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The Unexpected Discovery

As I was refilling the feeder a couple of days ago, I happened to notice some spilled scratch on the workbench.  Mindful of wasting and little critters, I brushed the 10 pieces or so of scratch into my hand and tossed it in the feeder with the rest of the feed pellets.  Big mistake!

That afternoon, when I went out to check for eggs, I found the entire feeder emptied.  Feed pellets were scattered all over the inside of the coop.  Every pellet, except for a few orphans, was on the coop floor.   The feeder was empty, twirling in the slight breeze!  One of the chickens either smelled or discovered the few morsels of scratch amongst the pellets and decided to search for every last bit.  

Did they take their time and methodically search the feeder one pellet at a time?  Or, was it frantic, like feeding time in the shark tank?  I can only imagine pellets flying everywhere in the chicken's determination in finding those hidden treats.  Even though I missed the show, the two broody girls in the boxes, Dolly and Autumn, were privy to the entire escapade!  I removed the feeder, washed it completely and filled it with feed only.  So far, feeder etiquette has resumed. It has now been 2 days.

I learned my lesson.  Never underestimate the smarts of a chicken and the power of treats.

Their lips are sealed




Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Island Inspired Chicken Soup

We had many lovely meals on our recent trip to St. John.  A side dish that I was very fond of  was created by simply stewing tomatoes, black beans, cilantro and lime juice.  My mind and palate began to think.  If I improvised, this could easily serve as a main meal.  It was that delicious!   I thought about it last night and decided to put together a soup based on those flavors.  It was simple and easy.  My husband added hot sauce and asked me if I wrote the recipe down.  I guess this one is a keeper.

Ingredients:

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can black beans-drained but not rinsed
2 cups bite sized rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt


Preparation:

In a stock pot over medium heat, saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil until translucent.

Add the cilantro and cook for 1 minute.

Next add the chicken, tomatoes, beans, chicken stock and lime juice.  Add the black pepper and salt to taste.  Simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.  

Try serving this soup with crusty french bread, perfect for soaking up the broth.

Hungry for more?  Take a peek at all of our recipes here.



Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Pumpkin Power


Today I started decorating for Fall. I love it when the air is cool for sleeping at night and the leaves rustled past your feet when you walk.  Even the girls received a little decorating in the perennial garden near the coop; an urn stacked with three gourds.

I can't wait until the girls get to enjoy a freshly picked pumpkin.  I love to put an entire pumpkin in the run with the chickens.  I watch them enjoy pecking at the rind until they poke through and discover the raw stringy goodness of goo and pumpkin seeds.

Raw pumpkin seeds are a great all natural wormer for chickens. Pumpkins also prevent boredom and help exercise your flock.  Last Fall, I spent hours watching the girls experience their first pumpkin. We are planning on picking our own pumpkins at a local patch.  I hope that you will share these wonderful gourd like squash with your flock too.  You and your flock are guaranteed to be entertained for hours.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Tour de Coop: Dana on St. John, US Virgin Islands


St. John had many wild chickens roaming everywhere.  After a few days on the island, it soon became clear to me that most likely not many people kept backyard chickens.  However, a girl can try.  I searched everywhere I could trying to discover and share a Tour de Coop.  I watched as homes whizzed by as we were driving, hoping to catch a glimpse of a small coop tucked away in someone's yard.  I did not have any luck until my husband and I decided to go horseback riding.



We met Dana and her menagerie of wonderful animals including donkeys, horses, goats, cats and, finally, chickens.  As Dana saddled up our horses for our hour and a half scenic tour, I could not help but interact with her chickens.  Some she raised as chicks and some just happened to show up.  She has a few roosters and one in particular that likes to follow her around. For the most part, they are skittish, like those in the wild.








Dana allows them to roam free on her property.  She has a coop and nesting boxes in a small corral with a couple of goats.  The chickens know that there is a supply of fresh food and water here and that keeps her flock nearby.  The chickens and the goats actually get along pretty well, but the goats have been known to interrupt egg laying.  Some of her hens prefer to lay eggs outside of the boxes and coop area.  Dana has found clutches of eggs here and there.  On the day of our visit, she spotted a tiny white egg laid on the top of her roof!



Coop area with nesting boxes



It was heartwarming to meet this woman with such a wonderful heart and compassion for animals.  Some of her animals are rehabilitating from injuries.  Some cannot return to the wild.  A few of her horses are in their retirement and spend their days interacting with other horses and taking visitors to view amazing vistas and island scenery.  We had a wonderful time.  The horseback riding was fantastic and I encourage you to visit Dana and her animals if you are ever visiting St. John.  You can read more about Dana, her company and her animals here.



Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

Egg Eater

Yesterday, I went out to the coop.  I could not wait to say hello to the girls.  I missed them so.  It was funny.  At first, I do not think that they recognized me.  I opened up the coop door and tossed scratch onto the run floor.  No one seemed to care that I was home.  I was sad.  I figured we would get reacquinted when I cleaned the coop later. It was on my to do list.  I opened the nesting box door.  I did not find any chickens in the boxes. Yet, I discovered my worst nightmare.  Someone had pecked open an egg and ate the entire contents!
The evidence

Strewn on the shavings in the nesting box were pieces of egg shell, gooey strands of yolk and remnants of sticky egg white underneath one of the roosts.  Sunshine, Oyster Cracker and Tilly came into the coop.  Like addicts, they began to peck at anything that seemed like it had raw egg on it.  They pecked at the shell.  They pecked at the egg-soaked shavings.  They pecked at the walls dotted with yolk.  They had glazed over looks in their eyes.  They could not get enough.

Horrified, I chased them out of the coop, scooped up the egg shell and decided that I needed to clean out the coop immediately; so much for those 6 loads of laundry that I had planned on washing.  As quickly as I could move, I cleaned out the entire coop, disinfected the walls, floor and roosts.  I also used an anti-icky spray to rid the coop of any egg smell.  Surely if it worked on pet urine, it should work on raw egg!  I refilled the coop with clean dry shavings and added nesting box blend to the boxes.  Then, the test-I let the girls back inside.

Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine entered at once.  Still recalling the egg, they searched frantically for signs of that ill fated egg.  After a few minutes, they left disappointed.  I determined that this behavior needed to be nipped in the bud.  For me, it was this chicken owner's worst nightmare come true.  I was going to have to check on the girls every half hour or so for eggs.  I needed to break this habit.   Thank goodness, that huge laundry pile had me on house arrest.

A half-hour later, I went outside and found Dolly in one of the nesting boxes, still broody.  This time though, she had a friend.  It appears while we were away, Autumn has decided to join Dolly's broody club.  Just like Dolly, she has removed all feathers from her chest.  For once, I thought that this was great timing.  These two broody girls would be protective of any eggs laid.  I should be able to use them to my advantage.

A couple of hours later, Tilly was in the nesting box on the left.  I waited.  The entire egg laying process takes about 15 minutes.  Soon, I peeked in and saw Tilly standing.  I opened the nesting box.  Outside Tilly's box were Sunshine and Oyster Cracker.  Tilly's egg was all the rage.  Everyone was interested.  Risking life and limb from a vicious peck, I grabbed the still wet with bloom freshly laid egg.  Phew, I at least saved that one.  And so the day went.  I ended up with a total of 3 more eggs and not one was damaged.

This morning when I woke, I was anxious as anything to get out there early and rescue any eggs from the girls.  There were no early eggs.  I saw that as a good sign.  Today, the chickens were not interested in the eggs.  I kept them distracted with the chicken toy, the treat ball and lots of TLC.  They laid 4 eggs again and none were disturbed.  Overnight, in one fowl swoop, they seemed to have forgotten about pecking the eggs and suddenly remembered how much they loved and missed me.  Today, after my week-long vacation their little brains remembered their chicken mama.


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


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Chickens in the Virgin Islands

Trunk Bay
 We just arrived home last night from our trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  As we set off last Friday evening, I said to my husband that I hoped to see some chickens on our adventures.  I thought for certain that we would discover at least one chicken hiding in a backyard.   I doubted that I would come across chickens in such a secluded place.   I could not have been more wrong.

In addition to having mongoose, wild donkeys, lizards galore and a plethora of hermit crabs, the island was inundated with feral chickens.  I could not believe my eyes when I arrived at St. Johns and saw chicken roaming the streets.  Skittish of humans and the like, the chickens roam freely.  Everywhere I blinked there was another chicken. 

Streets of St. Thomas
Baby pullet at a local restaurant looking for her Mama
Pretty girl in the grass
The chickens appear to small bantams mostly.  There are plenty of roosters too.  It was not uncommon to see a rooster with a few henny girls by his side.  I even saw a few roosters living together forming larger flocks of about 20 chickens.   My husband chuckled at one point, and thought that I had died and gone to chicken heaven!


Chickens at the Westin


Rooster foraging for scraps




I was able to capture some photos of the chickens from the two islands that we visited, St. Johns and St. Thomas.  Many of them forage for food scraps and through open roll off containers that hold the garbage of the island’s residents. 

Mama hen and chicks foraging near dumpster
Seeing the chickens was a little bittersweet for me.  I was happy that there were so many, but I was also saddened by the fact that they were fearful of humans, foraging for their food and were seen as a nuisance by the locals.  If only the locals could begin to keep some of these chickens in their backyard and enjoy their eggs. 

Heading into the underbrush
The most amazing thing though was when I recognized the chicken alarm.  I have heard it too many times at home to not recognize when the flock is in danger.  At home, I always investigate when I hear it.  I get a burst of mommy adrenaline and fly out to see what the flock fears.  Typically, it is a large bird or a chipmunk foraging near the run.  One unassuming  day,  I heard one of the island’s chickens sound the alarm in the distance.   I was taken by surprise when I got a burst of mommy adrenaline.  Yet, there was nothing I could do.  No one to protect.  No one to rescue.  It made me realize how much the chickens truly are part of our family.  Instinctually, I was ready to spring into action.

Rooster strutting past above ground cemetery

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, The Finale


May 25, 2011
The Ends



We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos.  I can't wait to read them all when I come back.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.




Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, Friday


August 14, 2011
Taylor Bray Farm


We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos. I can't wait to read them all when I come back. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, Thursday


October 20, 2010
My daughter and I cleaning out the coop



We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos. I can't wait to read them all when I come back. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.



Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, Wednesday


February 25, 2011
Providence Rhode Island Flower Show
Chicken tractor with eggs and a Silver Laced Wyandotte


We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos. I can't wait to read them all when I come back. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, Tuesday



August 8, 2010
Chickens on Penikese Island

We visited the island again this year and the chickens are now gone.  To read about it, click here.


We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos. I can't wait to read them all when I come back. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

A Week in Photos, Monday


March 22, 2011
Baby chick hiding under Dolly's wing



We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos.  I can't wait to read them all when I come back.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest



A Week in Photos, Sunday


April 11, 2011
When Dottie Speckles was a little chick


We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos.  I can't wait to read them all when I come back.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.




Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest




A Week in Photos, Saturday


June 8, 2011
While visiting a friend



We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week's photos.  I can't wait to read them all when I come back.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest




A Little Gift

I visited the girls today before we left on our week long trip.  Like most days this week, I discovered that they had dug two large dust bathing holes in the run.  As I admired their work, deep in one of the holes was a tiny egg.  I gently grabbed a rake and as the girls watched, I slowly pulled the egg to me.  It was incredibly tiny with small streaks of blood. This meant it was the first egg for someone.  My guess is that it belonged to Fifi.  Sometimes hens become confused when they lay their first egg.  Sometimes they are caught off guard and the egg plops out of their bodies.  It can even happen when they are sleeping!  

If this was Fifi's egg, I hope that she will make it to the nesting boxes next time.  I can't even imagine the chatter in the run that occurred as the other girls watched Fifi lay an egg where they bathe.  I suppose, the deep hole looked to her like a nest. 

We are leaving tonight on our trip.  We will be away, but have a fantastic week planned for you- A Week in Photos.  Please check in everyday to see new pictures from Tilly's Nest.  We hope you enjoy them.

Have a great week!~Melissa

Happy Anniversary

Tilly and I
I leave tomorrow evening on a surprise trip from my husband.  We are going to the Carribean for an entire week, without kids, to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.  I am unbelievably excited and a little nervous to be away from my kids, both human and feathered.  This will be the longest I will have ever been away from them.

I have spent the last few days, trying to get all the last minute errands done; laundry, writing down instructions and calling in some favors from friends.  Although exhausting, it has proven a great distraction from the other thing that is occupying my mind, Country Living Magazine's Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards.  Tomorrow, we find out if we have won either the editor's choice or the reader's choice category.  I am nervous, hopeful and optimistic.

Today, I prepared the girls' coop, run and supplies for the chicken babysitter.  I thoroughly cleaned the coop.  I even removed the cobwebs from high up in the rafters.  As half my body was in the coop, I heard a knock on the closed coop door from one of the chickens.  I asked, "Who is it?"  Usually, no one answers.  Today, Tilly answered me in her best little chicken sentence.  I smiled.  For a brief moment, she made me forget that scrolling checklist that kept playing through my mind of all the things that I still needed to accomplish.

Even though I'll be away, life will continue here at home as it always does.  The chickens will be chickens and the kids will be kids.  The magazine will announce its winners.  Dinners will be shared at the kitchen table.  Eggs will be laid.  My oldest will procrastinate about his homework.  Soccer games will have a winner.  I am glad to share my children and my chickens with family members who are watching the kids.  For me, the best memories I have with my family are those made on just ordinary days.  I hope they are able to make some while I am away.  I can't wait to hear about their week and yours when we return.


Photo Credit:  4JPhotography

Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes

My sister is a great cook and entertainer.  Everyone always seems to end up at her house when it's game day  or a holiday.  We enjoy sharing tried and true recipes with one another.  Somehow, it seems to make the 3000 miles between us shorter.  Here is one of her recipes that is a perfect appetizer or finger food at your next gathering.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, halved
12 chicken drumettes
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:


Combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs and garlic in a Ziploc bag.  Shake and squeeze the bag to combine all of the ingredients and add the chicken.

Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag and let it marinade for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place the marinaded chicken on the foil.  Bake approximately 30 minutes until the skin is caramelized and the chicken becomes very dark in some spots.

As the chicken cooks, take the remaining marinade, add it to a small saucepan bring to a boil (killing the bacteria).  Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.  When done set it aside.

Once the chicken is cooked, with a basting brush, add some of the cooked marinade to the chicken.  Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and top with toasted sesame seeds.


Click here to see all of the recipes featured on Tilly's Nest.




Dolly's Visit to Dreamland

Each and every night I have been chasing Dottie Speckles out of the nesting boxes.  I do not want her to sleep there.  We have been having a major battle on this subject.  She is defiant, but when I open the boxes, she knows.  Like a moping teenager, she slowly finds her way up to the roost.  Sometimes, if it is not entirely dark, she will sneak her way back into the box.  I have learned.  I do a final check on the girls just as complete darkness arrives.

The last two nights, I have had to also take Dolly out of her "broody" nesting box and put her up on the roost.  Both evenings, she has been fast asleep.  I had read about sleeping chickens but I had never had to deal with one in person.  They are funny, completely vulnerable and unaware.  I lifted sleeping Dolly out of the box.  She was like a limp rag doll, somewhere off in dreamland.  I tried to place her on the roost.  She plopped a few inches off the back and ended up on the floor.  She did not notice.  She was still fast asleep.  I scooped her up again and took her feet one by one and guided them onto the roost.  All the while, she slept.  She did not make a sound.  Mind you, this entire exchange happened in total darkness!

This morning she happily came running out of the coop.  It must have been that great night's sleep.

Please vote.  Only 2 more days left!

Got Voles?

Apparently, we do.  Today was the day that I learned about voles.  Prevention goes a long way.  We have made it a quarterly practice to have a pest management company come in and prevent any rodent, insect or other nuisance wildlife from becoming a health issue at our home.  For the past few weeks, I could have sworn that I saw tiny little mice running back and forth across the driveway and into the surrounding shrubbery and plantings. Their population seems to be booming; in fact, just the other day one of them ran across my foot.  I felt its tiny little toes and toenails grab into my skin as it quickly scuttled into the nearby bush.

Today, during a routine visit, I explained what I had been witnessing to the representative from the company. He took a quick survey of where I had been seeing them.  I learned that I did indeed have an infestation - not of mice or moles, but of voles.  He showed me how they have made trails through the grass and holes in the ground and around the front steps.  Yikes, I was starting to become paranoid.  Voles are small three inch rodents.  They are similar to mice and moles and enjoy eating root systems of plants, which eventually kills the unsuspecting victim.   Voles, unlike moles, spend some of their time living above ground.  They have short ears, short tails, small eyes, and are stockier than mice.

They may be sweet, but if left to their own devices, voles can have litters of 10 babies  up to 17 times per year!  Of course, my first thought was, were they near the chickens?  The answer was no.  Thankfully, the voles have no interest in what the chickens are doing or eating.  There is also no evidence of voles anywhere near the coop and run.  Today, we took the necessary steps to eradicate the vole population from our immediate yard and property.  Although I hated to do so, it was a matter of my family's safety from potential diseases.



Here are some more references on the subject:

http://www.pitcherplant.com/diseas/voles.html
http://www.colonialpest.com/blog/moles-or-voles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vole


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





Photo Credit:  pitcherplant



An Eggcellent Collection

I had a feeling that any day I would find Dolly broody again. This morning proved to be the day.  When I opened the coop, Dolly remained inside sitting in one of the nesting boxes.  I gently scooped her up and brought her out to the run to enjoy some scratch with the rest of the girls.

We had planned a day out off Cape so I checked on the girls before we left.  Inside the right nesting box, Dolly and Feathers were sitting together, while Autumn was next to them in the middle box.  I closed the boxes, as this could only mean one thing - Dolly was broody again.  We hit the road around 9:30am and did not return until a little after 5pm.  The first thing that I did was check on the girls, especially Dolly.

As suspected, I found Dolly in that same nesting box.  Underneath of her I felt an egg.  I took one out. Then another. Then another, and then 2 more!  She was sitting on 5 eggs.  She is getting to be a professional broody girl.  Over the course of the day, she must have gently rolled the other girls' freshly laid eggs from the neighboring nesting boxes into hers.  I know they are not fertile and would never become chicks. Yet, I did not feel any better about taking them from her.

Dolly's collection

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Chicken Toy



Last week, I put my usual order in at Treats for Chickens.  I decided it would be fun to purchase a chicken toy for the girls.  I figured that this might help beat the winter boredom that flocks sometimes can experience.   There is not much to do when a thick layer of snow covers the ground.  Bored birds can begin to become destructive.  This includes pecking and eating their eggs and pecking at each other, leading to feather loss and bleeding wounds.  The chickens were introduced to the chicken toy, filled with organic wheat seeds, for the first time today.  Although they're still a little apprehensive, I think in no time this will be something that the girls will love.

Here they are today, in action:




Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest





One of Those Days

Did you ever just have one of those days where all of your best laid plans run amuck?  Today was one of those days.  My plans were like a well oiled machine.  I had so much to do.  Somehow, everything got derailed, schedules were changed and I even had to call in favors from family members.  We got take-out for dinner.  I had admitted defeat.  I needed a break from life.  I even felt like the chickens were neglected all day as I dealt with the plumber and painter putting the finishing touches on our home that was damaged by a leaking pipe.  Life just had to get better today.

After dinner, I decided to clean out the coop and run while our daughter visited with the girls.  It was overdue for a good cleaning and the wonderful excess compost that that girls created needed to be removed from the run.  We began our work.  My four year old helper was my assistant.  After a few minutes of this unenjoyable undertaking I felt my day begin to melt away from my mind.

Maybe it was the chickens knocking on the closed coop door as if to say, "Are you done yet?'  Maybe it was all of their chatter and my daughter's giggles as she treated them to scratch.  Maybe it was that things were finally drying out after three days of relentless rain.  Maybe it was that the sun was setting and the day was almost over.  Perhaps, it was a culmination of all of these. Even for me, it's hard to believe that a little "chicken therapy" was all that it took to suddenly make my day sunny.

On a side note, as I was crawling around in the coop, Oyster Cracker first tried to steal my earrings then took a leap of faith onto my back.  She scared the heck out of me!  Maybe she was just trying to put things into perspective.  Maybe I should worry more about a chicken jumping on my back, than the cost of the 5 hour plumbing bill.

Do I Know You?



We all have those friends we can recognize without even seeing them up close.  Maybe it is the way that they walk, their physique, their familiar voice, or even their laugh.  Regardless, our brains find ways to remember those we have met and know, so that we can easily recognize and distinguish them in a crowd.  Chickens have a way of identifying one another as well, by their combs and accompanying facial features.  Gallus Domesticus is Latin for chicken. It seems fitting, as gallus means comb.

Chickens lack the ability to sweat.  They pant like dogs and release much of their excess heat through their wattles and combs.  As their blood circulates through the comb and wattle, it is cooled.   In addition, combs help chickens select their mates and also signal when pullets are of age to lay their first egg.  Depending on your source, there are eight to ten types of combs including the single, carnation, rose, pea, v-shaped, cushion, buttercup, strawberry, silkie and walnut.  Every chicken comb is unique.  It is like a fingerprint on a human.   In one study, scientists covered the combs of an existing single breed flock.  Amazingly, the pecking order was disturbed and the chickens failed to recognize each other.  Once the combs were uncovered, the flock reverted back to its original state.

After keeping chickens, it is clear that they recognize and distinguish me from other people.  I know that they recognize my voice. As I do not have a comb, do you think they possibly recognize me by my hairstyle too? One thing is for sure, I know that they do not like it when I wear my sunglasses.  When they see me coming with my shades on, they sound the alarm!


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest



Treasures from Brimfield


We braved the rain and set off on our adventure yesterday to visit Brimfield's Antique Show.  The evening's weather ushered in a cold front and we went from mid-seventy degrees to a damp, cold and soggy 52 degrees.  Thank goodness I wore rain boots with wool socks.  After the hour-and-a- half drive, we parked in a makeshift lot  in the backyard of a neighboring home for $5. Here our adventure began.  I knew that my search would definitely include chicken related items.


My first discovery was this fabulous vintage Little Giant chicken waterer.  I loved the patterns in the glass. They remind me of little framed eggs. The bottom portion is made from thick plastic similar to bakelite.  When I went to pay, the dealer knocked 30% off the price, without me even having to ask.  


Next, in a few fields over, I discovered this vintage wooden chicken cage.  One of these has been on my list for a long time.   They were each marked $59.  I inquired about the price and he let me have one for $10!    I am planning on turning it into a unique coffee table.  Finally, I splurged on four limestone prints of speckled bird eggs and a jay nest.  They are from an old book of the 1840's.  I think they will be stunning once matted and framed. 



We spent all day in Brimfield.  It was so much fun.  I am already beginning to plan my trip there in May 2012.  I hope some of you make the trip yourself.  Treasures are just waiting to be discovered.  Who knows, we might even bump into each other.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest



Brimfield


For years, I have enjoyed antiquing and collecting.  When I lived in Los Angeles, I looked forward to the weekends when we could attend monthly antique fairs such as Long Beach and the Rose Bowl.  I love the thrill of the hunt and the excitement over a great find.  I love searching for something for years and finally, when you least expect it, you turn the corner and there it is, as plain as daylight, staring back at your googlie eyes.  I miss those days.

Even when I lived in Los Angeles, I was drawn to pottery featuring chickens.  Some are imported from China and some were produced by well-known companies of the day, including Shawnee and Hazel Atlas.  I guess my chicken collecting should have been a sign.  Maybe this was foreshadowing what was to lie ahead in years to come.

Since we have lived in the Northeast, I have dreamed about going to Brimfield.  Yet somehow, something always came up.  This year is different.  Despite the 70% chance of rain, Brimfield starts today.  Finally, after 8 years of living in the Northeast,  I will be there.   I have a few items on my "dream" list for today.  Of course, some involve chickens.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest






Labor Day

Dolly wants to escape.  She has become pretty brazen.  In the morning, now as fast as her little body can wattle into the coop, she now tries to make a mad dash for freedom out the open coop door.  This is so unlike her.  Not caring to snuggle, she means business.  I've racked my brain why she desires to abandon her posh lifestyle of fresh organic snacks, an abundance of fresh well water and all the food she could ever want.  She is smart.  She wants more babies.

Dolly's desire to leave must be coming from her desire to lay a clutch.   Dolly, our lavender Silkie Bantam, is a very broody girl.  Ever since last December, she experiences broodiness like none other.  Her pattern tends to be, lay an egg every day for 10 days.  Go broody for 3 weeks or so.  Come out of broodiness.  Recover for 2 weeks.  Start laying again and repeat.  Farmers would cull her because she is not producing regular eggs.  However, she lives here and we love her, broodiness and all.

Her determination and dedication is unfaltering.  Even though we harvest all eggs laid, she tries to steal other eggs laid.  As we no longer have a rooster or the capacity for chicks, we remove all found eggs.  Still, Dolly is content to sit on air.

Today, I paced it out.  Dolly is due to go broody again.  She just resumed laying eggs.  She is trying to outsmart me.  As I refilled the feeder and waterer, out she hopped and bee-lined it to the woods.  She is usually easy to catch.  Today was a little more difficult.  She wanted to lay and sit on her egg in a hidden location.  Yesterday and today she did the exact same thing.  Sadly enough, both days, I caught her and returned her to the coop.  Without any fuss, she journeyed out into the run, as if nothing ever happened.

I went out for brunch this morning and upon my return, checked for eggs.  I retrieved one from a nesting box.  Then, out in the run, I noticed that Dolly's egg was there hidden beneath the coop's ramp.  I felt badly taking it, however, knowing that it could never come to fruition and hearing horror stories of chickens discovering the taste of raw eggs.  I brought it inside and placed it lovingly in the refrigerator.

My sister is at the hospital today having her second baby and Dolly should be broody again in about a week.  Dolly had seven babies this past spring.  She was a wonderful mother.  I guess despite ever being done with  having children, the simple joy of being a new mom and meeting your baby for the first time is an magical experience, one that even a simple chicken, like Dolly, can remember.


Happy Labor Day friends!


Backyard Chickens: Tis the Season to Molt

Molting is serious business

Since spring, Oyster Cracker has been plagued with a bald spot on the back of her head. I kept hoping that feathers would soon grow in that naked little spot, yet none came. I waited for months. Then, through one of my blog followers, Matt, I learned that the spot would remain bare until she molted. Deep within the skin were portions of broken off feathers. Her body was fooled into thinking that those feathers were still intact. Yesterday, I noticed that her bald patch was finally showing tiny barbs of new immature feathers called pin or blood feathers. They are rolled into a cylindrical shaped tube wrapped in keratin. As the chicken preens, the keratin sheaths are removed and new feathers seem to bloom into existence. This could only mean one thing. The girls are beginning to molt.

Molting (or Moulting, as they spell it in Great Britain) is for most chickens, an annual process in which all of their feathers are replaced. Molting typically occurs in the fall and can start anywhere from September to November. All birds molt in order to replace their existing feathers. Replacing their body's feathers entirely allows birds to insulate their bodies better in winter, remain weatherproof and fly away from predators. The entire molting process typically takes about 12 weeks, keeping in mind that it takes 9 weeks to make a feather.

Molting begins on the head first, followed by the neck, breast, wings, back and tail. Sometimes, it is difficult to notice early molting as the feathers are small. However, by the time molting occurs on the body, the larger sized feathers are difficult to miss and so numerous, that it appears that a chicken has surely disappeared, leaving a copious amount of feathers behind. Molting is a stressful process on the flock. It requires large amounts of protein. Feathers are comprised of 85% protein. The other process that requires high amounts of protein is egg laying. Therefore, during the molting process their reproductive systems will go dormant. Egg laying ceases. Their bodies are focusing on replacing hundreds of feathers.

Even though the molting process is stressful, chicken owners can make a difference to the lives of the hen's during these times. It is possible to keep molting hens happy. Here are some tips to help the rate of the molting process and promote the health of your backyard flock:

Diet:

Be sure the chickens are getting enough protein. During the molt, instead of treating the flock to vegetables and fruits try dried blood worms, dried meal worms, sunflower seeds, mashed up hard boiled eggs and plain yogurt instead.

Avoid giving the flock too much scratch. It does not contain enough protein.

Add a vitamin and electrolyte supplement to their drinking water.

Add 1 tablespoon per gallon of apple cider vinegar to their drinking water to help minimize stress.

Provide clean drinking water daily.


Environment:

Avoid stressing your birds. Keep them in familiar surroundings. Avoid things like introducing them to the neighbor's new dog.

Maintain an optimal molting temperature between 70-80 degrees F.

Keep the flock safe from predators.

Avoid disease.

Keep the coop and run clean.

Keeping these tips in mind, should help the flock molt smoothly. Once the molting completes, their feathers will be beautiful and new. They will feel incredibly silky and your tender loving care will be rewarded with their delicious homemade eggs.

Resources:


http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=859

http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/27_2709.htm


Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest