you as my husband and I put away the remaining outdoor furniture this morning before the arrival of Irene.  The winner of this giveaway is receiving 10 note cards with envelopes featuring original photography by Tilly's Nest.    These notecards are the perfect gift for any chicken lover in your life.  Now, without further adieu...


The Winner is

Irma's Rose Cottage

Congratulations, please email me with your address so that I can send these out to you.  If you did not win, but are still interested in picking up these beautiful note cards please click here.  Also, be sure to check out our newest set of note cards, Eggs and Flowers.  All proceeds support the daily publications of Tilly's Nest.  Thank you everyone for entering this fabulous giveaway. 


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest


Calm Before the Storm


In all of the craziness on Cape Cod caused by the flurry of frantic people preparing for Irene, I needed a break today.   I took the kids and we went and picked flowers at the Cape Cod Organic Farm.  In the fields, the children and I made our selections and assembled a beautiful bouquet.  Once home,  I trimmed the flowers and arranged them in a vase at the backyard table.  A bumblebee paid the freshly cut flowers a visit.

We have done as much as we can at this point preparing for Irene.  We are stocked up on supplies.  The chicken coop was cleaned out early this morning. Tomorrow, we will finish tying down the grill and patio furniture.  The girls will have their last day outside before we hunker down.  Today is a beautiful sunny summer day, the true calm before the storm.



This post is linked up to Deb's Dandelion House Farmgirl Blog Hop.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Batten Down the Hatches

Today we spent preparing for Irene.  I have never experienced a hurricane before.  I have lived on Cape Cod for 8 years now and last year Earl, did not live up to the hype.  The Weather Channel is saying that this will be one of the worst disasters for coastal New England.  They may be sensationalizing a bit, but with two young children and a coop full of chickens, we need to be prepared.

In addition to insuring that we have adequate supplies including water, food, a first aid kit, batteries and flashlights, it is also necessary to prepare for our chickens' needs as well.  When Bob hit Cape Cod in 1991, it took 1 week to restore power.  Today, I was preparing as if we would be without power for a few days.

It is important, if you are not evacuating, to factor in your chickens' water needs into the quantity of water that you put in reserve for you and your family.  Whether it is bottled water, or water filled bins that you prepare ahead of time, you do not want to overlook this detail.   Be sure to put aside what your chickens drink in a one week period.  There should also be medical supplies to deal with any injuries incurred during the storm for the flock as well as two weeks worth of food just to be on the safe side.  Also, be sure to secure the coop's roof and inspect and repair any areas that might be damaged further in the heavy rain and gusts of wind.

Only you can best decided where your flock will weather the storm.  Some individuals lock the flock in the coop with ample food and water, crack the window a hair and hope for the best.  However, because some coops are not as sturdy, some will choose to spread out a plastic tarp in the garage, basement or other sheltered location within the home and weather the storm there.  During the storm, do not give into the temptation to go out and check on the flock.  Debris can and will be flying and can certainly injure you in your efforts at kindness.

After the storm, be sure to assess the run and the coop for external damage prior to letting the flock out.  Once the run is deemed secure, feel free to let the chickens explore.  They will be happy to stretch their legs.  Damages will be unknown initially.  Will the power will go out?  How long will it take to restore? Will the water will be safe or available to drink?  With a few preparations, damages to your home and your chickens will be minor.  We may have to survive a few days without our normal creature comforts.

As long as the girls are not swept away like Dorothy and Toto, I can be sure that despite any situations we are in, our breakfast will still be delivered to our door by the cutest little feathered delivery girls I have ever met!

What are you doing to keep your coop and flock safe?  If you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to share them in your comments.  We would love any advice you can share!

Record Egg



Ouch!  This beauty is from Oyster Cracker.  She laid it this morning.  It takes up my entire palm and two of my daughter's hands.  I can't believe some of the eggs she has laid, but this today is by far the largest!  I am so fascinated by the entire egg laying process.  As the hens sleep in the night, the outer egg shell is being created. Hens that are disturbed or scared in the night can lay malformed eggs or even stop laying them at all.  Full crops right before bed help too.  My girls enjoy a little chicken scratch right before bed, sort of like milk and cookies for the kiddos, only instead of insuring that they will sleep through the night, I am hoping for nesting boxes with eggs in the morning.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

The Waterer Has Arrived



Yesterday afternoon, I installed it very quickly with just two screw.  I love it.  The girls took to it immediately and the best part is that it is staying clean!  The plastic parts, red and white, slide out of the metal holder for easy filling, access, and cleaning.  My coop is small and it takes up not much room at all.  However, I am still thinking of ways to keep it from freezing in the winter time.

Yes, it is sold as a piglet feeder.  I turned the label to the back as not to offend the girls.  Sometimes thinking outside the box, might just lead to a solution you are seeking.

If you would like to read more about this waterer, click here.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Penikese and Cuttyhunk Islands

This weekend, my husband and I took an excursion to the Elizabeth Islands.  The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of islands adjacent to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard.  They were used as stop overs for many years by merchants and pirates, as well as the Wompanoag Indians.  The Wompanoags spent their summers over on this small chain of islands fishing.


Penikese Island has a very rich history.  It was owned by many until the State of Massachusetts acquired ownership in the early 1900s.  It served several purposes, including serving as the state's leper colony, a research aquarium and more recently, as a school for troubled boys.  We took the trip last year and had a wonderful time.  I was looking forward to revisiting the island and it's chickens.  The school kept a few farm animals and chickens were one of them.  However, when we arrived, we had learned that the school was now closed due to lack of funding.  The coop was locked and the run was overgrown with invasive weeds as tall as my husband.  I was so saddened that this place was looking so different without the boys' school to attend to it's needs.  Then, as we walked a path up to the leper cemetery, there were the two Helmeted Guinea Fowl!  They were still here.  Most likely, they were unable to be caught and were left to forage for themselves.  Apparently, it was working.  As soon as I had caught a glimpse, they were gone; hidden within the underbrush.


After Penekese we went to Cuttyhunk.  I was sure that I would find someone on this island with backyard chickens.  This island has approximately 30 people that live here year round.  In the summer, the population reaches 300.  The island is known for its striped bass fishing.  In fact, years ago, President Taft was a member of the Cuttyhunk Bass Fishing.  The inhabitants of the island get around via golf cart or by foot.  It is easily walk-able.  As we walked I looked for backyard chickens.  I saw lots of beautiful clothes lines.




I saw beautiful scenery.





I never did find a backyard chicken.  This was the closest that I came.


Someone was saving egg cartons on the side porch of the only little market on the island.  Maybe I just hadn't found them.

Photo Credits: Tilly's Nest


To Worm or Not To Worm Backyard Chickens...


This is a topic of much debate in the poultry world.  Some people never worm.  Some people worm every six months.  The decision is your own personal preference.  However, there is a lot of information to take into consideration.

Background:

Worms are considered endoparasites and are found inside of the chicken's body. They are often referred to in the veterinary world as Helminths. Helminths include all internal parasites living within the body of the chicken.   The most common types of worms found in chickens include:

Hair worms ~ These are found in the crop, esophagus, proventriculus and intestine. They are very thin and an inch or less in length.  They can use earthworms as intermediate hosts before infecting your chickens.  Symptoms of hair worm infestation include green diarrhea, pale egg yolks, anemia and a hunched over appearance with wing dragging.  With large infestations, birds can die.

Round Worms ~ These are found in the birds digestive system.  These worms are 2-4 inches long and live in the middle of the chicken's digestive tract.  Infestation occurs from birds ingesting droppings.  These worms can cause chickens to become anemic, have pale egg yolks and appear depressed.  In young growing birds, they will prevent normal weight gain.  These too can kill your chickens. Large roundworms can even sometimes migrate into the cloaca and end up inside of an egg.

Gape Worm~These worms are found in the trachea and lungs. Fully grown gape worms are "Y" shaped and about 1 inch long.  Chickens become infected either by eating droppings or by eating earthworms or snails that act as intermediate hosts.  Infested chickens can also transmit the worms as they cough up the worms and another bird ingests what that bird coughed up.  The symptoms of gape worm infestation include respiratory distress.  The chickens can be seen coughing, shaking their heads and stretching their necks.  Sometimes, when held, these birds make a gurgling noise.  These worms can cause suffocation.  Young birds, up to 8 weeks old, are incredibly susceptible.

Caecal Worms~ These worms are very common and have no symptoms.  However, they can transmit blackhead to Turkeys.  It is for this reason, that many individuals that keep chicken and turkeys do not allow their flocks to intermingle.  These worms are found in the caecum.

A key piece of information in regards to worming is that the life cycle of the worm is 2-8 days.  If one chooses to worm their flock, this must be followed up with either preventative measures or another cycle of medication.


Prevention/Treatment:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure~ Benjamin Franklin

 I have only wormed my own personal flock once.   When my girls were 10 weeks old, Tilly came down with symptoms of gape worm.   I had been feeding them lots of slugs and worms that I found in the garden.  I have no regrets about it.  I believe it possibly saved her life. 

Since then, I have done quite a bit of research regarding this and have since learned that there are very simple things that chicken keepers can do to prevent worm infestations in their flocks.  Many of these take less than 10 minutes a day.

Apple Cider Vinegar~  I add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water that I give to my girls.  This helps maintain an acidic environment in the gastrointestinal tract of the chicken, creating a less than optimal environment for worms.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)~  This prehistoric fossil remnant sure packs a punch against many critters that "bug" chickens.  As I feed the chickens, I mix in the DE to make-up about 2% of the chickens' feed.  DE has microscopic sharp edges that have been known to lacerate the outside of worms and the like causing them to die.  This can be used as a treatment as well as prevention. A study out of Clemson University showed that the fecal egg count declined in dairy cows that had FGDE added to their feed.

Plain Yogurt with Live and Active Cultures~ I believe that feeding my flock yogurt helps to maintain and add to the normal bacteria living within their guts.  This not only maintains and promotes gastrointestinal health, but also is a great source of calcium.

Vitamins and Electrolytes with Probiotics~  I add this to their water supply about once a week in the summer and daily in the winter.  Again, this helps to maintain and promotes gastrointestinal health.  I love the Merrick's Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes.

Garlic~  Some people use garlic as a preventative as well as a treatment.  Garlic cloves can either be added to your chickens' water supply or sprinkled on their food.  The University of Kentucky recommends combining it with mint for full effect.  This can be used as treatment and prevention.

Raw Pumpkin Seeds~Ground Raw Hulled Pumpkin seeds have a coating on the seed that paralyzes the worm and allows it to pass out of the intestine.  This coating chemical is called cucurbitacin. These only work for tapeworm and round worm.  This is very easy to do for your flock in the fall.  When you carve or use your pumpkins, be sure to save the insides for your flock.

Keep the shavings inside of the coop clean and dry.  Avoid the chickens from eating off the floor out of the shavings in the coop.

Keep the run neat and tidy and if possible, rotate or change where the flock stays outside periodically.

Shortly cut grass where the chickens roam helps the sunlight kill the worm eggs.

Sometimes the only way to know if your flock is suffering from a worm infestation is a trip to the avian veterinarian.  Having their poop examined under a microscope is the only way to be sure that no worms are present in your flock.  There are medications available through your veterinarian, but come with strict directions and many of them are not approved for use in poultry.  If you do use any of these worming medications there is also a withdrawal period from the medication.  During that time, the eggs must be thrown away, as they are unsafe for consumption.  Also, do not feed these eggs back to your chickens.  You will only be redosing your flock through medication present in the eggs.

At the time of publication of this post, these medications are available in the US for worming.  Recommendations regarding their use can change at anytime.

Flubenvet 1% safe for use in egg laying hens with withdrawl period
Verm-X (herbal/no egg withdrawal)
Piperazine (Wazine)- cannot be used in egg laying hens*****READ THE PACKAGE INSERT
Fenbendazole (Panacur)- safe for use in egg laying hens with withdrawl period.
Rooster Booster Triple Action Wormer- no withdrawl period
(These precautions are those recommended at time of publication and are subject to change. Please research.)

Be sure that the wormer you select is recommended for the types of worms you are treating.

There are also some medications listed in The Chicken Health Handbook that are often used but not approved for worming.  It is recommended to consult with a veterinarian if you feel you need one of those medications.

Please keep in mind that worming your flock is difficult on the chickens' bodies.  Also keep in mind that different medications treat different types of worms.   If you chose to worm your flock, avoid worming during winter in freezing temperatures, during molting and under 6 weeks of age.  Most people that do worm choose to do it in spring and fall. 

Resources:

The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow





http://www.new-self-sufficient-living.com/worms-in-chickens.html

http://www.clemson.edu/ipm/reports/04bertrand.pdf

http://www.thebestcontrol.com/DE/Chapter40.pdf

Rybaltovskii OV. 1966. On the discovery of cucurbitin—a component of pumpkin seed with anthelmintic action. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 35:487–8

Plotnikov AA et. al. 1972. Clinical trial or cucurbin (a preparation from pumpkin seeds) in cestadiasis. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 41(4): 407-411.


This post is linked up to Homestead Revival's Homestead Barn Hop.

Easy Chicken Soft Tacos

Lately, with all of the contractors working around the house, I find our family dining out, for the sheer sake of convenience.  However, it is possible with chaos surrounding the kitchen to prepare a very simple and delicious meal like this one.  The key is marinading the chicken.  Grilling and assembling the fajitas are easy and fun for the kids.  This dinner, if prepped ahead of time, can be ready in about 15 minutes.  I love that! Plus it's home cooked, low fat, includes all of the food groups, incredibly yummy and satisfying.  This is one of my go to meals when I come home from after school activities with the kids.

Ingredients:

Chicken
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 package of taco seasoning mix

Taco Toppings
2 tomatoes~diced
Romaine lettuce~shredded
Mexican shredded cheese
Salsa
Sour Cream
Taco Sauce

Tacos
Flour tortillas~soft taco size~ 1 package

Preparation:

1. In a gallon zip lock bag, combine the taco seasoning and olive oil.  Add the chicken and marinade the entire day in the refrigerator.

2.  On the grill over medium heat, cook the chicken until the juices run clear and the internal temperature is 170 degrees F.

3.  Remove from grill and on a cutting board, cut into strips.

4.  Place the tortillas on a dinner plate and cover with a wet paper towel.  Warm them in the microwave.

5.  Bring the meat, warm tortillas and toppings to the table and let your family enjoy in creating their dinner.

Time Saving Tip:
 If time is an issue, prep all of your toppings before hand.  When dinner time arrives, it is incredibly while you are grilling the chicken to remove the toppings from the refrigerator and set them on the table.  


You might enjoy some other recipes featured on Tilly's Nest.  Click here.

Waterer Solution

Can you believe that I am already starting to think about winter and the girls' comfort?  Unbelievably, despite this heat, fall is just around the corner.  In the Northeast, we stick out into the Atlantic on our man made island.  This leaves us subject to various winters with many different conditions.  Some are mild, never having temperatures drop below the 20s and others are brutally cold, reaching below zero.  This had a lot to do with my coop selection.  

Some people are not advocates of small coops.  They believe that small coops can overheat in the summertime and stress the chickens.  Many feel they do not come with adequate ventilation.  My small coop has solutions to every naysayer's concerns.  I have three windows in my 3'x4' coop.  Above the nesting boxes is a transverse window that runs the length of the coop and in both of the front doors are windows.  These windows are covered with hardware cloth allowing for great ventilation during warm days and evenings.  In colder times, plexiglass inserts are available to keep the girls away from drafts.  The best part is that my girls stay nice and warm in the winter with their body heat.  They never need to be heated by an outside source and they have yet to experience frostbite.  Thank goodness.


Click here to see the girls' coop


The only difficulty, in my opinion, is creating food and water solutions inside of the coop.  As space is limited compared to walk-in coops, I have had to be practical and creative when it comes to keeping food and water inside the coop.  Selecting a feeder was easy.  Currently, I use the Little Giant 3 pound feeder.  This feeder hangs off the coop's floor and holds 2 days worth of food for my 8 girls.  Its compact size is great and it seems to have been made for the coop.


Little Giant 3 Lbs Plastic Hanging Poultry Feeder  PHF3
Little Giant 3 pound feeder

The waterer on the other hand has been very challenging.  It is difficult to find something that the large Buff Orpingtons do not bump into and knock over, leaving the wood shavings soaked.  I have tried the 1 gallon poultry waterers that I use outside without success.  I currently use a stainless steel dog water bowl with a large rock in the center to prevent the girls from tipping it over.  It never tips, but the water gets very dirty quickly. It also takes up precious floor space.  Then, while searching the internet, I found this:

Little Giant Piglet Waterer


This was perfect for my girls! It is 9 1/2"deep, 6 3/4" wide and 13 1/8" high. It holds one gallon and slides into a metal tray that mounts on the wall. I ordered it online and can't wait for it to come in the mail. I am hoping that this solves some of the issues I had with waterers as well as maybe some of yours too. 

If you have creative solutions, please share them in the comments.  We are listening!

This post is linked up to Deborah Jean's Dandelion House Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop.


Update:  The waterer arrived!  You can read more here.



Photo Credits:  Miller Manufacturing, Tilly's Nest



Giveaway: Tilly's Nest Notecards



Yesterday we celebrated 100 followers of Tilly's Nest.  Since October 2010, this tiny diary of our chicken adventures has grown into something so much more.  Thank you everyone for all of your support and love!  To honor this we will be giving away one of our original note card sets.

Each set features ten unique note cards that are available for purchase on Tilly's Nest.  These beautiful note cards showcase photography from our various Tour de Coop Series.  The sales of these note cards help to support Tilly's Nest.   To see all of the note cards included click here.

Enter the Giveaway!

1.  Tell us about your all time favorite post on Tilly's Nest.  Link to it in our comments.  If you do not have a blog, please leave your email address so we can contact the winner. This earns one entry.

2. Become a fan of  Tilly's Nest on Facebook and receive one entry.  If you are already a Facebook fan you still qualify.  Remind me in your comments.

3.  Enter a third time by blogging or facebooking about this giveaway so that others can learn about Tilly's Nest.

4.  Followers of Tilly's Nest will get another vote.

Don't miss this terrific giveaway and your chance to earn 4 votes to win our exclusive note cards.  Good Luck!

This giveaway ends on Friday, August 26th at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time.  This item will only ship to addresses in the United States.

Hawk Prevention

Yesterday, the girls were tormented by a juvenile Red Tailed Hawk for a few hours.  Either myself or one of the contractors would chase it away, only to find it returned and perched upon the coop.  Finally, I had remembered something that I had seen and learned about from Terry Golson during her Chicken Workshop.  She had strung old CDs across her pullets' open top run to ward off flying predators.  It had worked beautifully.

I took a long piece of twine and strung it between two trees across the top of the my coop.  From that string I hung 5 shiny round CDs from separate pieces of twine.  I was glad to see the hawk sat perched high in a nearby tree but did not venture to the top of the coop.  Finally, I was convinced that it had given up and flown away realizing that my chickens were not going to be dinner.  Or so I thought.

This morning as I was still getting ready, I heard one of the contractors calling for me.  I went outside and there, high up on a dead branch in a nearby tree, was the hawk.  The chickens were sounding the alarm and I could not believe my eyes.  As it preened itself, it was getting ready for its next meal.  Then I heard a second hawk in the yard.  "You've got to be kidding me", I thought as I racked my brain for another solution.  It was not a good scene.  The chicken alarm was going off and the girls were all scared for their lives in the coop.  

I went into the garage and grabbed the beach blanket.  I covered the run and then I coaxed the girls out with treats.  It worked.  No longer seeing each other, the chickens quickly became side tracked and the hawk left. About an hour later, I uncovered the girls.  The hawk did not return today.  The girls did not free range.  Everyone was safe and Fifi finally did lay her first egg.  


Hawk


Today I was working in the backyard with our contractor replacing a window.  I kept hearing the chickens sound the alarm.  I could only assume they were reacting to the power tools and hammering.  Little did I know that the threat was real.  I decided to investigate after they were squawking for a while.  As I rounded the corner, I was taken a back by this juvenile Red Tailed Hawk perched atop the coop staring down at my chickens!  It was big, about 2 feet tall, and it was not fazed by my presence.  The girls, on the other hand, were down in the far end of the run fearing for their lives.

I snapped a quick picture with my phone, went into the garage, and grabbed a 2 x 4.  I was ready for battle.  As they are federally protected, my intentions were not malicious, just scare tactics.  It was not until I was about 5 feet away swinging that it went up into a nearby tree.  I was shaken.   After a few minutes standing there, it took off, buzzed my head, and flew into the woods.  I am sure it will be back.  I now will not dare let the girls free range.  I had never been within a few feet of such a magnificent creature.  Nor do I think I want to be for a long time.  The worst part was, poor Fifi was trying to lay her first egg inside the coop while all of this ruckus was occurring outside.  She never did lay that egg.


Photo Credits: Tilly's Nest

Tour de Coop: Taylor Bray Farm, Yarmouthport


Cape Cod is rich with history.  Our country was founded here in Massachusetts. In fact, did you know that prior to landing at Plymouth Rock, the settlers on the Mayflower first landed on Cape Cod?  They were chased away by local Indians who inhabited that area.  Now First Encounter Beach can be visited in its natural beauty. Today, we visited another piece of working history, Taylor Bray Farm in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts.

In 1639, the farm was founded by Richard "of the rock" Taylor while the land was still part of Plymouth colony. It remained in the Taylor family for many years until 1896, when the Bray brothers, who both worked on the farm for the Taylors, purchased the property.  In 1987 the farm was purchased by the town.  It is now run by the collaborative efforts of several preservation groups.  Today, the smaller 22 acre property is a working farm.  It has donkeys, goats, cattle, sheep and chickens.




As we arrived, we were lucky to discover that the morning chores were still being performed.  The staff was cleaning the chicken coop and we were able to find out more about the flock and its history.  The coop was updated in 2006.  It is a very simple design.




The coop is divided into two halves.  The Southern portion acts as the "coop", complete with food, roosts and nesting boxes.  The Northern half features a breezeway housing extra feed and supplies while allowing movement through the building.  This breezeway is closed off in the evenings with doors on both sides. 




The flock consists of Polish Hens, Dominos, Buff Orpingtons, Wyandottes and Light Brahmas.  The flock is older.  The farm never culls it hens; rather, they are allowed to live out their natural lives.  One of the Light Brahmas is even blind.  She has no eyes.  Upon questioning, no one knew what had happened to her.   They could only tell me that she was thriving and had been like that for years.  I found her against the side of the run, gently walking around in the sandy floor.  I felt sad for her.  She, on the other hand, appeared happy and unfazed.







The farm's rooster showed up one day out of nowhere. He was taken in off the street.  Apparently, one of the farm's neighbors spotted it and lured it across the street with bread crumbs.  Once the rooster took one look at the girls, it was love at first sight. He was not willing to leave his new found loves.   He has been a permanent fixture ever since.

 

The girls typically lay 2 to 8 eggs per day.  With about 20 hens, many of them are at least over 5 years of age.  Last Spring they had an issue with mites, thus many of the girls are missing feathers.  These should grow back after they molt this Fall. 

As we continued talking about the Bray Farm flock, the gentleman asked me if I had nice chickens.  I replied yes.  "You must consider them pets then", he replied.  "These chickens here are not pets."  If you ask me, I would beg to differ regarding his opinion about this flock.  I believe that even though they are part of a working farm, they are receiving a wonderful gift from the farm.  They are not depended upon for meat or eggs.  They are allowed to live without providing anything in return.  This made me happy.

It was nice to meet the flock on this overcast misty day.   The best thing about chickens is that the weather doesn't dampen their spirits.  I also learned again about perseverance.  The little blind girl certainly didn't let her blindness stop her from living a wonderful life on the farm.

To see all of the Tour de Coops featured on Tilly's Nest click here.

This post is linked up to Homestead Revival's Homestead Barn Hop.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

The Sunshine Necklace



How fitting that this chicken who loves jewelry as much as her sister, Oyster Cracker, ended up this morning with a gorgeous sunshine necklace.  A sunshine necklace for my girl named Sunshine.  The golden necklace was temporary, yet organic and stunning.  It made her feathers glisten.  She wore it for a fleeting moment and then it was gone.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Inspector Sunshine


Lately, I do not know what has gotten into Sunshine.  She has single handedly taken it upon herself be the secret investigator and the police officer of Tilly's Nest.  She is my pseudo rooster.  She sounds the alarm for the flock.  She inspects the nesting boxes frequently.  She counts the eggs and is protective of them.  When I open the nesting boxes to check for eggs, she runs in and watches my every move.  Sometimes, she even pecks my hand as I gather the eggs.  

It is interesting that when roosters are not present, often a hen will take on a role similar to the rooster.  Some of these girls even start to crow, stop laying eggs and grow spurs like their rooster counterparts.  Every chicken has a role in the flock.  Some are the look outs.  Some are the scouts.  Some are the Mothers who tell the others when to eat, dust bathe and go to sleep.  Some are lower in the pecking order and serve the "safety in numbers" theory.  

Similar to families, everyone has their own role.  I can identify with the roles of the chickens.  In my family,  I have old roles with my sisters and parents.  I have newer ones with my husband and children.  In the world, we have roles in work and with friends.  I wonder if like us, the chickens are allowed to choose their own roles or do they just fall into place?  Perhaps, it is a little of both.  Amazingly, I never cease to find similarities between the chicken and human world.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Digging to China

The chickens have been partaking in digging one large deep hole daily.  The holes are created by the larger girls.  Dirt flies everywhere. It is amazing to watch.   High and low, you do not want to be behind one of these chickens on their archaeological excavation.  Why are they creating these large holes?   I am not entirely sure.  They are much too large for dust bathing.  When complete, I can barely see the top of the chicken's heads as they stand deep down in the cool earth.

Oyster Cracker looks on as Feathers watches Autumn and Dottie Speckles explore

Today, I was lucky enough to capture the girls digging one of these colossal creations.  This, being the second day that a new hole was created, I was sure to bring my camera.  Yesterday, I was a bit saddened when I went to lock them in the coop last night.  The mammoth hole that they had dug earlier was no longer present.  The girls had filled in the hole.  So today, I was thrilled to see them dig a new one.

I sat there for a while as the girls, especially Tilly, commanded the scene.  She was the fore-chicken.  Once in a while she would dig and discover.  Then she would go away and leave the others at work.  Within a minute or so, she would return and rediscover the hole all over again.  The big girls dug and dug and dug.  Dirt from the run's floor flew everywhere.  My legs and toes were covered and I could feel the gritty earth in my flip flops as I moved out of the way.

View from above, 3 chickens in the hole

Apparently, these holes are being dug for bugs.  Deep down, standing between tree and plant roots, the girls forage for tiny little wiggling snacks.  After a while, the larger girls allow the Silkies to pop in and see what they can find.  The Silkies alone are not great at digging which makes it nice to see the bigger girls sharing with the smaller ones.  They never cease to amaze me as I have discovered that they are excellent excavators.  They "will work" for treats.


Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

Eggs


One of the fantastic things about keeping backyard chickens is creating your own eggs.   Yes, by keeping backyard chickens, you are able to influence what goes into those eggs that your family consumes.  Backyard chickens' eggs are known to healthier than those available in your local supermarket in a number of ways.  The cholesterol is lower and the eggs are higher in Omega-3s, Vitamin A and beta-carotene.

We are able to feed our chickens organic feed that truthfully is only about $3 more per 50-pound bag.  We are also able to control the treats that the flock eats and where they free range.  To me, this is truly knowing where your food comes from.  If you ask my kids, it comes "fresh from the butt".  Today, my daughter told me that quiche was her favorite food.  I might just have to agree, especially when I know those eggs are made with love on both my end and the chickens'.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Smiles from Chickens


Silly Tilly drags a branch across the yard

You can quote me as I speak
Chickens smile despite their beaks
Look how she walks and talks and stares
See how she jumps and shows she cares
Listen to her serenade
Think of how they've danced and played
Their little toes don't skip a beat
Happiness permeates their feet.
Up into your lap they hop
Snuggling right into your top.
I feel their combs warm near my skin
I really feel like chicken kin
Watching my hens all the while
I swear to you that they can smile

~ Tilly's Nest 2011


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Day Trip and French Toast

Today I am heading down to Connecticut.  My grandfather passed away and as I am the only Granddaughter nearby,  my Dad asked if I would come down and help sort through my Grandparent's belongings.  The home is a time capsule, it remains just as it did when I was a little girl.  The sights and smells are always the same, except when you run up the stairs of the home, that this family has lived in since the late 1800's,  it is quietly sleeping. No one is there to greet you, pick you up and swing you around.

My Grandmother passed away about 5 years ago and my Grandfather about one year ago.   We are finally ready to begin discovering and sorting out their belongings.  The whole family will be making the trip today.  My husband and children will spend the day in Mystic at the aquarium, while we sort through over 100 years of memories.  Today, I have planned to have my chicken babysitter keep an eye on the girls.

Yesterday, the kids had homemade french toast for breakfast.  It is one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I remember having it at the breakfast table in the kitchen of my Grandparent's home.  It is incredibly simple to make.  So, I thought that I would share it with you, as it seems so fitting.

Ingredients:

A loaf of bread~  I prefer wheat bread, but a thickly sliced bread is a real treat.
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Cinnamon
Butter

Preparation:

1.  Cut as many slices of bread in half on the diagonal, as you prefer.  I usually assume most people will eat 2 whole slices of bread.

2.  In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.

3.  On the stove top over medium heat, in a large skillet, add about a tablespoon of butter to coat the bottom of the pan.  You may need to turn the heat down in the cooking process depending on your stove.

4.  Take a diagonally sliced piece of bread.  Dip it in the egg mixture on both sides and place in the pan.  Dust the side facing up with cinnamon.

5.  With a spatula, once the side facing the pan is golden brown, flip it onto the other side, as you would with pancakes.  Cook until both sides are golden brown.

6.  Repeat the process, depending on the quantity you desire.  If you are making a large amount, you will need more eggs and milk.

I serve my french toast with warm maple syrup and a side of fresh fruit.

Come view all of the recipes from Tilly's Nest here.

The Scoop on Backyard Chicken Poop

As most of the East Coast has been embraced by a heat wave, yesterday we finally had a break.  It rained.  Rain is actually predicted for most of the week, but we hadn't had a rain like that in months.  At times there were horrendous downpours.  So intense, that I even dragged out the plastic tarp that covers the run in the winter. 

Today everyone, especially me, was happy to see the sun breakthrough the misty foggy layer that covered the Cape this morning.  As I rolled up and removed the plastic tarp, the girls were ecstatic to see me.  They were bright eyed and bushy tailed and chattering up a storm.  They too must have sensed the visit from Mr. Sun.

As I uncovered the run, it was down right hot.  As soon as the rain had left, the blanket of moist heavy humidity returned.  Did I mention how much I hate humidity?  Instantly I was reminded of what happened two days ago in similar heat.  I was there watching the girls scratch around in the dirt and out it came.  Like a water gun, Oyster Cracker's behind let out an explosive stream of water.  I thought to myself, oh great, she has diarrhea.  I imagined myself giving her bath upon bath. This would lead to an uphill battle of beauty vs. diarrhea.  Upon closer examination, my inspection of the ground revealed nothing, just a wet spot.

Worried, I came inside and looked on backyard chickens and found the answer right away as well as this lovely link on how normal and abnormal chicken poop appears.  Apparently, these watery poops can happen when chicken are hot and drink too much water.  It is not harmful in anyway and it does not mean the bird is ill.  It is just something that they do. 

So, for now the sun is out.  The diarrhea has stopped and the girls are happy.  They are busily scratching in the run's moist soil for worms, surely not worrying about diarrhea.  I suppose this is another Chicken Mom job description for me, "Poop Inspector".  Huh; funny how so many things with keeping chickens parallels raising children. 

This post is linked up to Homestead Revival's Homestead Barn Hop.

Farm Stands

$5 a bunch, one of my favorites on the Cape


One of the things that I love about Cape Cod are the amount of farm stands that seem to crop up during the summertime.  Preying on the tourists, these lovely little homegrown stands of love, are filled with families' delights that they wish to share with those lookie loos wandering down New England's winding roads once traveled by horses and wagons.

Typically, these farm stands have assorted produce that families place at the top of their driveway to sell.  They are a surplus to the family's need and are placed there for passersby to purchase, usually on the honor system.  What intrigued me the most though, is that people who raise backyard chickens are now placing their eggs on the side of the road in a cooler for sale.  Some of the farm stands are elaborate and others are simply a Coleman cooler filled with ice packs and a coin jar holding payments and sweet little instructions. 

The time that you spend there is brief.  There is no dialogue and small talk between you and the seller.  There is not pomp and circumstances in the purchase, having it nicely wrapped in brown paper and twine.
However, this is what is magical about these honor system stands.  These farm stands take you off the beaten path.  They make you feel as though you have just discovered a secret treasure.  Knowing the quantities are small and limited, you feel excited and lucky to have found this little cart.  I love discovering these hidden gems in my travels.  They are a reminder to look forward to the journey as much as the destination.





This post is linked up to Deborah Jean's Dandelion House Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.

Photo Credits:  Tillys Nest, flickr, etsy

Bald Spot on Backyard Chicken



Oyster Cracker has a bald spot on the back of her head behind her comb.  I believe Chocolate gave it to her.  As she submitted to his interests, he used to grab her with his beak on the back of the head repetitively.  As, you know, we rehomed Chocolate a few months ago, and still, no feathers have grown back.  Is is possible that they will grow back once she molts this Fall?  She is right next to Tilly on the pecking order, so I do not believe other chickens are responsible for this, especially because no one else in the flock has this bald spot.  A friend suggested putting some Blu Kote on it and seeing if anything returns. Is it be possible that her feathers will never return?  Poor girl.  What should this Chicken Mom do?


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Reflecting Back~Our Beginning

I received a call from the post office around 2pm.   They had left a message at my home and also on my cell phone.  The cell phone message was from a very concerned postal worker.  Apparently, my peeping package had arrived and it was making them very nervous.  I suppose the Osterville post office does not see too many baby chicks come through their doors.  After all, these were day old chicks, hatched, immunized and sent through the mail overnight.

I returned the call and told them I would be there as soon as possible.  I had been waiting for two days with my “delivery window” and a much needed errand had me down Cape.  As quickly as I could, I drove.  Someone might have even thought that I was about to give birth!  As fast as I could safely go, I did.  My baby chicks needed me!

I arrived about 30 minutes after speaking to the employee.  The post office was cool and the air conditioning felt good on my perspiring skin.  I stepped up to the counter and stated my name.  I was met with, “Oh thank goodness you are here!”  As the woman walked away, I could hear lots of peeping.  She soon returned, carrying ever so gently the peeping package, a 6 inch square cardboard box.  It had air holes and was adorned with “Live Animal” stamps on all six sides.  It was even wrapped with tamper resistant plastic cording.  Somehow, the hatchery knew that others would be curious.

“Open the box here!” shouted one of the employees from the back, “we’ve been listening to that thing all day.”  I politely declined.  I feared the worst.  Perhaps, one of the chicks would be dead.  I have heard that some of them do not survive the strenuous trip.  What if one of them got loose?  How would I ever catch it?  What if they caught a chill from the air conditioning?  “No, thank you,” I replied.

I signed the release form and quickly started off on my way with my peeping package.  I placed it safely on a towel in the passenger side seat.  There it peeped.  I turned off the air conditioning, as baby chicks require the temperature to be 95 degrees during their first week of life.

I had ordered six little chicks from an online hatchery.  I selected breeds that are known to be good with children, friendly, docile, good egg layers and also cold hardy.  I was so excited to get home and meet my new babies, an Australorp, two Buff Orpingtons, and three Silkie Bantams.  I could not wait!

On the way home, I morphed into my vision of a mother hen.  I peeped back.  To the best of my abilities, I spoke chicken!  I mimicked their little noises for a while.  The three mile trip seemed like an eternity.  Finally, no more noises came from the box.  In my mind, the chicks were all now dead!  Yes, I do tend to think the worst and exaggerate!  No, surely they must not be dead, maybe they were just tired.

I arrived home safely.  I was greeted immediately at the door by the kids.  They were giddy with excitement.  I told them to go inside and I would be with them in a few minutes.  It is not unusual to have a chick perish in transit.  Thus, it was recommended that I never tell my children how many chickens I originally ordered.  Just in case one did die, the children would never know.

Slowly with scissors, I snipped the tamper proof cording.  I ran the scissors along the edges of the box.  Cautiously, I lifted up the lid.  Inside huddled into the corner were the tiniest day old baby chicks.  I quickly counted and the loud peeping began again.  Six.   All six were alive.  I called the kids out to the garage.

We had set up their temporary home in the garage, a tiny little house made of left over plywood, a heat lamp and soft pine shavings lining the bottom.  We filled the food dish with crumbles and also added water to their dish.  One by one I grabbed each chick.  They were so tiny.  As the mother hen, I inspected each one from head to toe.  I was not entirely sure what to look for, but I felt it was the motherly thing to do!  Their bodies seemed so small, consisting of mostly feathers.  Their toes were so incredibly tiny, and so were their toenails.   I even counted their toes.  Yes, just as promised, the Silkie Bantams all had 5 toes instead of the usual 4.

I gently grasped each chick and dipped their beaks in the water.  They stood there stunned.  I did it again repeatedly until they all drank for themselves.  One of the Silkie Bantams appeared weak and not as strong.  I was nervous. Was this chick going to make it?  It was clear that I was going to have to observe this one and pay special attention to be sure during this delicate time.  Next, I took each chick and dipped their beaks in the food.  Though they were confused at first, it took them no time to realize how to eat and drink.  Since they had been shipped as one day old, they were still surviving on part of their own egg from which they hatched.  They could survive for 3 days without food and water.  However, they very quickly realized how much they love to eat.

We placed the beach blanket down on the floor and sat in front of the brooder’s window.  We watched chicken t.v.  The kids and I sat there, quietly mesmerized.  The chicks explored their new 2’x2’ surroundings.  They continued to eat and drink and officially introduce themselves to one another.  After the introductions and tours were over, all six little chicks settled down into the center of the brooder.  They were so tired but had no idea how to sit down.  We watched each one, while still standing, fall asleep and then topple over into the pine shavings.  Some woke, others continued to sleep.  They ended up creating a soft blanket of chicks underneath the heat lamp. We picked out names; Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Chocolate, Peanut and Feathers. 

 I began writing about the chickens out of a desire to chronicle our trials and tribulations as newbie chicken owners, but it has turned into so much more for me.  Tilly’s Nest is about the journey.  It is a culmination of stories, wisdom and life’s lessons as taught by the chickens. We have had happy times.  We have had sad times.  We have had challenges.  We have had successes and failures.  I never would have thought that I would have so many wonderful experiences and new opportunities as a result of adding these feathered babies to our family.  This June, the chickens celebrated their first birthday.  You ask me, was there cake?  Yes, I made one especially for the girls.  I would not have had it any other way. 

Oyster Cracker and Sunshine~3 days old