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Bugs

Looking for bugs

Bugs.  Tiny little jumping and flying bugs are all over the coop.  They walk about on the cedar shakes of the coop roof and as I go to pinch them, they jump.  They jump like popcorn.  These tiny little bugs are everywhere.  What are they, I have no idea, but after a few moments out there yesterday morning, I already had the heebie jeebies.  I grabbed the food grade diatomaceous earth, held my breath and began to blast the bugs with the pest pistol.  DE filled the air, my hair and my clothes.  I removed myself from the coop area and I waited until the dust settled.  I went inside, continued to get the kids ready for school and showered.

A little later in the morning, I returned to the coop.  A few bug were still exploring the outside of the coop.  I brushed them off and they popped away like impatiens' seed pod I used to pop as a child.  I looked inside the coop and saw no evidence of bugs.  The chickens were unfazed as well.  However, these little visitors were really starting to bug me!  I grabbed the poultry protector and sprayed down the entire coop and run.  Finally by the end of they day, they were no where to be seen.

This morning, I woke up and went out to the coop.  The bugs had returned.  I blasted them with poultry protector again.  later in the day, I asked the lady at the feed store about the little flying things.  She had no idea but thought that they could have just blown in from somewhere.  I took no chances.  I bought two more bottles of poultry protector while I was there.  I have no idea about these little bugs.  I can't be sure of what they are or where they originate.  I just know that I do not want them bugging the girls.  This is the first time I have ever had this sort of thing happen with the coop and the chickens.  Bugs certainly have their place in this great big world of ours, just not near our coop.  Perhaps, whatever blew them in for this visit will blow them onto their next destination this week.  A girl can dream...


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

The Big Eggs Return


The big girls have resumed laying eggs. Over the past few months, I watched as the molting increased, the eggs slowly tapered off.  Up until last week, I was discovering two eggs per day. Then all of a sudden, yesterday the girls presented me with five. The most amazing thing is that two of them were colored a deep dark brown. Tilly usually lays those. It is a new mystery who laid those sweet eggs I found together in the same box. In addition, the light brown ones have returned as well. These are the ones that take up my entire hand as I carry then into the house. 

The eggs are gifts, all unique in shape, color, size and identical in taste. I consider us lucky. All the girls have resumed laying and all the while I never had to purchase eggs from the grocer. I guess I owe that to the fact that the Silkies were busy laying eggs for their broody clutches while the big girls were molting.  Who ever thought that I would depend on a Silkie for their eggs!?


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Brownie Pie with Cream Cheese Filling


I confess, I am not the best baker, but I am a great cook.  Some tell me it is because I eyeball everything when I cook, rarely taking the time to accurately measure things out or follow a recipe.  Well, this pie I made this past weekend was absolutely one of the easiest things that I have ever created and tasted equally delicious.  This is a great dessert to take to an upcoming Holiday party.  Believe me, everyone will be asking for your recipe!

Ingredients:

1 ready made pie crust~ I prefer Pillsbury
1 box Pillsbury fudge brownies
3 eggs
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 package of cream cheese (8oz.)
1/4 cup oil
1 can of Pillsbury hot fudge frosting

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a pie plate with your crust.

In your mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and 1 egg.  Mix until well incorporated and then set aside in a separate bowl.

Next in a large bowl, combine the brownie mix, 2 eggs, oil and 1 tablespoon of water.

Spread a 1/4 cup of the brownie mixture into the bottom of the pie crust.  Next gently spread the cream cheese mixture on top of that brownie mix.  Finally, evenly spread the remainder of the brownie mix on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean.  The pie top may have cracks.

While pie is beginning to cool, place a 1/2 cup of frosting into the microwave for 15 seconds.  Drizzle the frosting on top of the pie in a gridlike pattern.

We serve this pie with vanilla ice cream.  You could also add a variety of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, candy bars, chopped nuts to the brownie batter prior to baking to customize this pie as well.  The possibilities are endless.

This pie requires refrigeration.  Cool 3 hours prior to serving.

This recipe is based on a winning recipe from the Pillsbury Bakeoff.  For more of Tilly's Nest recipes, hop on over to Tastebook!


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Saturday Serenity

This morning I awoke to one of those peaceful and quiet Saturday mornings.  There was a serene calmness about everything outside.  The wild birds were quietly bouncing amongst the branches in the trees.  Neighbors were still sleeping and not even distant cars could be heard zooming past in the background.   The woods surrounding our home are beginning to settle in for the Winter, now the trees are mostly barren of leaves.  The sky was a piercing blue and the sun was shining brightly.  It was one of those mornings where I find myself stealing a peaceful moment away with just me and the girls. I joined them as they were starting to take their morning dust bath.


 I quietly observed the girls and their beauty ritual.  I was incredibly happy to find Oyster Cracker finally taking a dust bath after her long and severe molt.  She had it the toughest this year.  Finally, her pale comb had glimpses of red as I discovered her among our Silkies, Feathers, Dolly and Autumn,enjoying a communal dust bath.


Autumn

There the four of them were enjoying one another's company. As three faced one way and Dolly faced the other, dirt was thrown, fluffed and kicked into every feathered nook and cranny all the while eating bits of found goodness from each other's feathers. Dottie Speckles on the other hand, was content to inquire about my visit and continually interrupt the girls as they were dust bathing.  Sometimes, she is such a bully!


Finally, after spending a spell with the girls, I checked for egg.  In the nesting box, I found broody Fifi sitting on her invisible eggs.  Of course, I would expect no less from my egg detectives.  Dottie Speckles and Sunshine followed me inside the coop.  There were two eggs that I gladly retrieved, still warm in my hand after being laid.


It was nice to steal this morning away with the girls.  Quality alone time is important with any pets you might have.  It is during quiet times like this that you notice behaviors, personalities and what goes on in their minds.  Suddenly, you realize that you are catching a glimpse into the life of a backyard chicken.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

What Can Chickens Eat?

As Winter arrives, free ranging reveals less and less goodies for the flock.  Covered in snow, most plants have gone to sleep that the chickens typically love to munch on.  It is important to provide your flock with treats during the Winter to help vary their diet and also prevent boredom.  When I was new to raising chickens, I was not sure what chickens could eat other than their feed.  For the past two years, I have tried to educate myself about supplementing their diets.  I had heard of taboo things to feed chickens, like chocolate for dogs.  These included potato peels, garlic, onions and citrus.

Just like humans, everything should be fed in moderation.  Chicken require the majority of their dietary intake to come from their food, such as layer pellets.  These feeds are formulated to provide your flock with all necessary dietary requirements to thrive and lay eggs.  Roosters can also be on layer feed as well.  Too many treats, although our flocks love them, can be bad.  They can compromise your flock's health as well as decrease egg production and even cause egg malformation.  So, limit the amount goodies you share with them.  I typically share about 1 1/2 cups of goodies per day from the kitchen for our 8 girls.  However, when you do share the goodies, I'm betting you will make a best friend or two while scattering them in the run.

Foods Your Flock Can Eat
Vegetables
Asparagus
Beets~ green tops too
Beans, must be cooked never raw
Broccoli
Brussel Sprouts
Cauliflower
Cabbage~entire head
Carrots~green tops too
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic~ add raw cloves to drinking water to boost immune system
Peas
Bell Peppers
Pomegranate
Popped Popcorn
Potatoes~cooked avoid peels (see below)
Pumpkins
Squash
Tomatoes
Turnips~cooked
Sprouts

Fruits
Apples including seeds
Bananas without the peel
Berries~Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
Cherries
Grapes~seedless
Melons~Cantelope, Watermelon, Honey Dew
Peaches
Raisins

Grain/Breads
Grits~cooked
Rice~cooked
Breads- all kinds
Sugar free cereal~Cheerios
Oatmeal~raw or cooked
Pasta~cooked
Quinoa

Dairy
All cheeses including Cottage Cheese
Plain yogurt

Avoid Feeding Your Flock

Avocado Skin and Pit~ toxic
Rhubarb~ poisonous
Citrus~ Some say it can cause feather pecking due to increased levels of Vitamin C.  Others say it can interfere with Calcium absorption
Onions~Causes Heinz anemia
Uncooked beans~contain hemaglutin poisonous to birds
Raw potato skins~contain Solanine poisonous to bird
Sugar
Salt
Toxic Plants

Interestingly, chicken can eat meat, however some keepers believe it makes them more aggressive.

References:
http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2593-Treats_Chart
http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=3306742
http://www.vet.k-state.edu/features/VetQuarterly/KVQspr05.pdf
http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=7857524
http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=166988

This post is linked up to Deborah Jean's Dandelion Farmgirl Friday Bloghop


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Thankful

I owe a lot to my flock of chickens that we have kept for almost 2 years now.  As amazing as it seems, they have taught and reminded my family about life.  I'm ashamed to say that, prior to owning chickens, I did not know what their value truly was except for putting meat on the table and producing eggs.  All of that has now changed.  

The girls that are left from the original flock, Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine and Feathers, share a special bond with me.  I raised them as day old chicks and taught them how to grow into chickens the best that I could.  Many things came instinctually to them, scratching, pecking and eventually roosting.  Yet, sitting outside the brooder, spending time together and talking to them the best I could, seems to have allowed us as a family to share a special bond with these four girls.   We acquired Dolly at 4 months of age, when she had already learned the basics. Overtime, Dolly has grown to love us and respect us, yet I don't think she views us the same as the other four. Our last two, Dottie Speckles and Fifi both were raised by Dolly during her last clutch.  They imprinted on her and she will always be their mother, still they have learned to feel comfortable with us from the other chickens.

Chickens are incredibly sweet.  They enjoy being loved.  Some more than others.  Some are content to sit in your lap,willingly receiving affection while others are happy just to catch a quick pat on the run.  They are intelligent.   I read somewhere that chickens have over 30 distinct words/phrases that mean several things.  They try to communicate with me.   To this day, I try to emulate what they say to me, especially Tilly.  I know the song they sing when they lay their eggs.   I know when they call to me to come visit them when I am out in the yard.  I know their call of alarm and fear.  I know how they purr contently at night when I am tucking them in and locking them up.  I have learned parts of their language and they have learned parts of ours.

To date, with almost 20 years of experience, my professional career in medicine continually opens my eyes. Initially, my lessons were not only filled with medical courses and learning techniques, but with years of classes in sociology, anthropology, psychology and the like. Yet once I started caring for patients I came to a realization. It took me experiencing the lives of others to realize what is valuable in life. It is not about running the rat race.  It is not how much money you make or the car you drive.  It comes down to relationships.  The love, family and friends that you have surrounding you in the end and living each day to the fullest, living in the moment and never in the past or the future.

I never thought that keeping chickens could teach all of those things too, but they have.  Their lives are simple.  They seize the day everyday.  They live with gusto and a spring in their step.  They are eternally happy and melt any sadness or glum in my heart when I see them.  They live intelligent lives never sweating the "small stuff".  They have complex relationships among themselves that comes with ups and downs.  They are loving toward one another and show deep care and concern when another is sick or injured.  They are nurturing and always watching out for one another.  The have great work ethics and fulfill their roles within the flock.  This is their flock mentality.  Their material needs are simple; food, water, and shelter.  In their day to day lives, they have everything that humans strive for in the end.  Yet, often us intelligent humans are blinded by life's distractions.

I am incredibly thankful for our flock.  I am thankful for these reminders and new lessons that my young children are learning. In a world today that is becoming more and more fast paced and complicated, life's true joy still comes from the relationships that you share with others.  Life is as complicated as one makes it.  True happiness is attainable.  Sometimes, figuring out how to find it can be as simple as watching chickens.

Happy Thanksgiving~Melissa


Life's lessons begin as the mother hen talks to her eggs 


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

The Best Part of Keeping Chickens


I asked a simple question of friends who keep chickens today.  I asked them to fill in the blank.  Here is what they had to say.

The best part of keeping chickens is... 

...the happiness my family and I share raising them. Not to mention the eggs!

... all of it..even cleaning the coop..they're great companions

... being able to KNOW what I'm eating!!

... hearing them bawk bawk bawk when I walk out the door... I just love the way they sound when they are all riled up!

...The love. And the eggs.

...It's all fun, the planning, the building, daily chores, the egg collecting, the way they meet you at the gate every time you go there

... talking to em, watching them interact with you and each other

... they make me happy...eggs are a bonus, and also, they keep the grass trimmed!!!

...A stress reliever. They make me laugh when I'm feeling down and smile when thing get better.

... The fun and eggs

... endless joy and warm fuzzies :))

... Farm Fresh Eggs!

...The entertainment and eggs!

... Watching them scurry across the yard... is there anything more hilarious that a chicken on the run!

... The cuteness! Love to watch them go about their busy little days.

...The eggs!

... They're entertaining AND give me fresh eggs.

... Watching them run to the back door when they hear that somebody is about, and that likely means scraps !


 I loved that their thoughts and responses mirrored my own. I loved the fact that even though some of us are far apart from one another, we are all experiencing life with chickens in many of the same ways.  Thank you friends for sharing what you love about your chickens with me!

If you would like to be part of Tilly's Nest on Facebook, click here.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Plimoth Plantation

When I was a little girl growing up in the seventies, I can remember a book my Dad won from his company.  I can remember it well, because we did not have very many of books like this one.  It was large, with lots of beautiful pictures.  It was about the 50 states of America.  I remember sitting on the floor with my sister, before I could even truly read just staring at the pictures.  We especially favored the ones from Massachusetts.  We had learned about the early settlers, the pilgrims and the Native Americans.  On the Massachusetts page, were brilliant photos of the Mayflower, a Native American and a village.  The pictures were from Plimoth Plantation.  My sister and I visited and looked at that wonderful book often.  We connected with that book as we learned about the first Thanksgiving, the Mayflower and the history of our country.  To us, it was a far away place in a book that we could only dream of visiting.

When I moved to Massachusetts in my 30's that simple childhood dream became a reality.  I was able to walk in the footsteps of the Pilgrim and their lives.  The book had come to life and I was a foreign character in their role playing world.  Today, I revisited again, only this time with my son, who is about the same age as I was when I would stare at that photo book with my sister for hours, laying on our stomachs near the hallway bookshelf.

Today, there were chickens.  The Pilgrims brought chickens over on the Mayflower and in this village, it seems as though you have stepped back in time almost 400 years.  The chickens free range within the village.  During our stay, we saw about 4 hens and two roosters.  The chickens were not skittish.  I probably could have easily picked one up.  However, sadly, there were some mean spirited children trying to harm the chickens.  My sharp words fell on deaf ears and I certainly was not going to give away the one secret the chickens did not want me to share with them; how to hold a chicken.  

17th Century Village, looking out onto the ocean


Elizabeth, a servant, working off her passage to America debt.  It took 7 years.

Every home had a garden in raised beds with vegetables, legumes and herbs


Myles Standdish's second wife and servant cooking duck

Typical housewares of the time

Herbs


I had not thought about that book for over 30 years.  My sister and I soon outgrew it, as family trips across the country replaced the pictures in that book.  My parents divorced, and sadly I do not know what came of that beautiful book.  Today, I felt the magic that I felt when I was 7 years old staring into that book, only this time it was better.  I was here in person with my son.

This post is linked up to Homestead Revivals' Homestead Barnhop.

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

Winner: Tilly's Nest Holiday Notecards


Thank you all so much for a fabulous simultaneous giveaway on Facebook and here on Tilly's Nest.  It was great fun!  A winner was selected this morning from those of you that left comments on the original post.   Using a random number generator, a winner was selected.

The Winner is

Diane
of
Peaceful Acres Farm

Congratulations!

Please email: melissa@tillysnest.com with your address so that I can get this out to you this week.

Thank you everyone for entering this fabulous giveaway.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest


Fall Clean-Up

Fall clean-up began in our yard this morning after much procrastination. By mid-November, the excitement of Autumn's leaves has worn off. I have cleaned the yard of leaves for the past five weeks. This week was hopefully the final week and a thorough job was on today's to-do-list.

All of the perennial beds were cleaned out. Flowers were deadheaded. Lily and hosta leaves, dead from the frost, were pulled to reveal open spaces in the beds. The lawn was cleaned and reseeded. The hydrangeas were cut back. The vegetable and herb garden were cleaned out and the soil was tilled. I spent five hours today getting the yard tucked in for it's Winter slumber.

Usually the chickens love to frolic and free range in the leaves. However, I rained on their parade. I felt badly, but a hawk flew overhead and that was enough for me to put a damper on today's escapade. Last weekend, a chicken friend in town had his girls free ranging in his yard while he was outside with them. A hawk swooped down. He could hear his chickens squawking loudly. He ran and when he reached the girls, the hawk had flown away, leaving behind all of his chickens. Unfortunately, he discovered his sweetest Buff Orpington had her wing punctured by the hawk's talon. Thank goodness, he still had his girl! However, she required a trip to the vet to repair her wing.

After I had cleaned out the area near the coop, I spent some time with the girls. One by one, I was able to say hello to them. I held Feathers, then Dolly. Dottie Speckles is usually too busy to be bothered with being held but she is always interested in what I am doing with the other chickens when I hold them. She looks at me and the chickens in my arms that like to be held with a quizzical look, trying to understand what is happening. Dottie Speckles is used to me petting her on her back as she darts quickly by to the next latest and greatest thing that catches her eye. Today was different. As I was sweet talking her she came over and I picked her up.

She was a bit nervous but settled down after she was in my arms for a while. My husband and kids came over to say hello. I was surprised. She is our biggest chicken and by far the heaviest! I had no idea that she was so solid! I held her for about 10 minutes and then returned her to her family. I put her down and with a shake of her feathers she ran back to Tilly to let her know about her latest adventure in my arms. I was so happy to have accomplished so much in the yard today, but the day's highlight was getting to hold Dottie Speckles. That was something I had been trying to accomplish for the past couple of months.

Today's reward for my hard work


Photo Credit: Mr. Tilly's Nest

Daily Inspirations

Today, I wanted to share with you things that make me smile.  I love collecting neat chicken ideas and pictures along the way that are inspirational as well as beautiful.  Here are a few of my recent favorites that I have discovered on Pinterest.  


Snow birds


Spring has sprung


A quiet stolen moment of affection


Like puppies waiting at the gate for their master


The early birds getting the worms


Roosting on a homemade tee-pee


Living in an old dresser

What inspires you?


Photo Credits:  Pinterest.


Seasons Change

It's rainy, damp, soggy and downright chilly to the bone.  The girls, especially Oyster Cracker and Sunshine who are molting, spent most of the day inside the coop.  I could not blame them.  Winter is starting to reach out its hand and pull us into its embrace.  Some say, we may even have a flurry tonight.

Tilly and the others have enjoyed the cooler weather.  They take turns perching high up upon the log looking out into the woods.  They can see so much better now that most of the leaves have landed into crispy wet piles on the ground.  They love digging through the leaves and I love watching them.   The hawk migration seems to be nearing an end yet I am beginning to see footprints and scratches around the coop from curious nighttime animals.  Food is becoming scarcer and they are hungrier.  The baby coyotes, raccoon, opossum and fisher cats born in the Spring are also now out on their own.  They are now investigating the possibility of new food sources.

With the changing seasons, comes a change in the way that I care for the chickens.  I am more careful about predators.  I find myself watching for frostbitten combs and wattles and preventing it with Vaseline.  In the morning, I treat the chickens to warm bowls of oatmeal with raisins.  They enjoy warm chicken tea in their outside waterer and vitamins and electrolytes in the inside one.  The coop's windows stay closed during the day as well as the coop's door at night.  A shovel and ice scraper is propped next to the coop.  A fresh bale of straw sits in the garage to scatter in the run for the snow blind chickens.

I am not a fan of Winter.  The landscape is dreary and it is a time for Mother Nature's creations to rest.  I used to find it depressing until I started keeping chickens.  Most days, the chickens are unfazed by what the cooler weather brings.  The still flit here and there, pecking at whatever delights them at any given moment.  They eat the snow.  They jump up on icy piles.  They frolic in the chill of Winter.  This is what gets me through this season. Their little bursts of colors, their bubbling personalities, their hospitality and their Good Mornings seem to make Winter melt away as fast as it appeared.

Free ranging last January


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

How to Train a Chicken

Tilly and I
Naturally, chickens are apprehensive of humans.  They have every right to be, don't you think?  They are fearful.  They are cautious.  They are skittish.  It takes time for them to become accustomed to their caretakers and human family.  They need to develop a bond with you and trust that they are safe in your presence.   It also takes time for them to accept you into their flock.   Chicken, just like humans, have their own personalities.  Some enjoy being handled, others prefer to sit near you and others are entirely aloof to any handling.  This is the case with all flocks.

We have a mixed flock in a many ways.  Not only do we have different breeds, we are blessed with multiple personalities as well as some very lovable chickens and others who could care less.  Two of our chickens, Autumn and Dolly; were purchased when they were 4 months old.  The others we raised from the beginning as day old chicks.  Over time, Dolly has become incredibly lovable and Autumn is never interested in human contact.  She is entirely content with her chicken family.  They meet all her needs.  Tilly and Sunshine enjoy being handled as well as Feathers and Fifi.  Dottie Speckles enjoys sitting on my lap but is always in a hurry to get somewhere.  As soon as she sits, she is off onto the next adventure.

As expected, it is easier to train day old chicks.  Spending time with them from the beginning, handling them frequently, observing them and teaching them how to roost, drink and eat are certainly bonding experiences.  The baby chicks imprint on you as their parent.   As the chicks grow, so does the bond.  It is only natural that a loving relationship develops between the chicks and their human family.  However, this does not mean that you cannot teach an old bird new tricks.

I am a firm believer that personalities cannot be changed. Therefore, even an unaware chicken may be a snuggler and not even realize it!  It is up to you to "activate" that part of your chicken's brain.  If you follow the techniques below on a regular daily basis, by the end of the month, you should soon discover who enjoys human company more than the others.  There are four essential parts of creating the right environment for training your flock.

Set the Mood/Ambiance 

1.  Get comfortable.  Have a seat where you can sit and spend some time, at least 20 minutes with your flock.  It can be a plastic chair, a couple bales of hay, whatever you prefer.  Just somewhere you can sit and be still.  Do not move around.  Do not make large sudden movements.

2.  Quiet times.  Be sure you are in the coop during quieter times.  Not first thing in the morning, when the chickens find they need to frantically inspect the run for any new bugs that have arrived since they went to bed.  I find it is best in the late afternoon.  Be sure there is nothing around the coop that could be potentially scary for the flock.  Put the dog inside.  Turn off noisy machinery, radios and the like.  Create a zen-like atmosphere for their training.

3.   Treats:  I suggest grapes and raisins.  Only share these treats with the chickens when you are ready to sit down in the coop.  At no other times should they receive these treats.  Condition the flock to know that these are special and only available when you are present.  You'll see, soon enough, they will practically throw themselves at you to get one of these sweet treats!

4.  Talk it up.  Talk to them like they are newborn babies.  Let them get used to your voice.  Repeat certain phrases and words to them.  This helps their brains connect your words with their feeling safe and getting treats.

Begin to Train you Chickens

1.  Enter your coop and take a seat.  Keep the treats in a small cup in your lap.  Gently call the flock over one by one.  If they are at first hesitant, drop a few raisins close to your feet and remain still and quiet.  Once they come over to investigate, gently speak to them.  Drop a couple more.  Then put a couple in your hand and place it low by their heads.  See if any will take it from your hand.  Keep doing this everyday if possible.  After a few days, the flock should recognize what you are doing and come to expect your visits.

2.  Once they are comfortable eating out of your hand, during the next time they eat out of your hand, see if they will let you gently stroke the feathers on their backs.  Keep doing this for a few days.

3..  Once the flock is comfortable eating out of your hand and being petted at the same time, place a couple raisins or grapes on your lap and wait.  Don't be surprised if some of them jump up and eat.  Pet their feathers on their backs.  Keep doing this until they are comfortable. 

4.  Finally, after they are comfortable on your lap, try to pick up one of the chickens.  With your hands wrapped around their wings and your thumbs over the tops of the wings, gently guide them to your lap and reward them with a grape or raisin.  

It does take time and dedication on your part, but yes, you can train new and old chickens to discover and enjoy time with their human family.  After the chickens become familiar with you, then you can introduce other family members and train the chickens to like them using the same steps that you did.  With a lot of time and patience, you will soon discover at least one snuggler in your flock.  

 As always after handling your chickens, be sure to change your clothing and wash your hands thoroughly. Also wash your face, if you were lucky enough to get some chicken hugs!

Photo Credit:  4Jphotography

Love Hurts

Oyster Cracker has been molting for weeks now. My usual snuggling chicken has been replaced by a girl who is torn between receiving love and enduring pain. Her pain is caused by newly forming feather pins poking her as she is held, petted and loved. She has been so confused by this molt and I am not sure that she entirely understands what is going on. I know that this molt has been tough on her. She is not as spunky. Most of her feathers have fallen out and her comb seems pale.

Yesterday, she could not resist needing love. Before I knew it, she had jumped up into my lap and very carefully snuggled her face in between the crook of my shoulder and neck.  I delicately began to pet her.  I felt down by her breast bone.  She had lost a bunch of weight.  Despite her voracious appetite, the protein demands on her body from the molt must have caused her to become slimmer.  She felt smaller in my arms and did not stay for long.  Once she hopped off, I went to check for eggs.

Oyster Cracker came inside and popped her head out of the nesting boxes.  I was kneeling down and she kept putting her face near mine.  At first, I thought that she was after my earrings again.  Then, as I stuck my head in to the box, she tried to place her head and neck across the back of my neck.  I took my head out then bent it down outside of the nesting boxes within Oyster Cracker's reach.  Then she placed her head and neck on the back of my neck, like a pillow.  She wriggled back and forth.  I could hear her smelling my hair.  Her wattles were warm against my skin.  I understood.  She wanted love so badly, this was the closest she could get to me without experiencing pain from her feathers.  I stayed in that position, with a chicken laying on the back of my neck for about 5 minutes.  I can only imagine what the neighbors thought, let alone my own family!

I realized that despite my best efforts, I was not keeping up with her protein needs.  She needed more.  So I will be making an effort to provide them with a high protein morning snack as well as an afternoon snack.  Of course, I had terrible chicken Mom guilt, but I have never had any chicken molt to this extent.  Most of her feathers are slowly filling in now.  Tiny blunt feathers are peeking out from amongst the older feathers.  I can even see the fluff on her butt beginning to return.

Molting is not easy on chickens.  Their protein needs increase.  They lose weight and they stop laying eggs.  However, if you ask Oyster Cracker, she would probably say the worst part of molting is missing my daily snuggles.  You know, I have missed hers too.

Oyster Cracker's new feathers are "blooming" from the feather pins.


                               
Photo Credit:  4Jphotography

Giveaway: Tilly's Nest Holiday Notecards


The debut of our chick holiday cards has been met with great success and to top it off, I have had a whirlwind month.  First I went to New York City and was awarded Country Living's Blue Ribbon Blogger Award.  Then, I was interviewed by NPR and made it into a brand new local Cape Cod publication! How can we not celebrate with our friends and fans? We are giving away a set of our beautiful holiday cards to one lucky winner.  Here is how to enter: 

Enter the Giveaway!

You must leave a comment on this blog post to enter, for which you will receive one vote. Followers of the Tilly's Nest website will receive a second vote.  Please leave your email address if you do not have a blog of your own so that I may contact you in the event that you win.


Good Luck!

This giveaway ends on Saturday, November 19th at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time. This item will only ship to addresses in the United States.

Thank you so much for all of your love and support!

Stop on in to our Facebook page for another simultaneous giveaway!   


Photo/Collage Credit:  Tilly's Nest


Hot and Sour Chicken Soup

One of the best things to warm you up on a cold evening is a good bowl of soup.  I love to make soups because they are so incredibly easy and can bring a complex array of tastes to the table in less than an hour.  I love that clean up is minimal, just the soup pot, some measuring cups and the cutting board.

This recipe is based off of one from Rachael Ray.

Ingredients:

4 boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root
4 cloves of garlic~minced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups scallions~ cut on an angle
1 1/2 cups of sliced mushrooms
12.8 oz package of dried udon noodles
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons warm water
Sliced limes for garnish
Sriracha hot sauce~top soup as desired after serving


Preparation:

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and cook the udon until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add olive oil and chicken seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken until outsides are lightly browned. Then remove from pot and place aside.

If necessary add a little more olive oil to the pot, then saute the mushrooms, garlic and ginger together until the mushrooms begin to soften.  Next, add the chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, cilantro, scallions.  Bring to a gentle simmer.

Cut the chicken in strips on an angle and return them to the soup pot.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.  Whisk this mixture into the soup.

Next add the udon to the soup.  Continue to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Compliment this soup with a salad dressed with a soy-sesame Asian vinaigrette.


Want to explore more recipes from Tilly's Nest?  Click here.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Are You A Boy or Girl Egg?

This past Sunday, I attended the Boston Poultry Expo.  One of the cardinal rules during these shows is that you do not converse or interact with the judges.  In fact, people are required to keep a certain distance from them.  It is very easy to spot a judge.  They don a lab coat or jacket with official badges and tagging.  I enjoyed watching from a far as the judges selected their top picks.  Later in the afternoon nearing the end of the show, I recognized one of the judges standing near me in street clothes.  I decided to strike up a conversation.

He is from New York, grew up on a farm with poultry and has been involved in his local 4-H for years.  He has been raising chickens his entire life and now his adult son is one of the best breeders in the country.  His pride oozed as he told me his relationship with chickens.  I listened closely, I could tell that I was going to learn something important.  What he told me next amazed me.  He told me that you can tell what sex of chicken will hatch out of an egg  based upon the shape of it's egg.  According to him, eggs that have rounded tops will be females and the eggs that have pointy tops are the males.  He further went on to tell me that a researcher from Cornell University did not believe him and tested his theory in the lab.  On day 23, he received a phone call from the researcher, in shock that it was true!  I knew of those eggs.  Sometimes eggs are just too incredibly pointy not to take notice.

I came home and took some eggs out of the fridge.  I had a bowl of mostly Silkie eggs, as the larger girls were still molting.

At first I visually examined each egg.  Then I rubbed my finger over the tops of the eggs. I was able to separate them into two distinct piles; pointy verses rounded.  The piles were almost even, just a few more in the "female" pile.  I would expect this to be true.  There is always a higher birth rate of females to males.


Yes, you can see a difference.  Here is a pointy egg in the back and a rounded one in the front.


When I had heard what this judge was telling me at the show, I had to call my friend over to hear this too.  This information was exciting and intriguing to say the least.  After we finished our conversation with the judge, I told her that we had to try this experiment on our own.  She owns two incubators.  For her next hatch, she is going to put all pointy eggs in one and all rounded eggs in another.  I, for one, will surely be counting down those 21 days to see what hatches from the eggs.


Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

Yoga for Chickens aka: Dustbathing

Sometimes words can't explain what goes on around here.


I have no idea why Oyster Cracker decided to climb on top of Tilly and start scratching.  I can tell you that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are not taking dust baths during their molts.  I am not sure why, but I have heard that the new feathers can be sometimes painful if they are moved or touched the wrong way.  Maybe this has something to do with it.  Tilly finished her molt last week and was happy to enjoy her dust bath along with Autumn and Feathers a few feet away.  I love it when the chickens go into trance like states and I find their bodies in yogalike stances.



NPR and Tilly

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Joel from the Woods Hole NPR station.  I had received an email that she had discovered the blog and was interested in doing a radio piece on the girls of Tilly's Nest.  She came across us while researching farming on Cape Cod.  We reviewed our schedules, arranged a time and met yesterday morning.

It was a glorious sunny day.  We reached temperatures in the mid 60s. Joel, who is a chicken keeper herself, arrived mid-morning with a microphone and a tape recorder.  First, we went over to the coop to meet the girls.  Of course, as expected, Tilly was a microphone hog!  She is always the chicken who has so much to say and yesterday she did not let me down.  In fact, all of the girls were their usual delightful selves; chatting up a storm.  Joel captured the dialogue.  Crouched down at chicken level, I introduced her to all of the girls one by one in detail.

Soon enough, we ventured inside away from any background noise.  We had a lovely conversation.  It was informal and relaxed, despite knowing I was being recorded.  It was easy.  My initial nerves were replaced with comfort as I began to talk about my feathered girls. She asked me some typical questions as well as a few unexpected ones. We spent two hours together.  It was nice.

Before Joel left, we revisited the girls.  She wanted to record them talking one last time.  People are always surprised when they hear the girls.  Since they were a day old, I chatted with them.  As I would sit on an old worn out comforter in front of the brooder our conversations began.  I suppose they emulate what they learn, like our human children. I felt proud of them. It is true that you get out of life what you put into it. They were friendly, for the most part well mannered and polite.   From the beginning, our family gave the chickens much love and attention.  Yesterday, I realized that it had and does indeed make a difference.

I'm not sure if our story will end up airing on NPR.  It is still in a raw form that needs to be molded into some sort of airable piece.  We could easily end up cut by an editor who needs to make room for something more exciting than backyard chickens.  It doesn't matter to me really.  Sure, I would love to hear our piece in some form on NPR but the greater joy was knowing that I was able to connect with Joel and she was able to connect with Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Dottie Speckles, Dolly, Feathers, Autumn and Fifi.



Winner: Chicken and Egg Cookbook

Food Bits


Wow!  we had an amazing amount of entries for this amazing cookbook, but unfortunately we can only have one winner.  36 Fans entered the contest.  There were three chances to enter.  Using a random number generator, our winner was selected.  So without further adieu....


The Winner is
John 
of

Congratulations!

 Please email: melissa@tillysnest.com with your address so that I can get this out to you this week.



 Thank you everyone for entering this fabulous giveaway. 

Photo Credit: WSJ

Boston Poultry Expo

I had never been to a poultry show before and I was incredibly excited to attend one.  The Boston Poultry Expo was located west of Boston, closer to Worcester, Massachusetts.  With my directions in hand, I exited off the Mass Pike and twisted along on Ennis Road;  fresh with New England scenery.  I soon arrived at Four Wind Farms.  As I entered the exhibit hall, I was greeted by a large ice sculpture.  Upon it sat eggs, that the exhibit birds had laid earlier that morning.



The exhibit hall was full of tables set in rows with numerous cages resting on top.  Each cage had it's own small feed and water cup with pine shavings on the floor.  The poultry transportation cages were tucked neatly underneath the exhibit tables.

       

I am not entirely sure why I assumed that a poultry show would not be noisy. Perhaps, these birds were somehow refined.  On the contrary, it was very noisy!  Roosters, ducks and turkeys continually called out and letting their presence be known.  Amazingly gorgeous birds were everywhere.







The judges took their time.  Hours upon hours they inspected the birds both visually and physically.  Some decisions seemed straightforward and other too complex for this novice to understand.  The judge on the right has been raising poultry for most of his life.


There was a lovely award ceremony at the end which included trophies and cash prizes. 



Soon enough, it was time to pack up everyone and say goodbye.





I had a wonderful time at my first poultry show.  I loved seeing new breeds and meeting fellow chicken lovers and breeders.  However, my favorite part was meeting the children and hearing about their chickens.  I complimented one mother on her daughter's behavior and enthusiasm for the show.  She told me that her daughter had a difficult time finding her niche.  A few years back at a show, they met Jan Brett, the childrens' author, who raises and shows chickens.  She had introduced them to keeping and showing chickens.  Jan had served as an inspiration to this little girl and made a huge difference in her life.  Today, this little girl has many chickens.  Raising and showing them has become her niche. I am a firm believer that animals can be magical, especially chickens.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest