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December 31, 2011

How To Fix a Broken Beak

Sunshine has always had a longer more glamorous beak. Even though Sunshine and Oyster Cracker were born on the same day, their beaks could not be more different. I like to think of beaks as noses. There are short ones, blunt ones, fat and wide ones.  Some are pointy, narrow or rounder. Some hook off the the side and others down toward the ground.  Some even have what appears to be a beak "overbite".  Oyster Cracker has a short perfect little beak, not too wide yet perfectly straight and blunt. Sunshine on the other hand has a more glamorous beak. Her beak is narrow and long with a tiny downward hook at the end.

Beaks grow like fingernails. Through preening and wiping their beaks, chickens control the shape and length. For over a year I wondered how Sunshine has been able to grow her beak as some ladies grow long elegant fingernails.  Down the middle of the beak runs the quick, just like dog's toenails. Beaks can and will bleed if they are cut or scraped and the quick is injured. A few months back, Sunshine scraped her beak. It has since healed. You can read about it here.

Yesterday afternoon, when I went out to give the girls their treats, I noticed that Sunshine's long and beautiful beak was cracked down the middle.  On the left side, from the tip up a 1/3 of an inch, it was broken off and jagged rough edges were left ready to snag on something else. How, when and where this happened, I did not know.  I can only imagine that she must have stuck her beak somewhere where it did not belong, it got caught, she twisted and it broke off.  This broken beak required my immediate attention. 

I went into the house and grabbed an emery board, Krazy Glue and an old towel.  I headed out to the coop.
Sunshine was easy to catch. As she came over to say hello, I scooped her up and wrapped her in the towel. Being sure to cover her wings and neck, I swaddled her snugly within the towel.  This makes chickens feel safe. In my best chicken voice I whispered, "doh, doh, doh."  After a few second I felt her relax.

I held her head in my left hand. She wriggled. It took me a few tries to finally get a firm grip on her beak. Eventually, she stopped twisting and I went quickly to work.  With the emery board, I slowly and methodically filed away the rough jagged edges. These were my firsts concern. I blended them as best I could and softened their sharpness.  Next, I repaired the front of the beak into a softer point following the natural line of her beak.  I wiped it clean. Lastly, where the beak had split in the middle, I placed a thin layer of Krazy glue. This was the hardest part.  I had to hold her still until it dried.  To do so, I sat with her still wrapped in the towel and gave her some nice love.  As I petted her, I told her she was a good girl, reassuring her that I was trying to make her boo boo better.  It dried and I returned her to the run.  She was off and running, back to show the other girls her repaired beak.  She was happy as a lark and probably none the wiser on how to prevent more injuries in the future.
After the repair
Now it is your turn to share with us your chicken "How Tos".  Tell us "How to" make a recipe, solve a problem, select a breed, thaw a waterer, show a bird and the like.  We can't wait to see what you'll teach us in 2012!

Photo/Sketch Credits:  Tilly's Nest

December 30, 2011

Chicken Oatmeal

We have had an unusually balmy Fall and Winter this year.  I counted my blessings too soon as yesterday our weather went from mid 40s to mid 20s overnight.  The wind picked up and the dampness set in, typical Cape Cod Winter weather.  I was sure the girls would have a frozen waterer as I peered out into the yard at the rhododendrons with their curled leaves.  It was time to start making them one of their favorite Winter morning treats, chicken oatmeal.  When the girls saw me walking toward the run yesterday with two bowls, they were giddy!

It is very easy to make and I feel better when I can warm up their tummies first thing in the morning.  It takes about 5 minutes.  The recipe is versatile and can be adapted to whatever you have in your kitchen.  I make it as you would an ice cream sundae.  The base flavor, in this case oats, is the same.  The toppings vary and your own creations are endless.

This recipe serves 8 chickens.

Base Ingredients:
1 cup of oats
1 3/4 cups of water

Topping Ideas:
meal worms
assorted berries
sunflower seeds
dried and fresh herbs
wheat grass


Combine the oats, raisins and water in a microwave proof bowl.  Cover and microwave on high for 2-4 minutes.  Remove from microwave let cool a bit, so you do not burn your chicken's unsuspecting mouths.  Stir and add additional toppings.  Varying the toppings is fun and I love surprising the girls with one of their favorite Wintertime treats.

I always separate their chicken oatmeal into two bowls and deliberately place them on opposite sides of the run.  This ensures that all of the hens get to fill their empty bellies with warm goodness.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

December 28, 2011

It's Okay, I Speak Chicken

Learning a new language is tough.  They say it can take years to master any new language.  Some say you can never truly be proficient with slang and your accent unless you have lived for some time in the country where the language is spoken; total immersion.  When we began to keep chickens over a year and a half ago, I never in a million years would have believed that I could actually learn to speak chicken.

I had an epiphany in the yard this morning.  As I was tossing some scratch in the run, I was interchanging English with Chicken language.  Apparently, I have learned well.  Having completely immersed myself in their culture, I realized that I had had an entire conversation in chicken language with Tilly!

Chickens do have their own language and if you listen closely, you can hear and understand just what they are saying and doing by the actions surrounding them.  I enjoyed watching Tilly cock her head from side to side as I greeted her and then called her over to see what I had.  She sat on my knee for a brief moment.  As I told her she was safe in chicken talk, I could feel her relax.  I have learned how to mutter, coo and purr their tiniest of calls.  These are what I call "comfort calls".  They are used when they are getting ready to roost in the evening. Consisting of slow little murmurs, they are quiet, deliberate and repetitive.  I too now repeat much of what they are saying as I tuck them in for the night.  I use this when I coax them out of the nesting boxes for sleep.  I use this as I guide the Silkies up onto the perches in the fading light of dusk.

I talk to the chickens to get them to return to the coop after free ranging or when I need to catch them in a hurry.  Somehow they listen to me, as I give the flock a warning in chicken language that a hawk is overhead. They run and take cover under the rhododendrons and they freeze like statues with their heads turned on their sides with one eye up toward the sky.

I talk to the chickens when a new visitor is meeting the girls for the first time.  They immediately recognize new people as strangers and are fearful and skittish until I quietly cluck to them that they are safe.  Immediately, you can sense them let their guard down and begin to welcome their new friends with their sweet chicken talk.

In warmer weather, I also talk to Oyster Cracker when I give her a bath.  When I speak chicken to her and copy her sentences, her body relaxes. She asks me questions and I answer her using her same "words" but with a calming demeanor.   I can feel she trusts me even to the point of enjoying having her feathers dried with the hair dryer.  Just by speaking her language, she feels safe in a foreign situation.

You too can learn to speak chicken.  It's easy.  Immerse yourself in their culture.  Listen.  Observe and then try to say hello.  The chatter that you hear as you near the run is how your chickens say, "Hello!"

Click here to hear the girls and myself on NPR.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

December 27, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

Here I am sitting at the computer as I did last year. I am reminiscing about this past year with our chickens.  We had an amazing year filled with many surprises. This year, our flock said goodbye to Chocolate and Meesha and we added Dottie Speckles and Fifi.  Dolly hatched seven of our own eggs.  We experienced joy and sadness with sweet Percy Peepers.  We learned how to take care of chicken boo boos.  We troubleshooted in our coop.  We shared many Tour De Coops of fellow chicken keepers.  We even created the first ever Hug A Chicken Day on November 5th.  The highlight of the year was when our blog was discovered by Country Living Magazine and received a Blue Ribbon Blogger Award in New York City.  Yet, the best part is how many friends we have made by sharing this blog.

Here are my favorite top 5 blog posts of 2011 that I would like to share with you.

#5  Percy Peepers

#4  Sunshine Necklace

#3  Smiles from Chickens

#2  Tour de Coop~Mary Ann 

#1 Country Living Magazine, Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards

I can't wait to see what next year's adventures bring for Tilly, the girls and my family.  Thank you for allowing us to share every step of our journey with you and I hope that you will be with us in 2012.

Cheers to 2012!

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

December 26, 2011

Hide and Seek

Late this past Summer, I surprised the girls with a chicken toy. It was perfect. They loved it and looked forward to me tossing it into the run. It kept them entertained for hours. Sometimes I would fill it with scratch or with sunflower seeds and other times with dried meal worms and the like. It was great fun tossing it in the run every few days and watching them run over to greet me and the chicken toy near the run door. We got into a new routine and like Pavlovian puppies, they knew just what to expect when they saw me and heard me call out, "Girls" as I neared the run. At the end of the day, as the girls settled in for the night, I would retrieve the chicken toy and store it away near the treats. Until one day this Fall, the unexpected happened.

I had gone about my regular business and filled the chicken toy with a mixture of sunflower seeds and meal worms. I then went off to run my errands for the day. When I returned to check for eggs, the chicken toy was nowhere to be found. I looked around with a rake and never did find it. The girls had buried it. I figured in a few weeks, I would be cleaning out the run in preparation for Winter. I would surely find it then. It was mid October.

November had arrived. I found myself, as expected, out in the run giving it one good raking, removing compost and setting it aside to cure during the Winter. All the while, I kept an eye out for the chicken toy. Despite my efforts, I never found it. The chickens must have really buried it deeply. I had written it off as a loss and planned to order another one next time I placed an order online. The ground would soon be frozen.

Today, I went out to share some broccoli with the girls before heading out on my errands. I returned around 3 pm and all the girls were standing near the coop door calling to me. They always do this when they hear my car pull up the driveway. I went over and saw eight happy chickens and the chicken toy laying in the middle of the run. My heart skipped a beat. I could not believe it! They must have found it and dug it up! I went inside the house and grabbed some rice as a distraction and then tossed it into the run. With a child's rake, I reached inside and rolled the chicken toy within my hand's grasp. As the girls enjoyed the pilaf, I brushed off the chicken toy and returned it to where I store the treats. I could not believe that after 2 months, like a dog retrieving a bone, the girls decided to unearth the chicken toy just in time for Winter.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

We received word that we won Cooper Boone's Christmas Tree contest after midnight last night.  We are so incredibly excited and thankful to so many of those who supported and voted for our family Christmas tree.

Over 30,000 visitors on Tilly's Nest website this December
Over 370 fans on my personal Facebook page and their friends
Over 600 fans and friends of Tilly's Nest
Personal friends and relatives
Over 200 employees and their family's at my husband's workplace
Countless members of our Armed Forces stationed in the US and overseas.
Co-fans from Facebook chicken pages
Co-fans from pages that we like and follow on Facebook
Twitter friends
Fellow Blue Ribbon Blogger Award Recipients

We feel so loved and blessed with all of your amazing repeated dedication and time that you took out of your days during this holiday season to support my family and all of our endeavors.  Thank you for such a fantastic Christmas gift and a wonderful way to end this whirlwind of a year for Tilly's Nest.

Merry Christmas

~Melissa xo

December 24, 2011

Winner: The Incredible Egg Scale

Thank you so much everyone for entering our giveaway.  As always, your response was incredibly enthusiastic and made for a very fun contest!  A big thank you to our sponsor,, for generously sponsoring this giveaway. One winner was selected from all of the entries using a random number generator.  So without further adieu, Christmas is coming early for one lucky person.



Thank you everyone for entering this giveaway!  

Happy Holidays from Tilly's Nest

Please vote for our Christmas tree today.
#20-Melissa C.

Photo Credit:

December 23, 2011

The Spirit of the Season

Chickens do not celebrate holidays.  Yet, they are far from humbugs.  In fact, they are jovial.  Everyday they live life to the fullest. Everyday is Christmas for the chickens.

Chickens remind me that everyday is worth celebrating. 
Chickens are generous, sharing their gifts of eggs daily.
Chickens never need holidays as reasons for actions.  
Chicken families never dine alone and are generous with their findings.
New flock members are always included even though the first few weeks can be rocky.
They make it a point to talk with each other.
They have deep loving friendships.
The older birds remain a part of the flock and still live under the same roof.
They care for their young.
They fend for themselves if need be.
They seek out physical comfort especially when retiring for the night.
They have their moments but they always forgive one another and find harmony amongst themselves.
Their lives are about quality not quantity.
They never worry about their appearances. Have ever seen a chicken go through a terrible molt?
They seek and keep peace.

Christmas is about sharing gifts from the heart. Yet sometimes, they are the most difficult to give.  The chickens serve as a reminder to all that no matter what people's situations, your actions can always make a difference in the lives of those around you.

~Share the spirit of the Season~

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

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

December 21, 2011

Not A Word

When I see the girls look at me like this, I can't help but wonder what are they thinking?  Oyster Cracker was staring intensely at me and our souls seemed to connect.  Usually, these stolen moments occur when the girls visit me as I go about my daily coop duties.  This is how the girls and I communicate best.  Thoughts, feelings and emotions can be conveyed without speaking a word.  Today, I was able to capture one of our moments to share with you.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

Please take a moment to support Tilly's Nest and vote for our tree #20.  Thank you.

December 19, 2011

To Die For Toffee

My husband named this recipe.  It is so incredibly addictive that it is hard to pull yourself away from it and stop eating.  Delicious and not too sweet, this recipe is amazing.  I make it during the holidays every year.  Now, you too can make it and share in our tradition.

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 tbsp of water
1 tbsp of corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 bag of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips/morsels

Cookie sheet with lip/edge all the way around.
Candy thermometer (other digital ones work fine too)
Non-stick sauce pan (2 quart)

Combine sugar, butter, water and corn syrup in the sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir constantly while cooking.  During this process, the sugary concoction will turn a caramel color with varying degrees of bubbling.  This is normal and part of the candying process.  Heat until the sugar mixture until it reaches 290 degrees F.

Immediately remove from heat and pour on to the cookie sheet.  Gently shake the cookie sheet back and forth to help spread the mixture to about 1/3 of an inch.  The shape will be irregular.

Quickly while the sugar mixture is still hot, evenly sprinkle all the chocolate chips on top.  Take a spoon and swirl the melted chips together to form a uniform layer of chocolate.

Immediately, sprinkle the nuts on top of the melted chocolate.

Refrigerate promptly and cool for two hours.  Once the chocolate and toffee have hardened, remove the cookie sheet from the fridge and break the toffee into small pieces.

You can find 40 more wonderful recipes from Tilly's Nest here.

Please support Tilly's Nest by voting for our tree daily in this contest!  
Scroll down past the trees, fill in the circle #20-Melissa C and then scroll down some more and vote.  
Click here to make a difference and vote.

December 18, 2011

First Snow

We received a dusting of snow in the early hours of morning.  As I went out to the coop, there was one of the Buff Orpingtons eagerly awaiting my arrival.  When I opened the nesting box lid, Dottie Speckles was waiting in the wings.  She had never seen snow before in her life.

As I opened up the nesting boxes, she craned her neck outside to see the white stuff falling from the sky.  She cocked her head side to side to try and understand.  She even pecked at the flakes that had accumulated on the side of the nesting box roof.   She must have enjoyed it, because she kept pecking.  The scene to my right was no different.

Once again, Mother Nature had shared her gift of snow with the flock. 
 Like last year, they remain mesmerized, just like the kids.

If you enjoy our blog, please take a moment to support Tilly's Nest 
by voting for our tree today in this contest.  
Scroll past the trees, fill in circle #20-Melissa C, then scroll down and click on VOTE.
Thank you!

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

December 16, 2011

Giveaway: The Incredible Egg Scale

We thought that it would be fun to introduce you to our newest sponsor,, with a giveaway.  Have you ever wondered what size eggs your double yolkers would qualify for?  Have you ever wondered about your bantam eggs?  Well, wonder no more, because this amazing scale will not only answer those questions but can also help you sort your eggs.  This scale can weigh in grams and ounces and it makes a great addition to any household that enjoys chickens.  If you have never been to before, it is definitely a must visit site for chickens.  Based here in Massachusetts, everything that you need and then some is just one click away.  Here are my top 5 products from

1.  Plastic egg cartons.  This is a beautiful way to showcase the eggs that your girls lay.  With a ribbon tied around the box, this is the perfect gift filled with eggs when going over to a friend's house for a holiday visit.  You can chose from many sizes of egg cartons and for less than a dollar. Plus the more cartons you purchase, the better your price.

2.  Dried meal worms.  These are fabulous tossed out for your girls as a treat.  They are also a great source of protein during molting.  My girls love it when I bring them freshly made oatmeal on cold mornings with meal worms sprinkled on top.  Delicious!

3.  Vitamins and Electrolytes.  Think of this as Gatorade for your chickens.  We always have two waterers in the girls living space and one of them always contains vitamins and electrolytes.  This is an easy way to boost your flock's immune system and help booster their defenses with daily stressors.  Just a quick premeasured scoop, a quick stir and you are good to go.

4.  Egg Decoys.  Are your girls just starting to lay and not getting the eggs in the nesting boxes? Have you just  changed over to a new coop and want to encourage the girls to feel safe and lay their eggs in the nesting boxes?  Well, try placing a couple of wooden eggs in your nesting boxes.  This is an easy way to drop them a hint.

5.  The Natural History of the Chicken DVD!  I saw this last year on New Years Day.  This is one of the best movies I have ever seen about chickens.  A perfect stocking stuffer for a chicken lover who has and seen just about everything.  Two thumbs up!

Here are 5 ways you can enter to win 
The Incredible Egg Scale:

1.  You must leave a comment on this blog for entry.  Only comments here on this blog post will be accepted as an entry.  Be sure to leave an email address so that we can contact you if you do not have a blog. (1 entry)  If you are doing any of the below actions to increase your number of entries, please let us know in your comment(s).  You can earn 5 entries in this amazing giveaway!

2.  Take a visit over to and let me know what you would put on your wishlist, not including the items mentioned above. (1 entry)

3.  Becomes a fan of on Facebook (1 entry)

4.  Become a fan of Tilly's Nest here or on Facebook (1 entry)

BONUS ENTRY:  Vote for our Christmas tree in this contest.  Scroll down past trees, fill in circle number 20-Melissa C. and then scroll down and click vote. (1 entry)

Good luck all and thank you especially for the tree votes! 

This contest ends on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 11:59pm East Coast Time.
Item ships to US addresses only.

We are also having a calendar giveaway on Facebook if you help us promote the tree contest!  Click on the link to get all the details.

Photo Credit:

December 14, 2011

Art by Mr. Tilly's Nest

My children love to draw.  Sometimes, they like to sit back and watch my husband draw things for them.  Many times these involve drawing aliens and animals.  I can remember one day, my kids asked him to draw lots of animals.  When he completed drawing everything that came to their minds, the kids asked him to go back and put a goatee on all of the animals.  When he draws aliens, they come up with the most clever names related to some foreign appendage that is hanging from their body.  Well, last night, as I was busy filling calendar orders, little did I know that they were downstairs drawing our chickens.  It was my daughter's idea. Tilly came first.

Then came Sunshine and Oyster Cracker, our inseparable Buff Orpingtons.

My husband, confessed that Dottie Speckles was the most difficult to draw.

Of course, he captured the Silkies too, my daughter would not have it any other way. 

He was under specific instructions to write out the ENTIRE name of each chicken.

But my favorite, is how my daughter asked my husband to draw Dolly; broody in a nesting box.

My husband doesn't think he is a very good artist.  The kids and I beg to differ. 

Would you be so kind, and vote daily for our tree? Melissa C. #20. 
Thank you!

Artwork by Mr. Tilly's Nest

December 13, 2011

2012 Calendar

By popular demand and with the help of our amazing fans on Facebook, we have created a beautiful 13 month calendar.  This is our tribute to chickens and gets up close and personal with over 80 different birds. It has been a labor of love. Thank all of our amazing friends and fans we have met over these past few months!  We are so happy that so many of you feel the same way about your chickens as we do!  To preview all the calendar photos and photo credits click here.


These make great stocking stuffers and gifts for all of you chicken friends.

Please email for ordering details

Oh, and if you don't mind, 
would you vote daily for our tree?  Melissa C. #20.  

Thank you!

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

December 12, 2011

It's Good to Be an Explorer

Chickens are explorers.

When the girls were three months old, they began to explore outside their coop and run.  I would find them apprehensive, yet willing to go to new heights.  This picture is one of my favorites.  It was a wonderful sunny summer day and for the first time, Sunshine decided to climb up to the top of the run.  The only problem was, that she was not quite sure how to get down.  The other girls just ignored, her and eventually I went over and scooped her up and returned her to solid ground.  It wasn't until a few months later, after climbing up there a few more times, that she discovered that her wings could help her fly down to the ground.  

Sunshine's actions reminded me to keep pursuing, keep exploring and keep discovering because one day you might find something exhilarating.   For Sunshine, it is climbing up to the top of the run, looking out over the yard and all that it holds; feeling like she is on top of the world.  I do have to say, once again, the chickens are right!

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

Please take a moment to vote for Tilly's tree daily.
 It is very easy. Click here. Tree #20~Melissa C.
Thank you!

December 11, 2011

Diatomaceous Bombing

A little while back I had posted about tiny little bugs invading the outside of the coop and run.  Well since then, their population has been slowly increasing.  I never found them on the chickens or in the coop and I would only find them early in the morning and at dusk.  During the day, they seemed to disappear.   When I did discover them, they seemed to be content on the shakes of the roof and the painted wooden portions of the run.  I could not figure it out.  I had done an extensive Google search and a search on backyard chickens that yielded no leads as to what these little buggers were.  I saw and read about lots of bugs.  One thing was sure,  they were not mites and they were not chicken or dog fleas.  Regardless, their population seemed to be doubling daily and they had to go!

So last night after the chickens went into the coop to roost, I sprang into action.  Everything had dried out over the past couple of days from the recent rain and clear weather was predicted for the next few days.  I had a date with the bugs; my weapon, organic food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) and lots of it!  DE is a great organic way to control pests.

I filled the pest pistol up completely with the DE.  I went over to the run and covered it entirely with the rolled up plastic that I use during heavy rain and snow.  After a few minutes it was secure.  I went to work.  I covered the entire roof of the coop with DE  being sure to blast up underneath the shingles.  Then, I inserted the pest pistol into various squares of the hardware cloth in different locations and filled the run with DE.  All the while, I covered my nose and mouth with a bandanna.  DE can be harmful if large amount are inhaled causing a lung condition called silicosis. Soon enough, a large cloud filled the run.  Meanwhile, the girls were locked up in the coop sound asleep unaware of the warfare that was taking place outside.  I was satisfied and went inside for the night.

This morning, I came out to discover no little bugs on the roof!  Lots of dead little bugs had slid down the outside of the plastic covering the run where the rain runs off.  At least one hundred were dead.  I'm not sure what they were but the sharp microscopic particles that make up the DE were able to cut into the bugs' skeletons and dehydrate them.  So for now, Tilly's Mom-1 Bugs-0.  I can claim victory.  I sure hope it stays that way.

December 10, 2011

Easy Beef Stew

The holiday season is upon us.  Days seem so sort with so much to get accomplished.  Today, I thought that I would share one of my husband's favorites.  It is easy and very comforting.  Serve it up with crusty french bread and a side salad.  This one is a keeper.


1 1/2 pounds of cubed beef stew meat
2 tablespoons of flour
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion diced
2 cups water
1 package of Lipton's dry Onion Soup mix (the darker brown one)
1 cup diced carrots
3 medium potatoes cubed
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup red wine


In a skillet over medium high, add the olive oil and the beef.  Dust the beef with the flour and stir until combined.  Add the salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and onion. Brown the outside of the meat about 5 minutes stirring every so often.

Next add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Add the water and the soup mix and simmer on low heat 1 1/2 hours.  Add the potatoes and carrots.  Simmer for 45 more minutes.  Add the peas in the last 10 minutes of cooking.  Total cooking time should be between 2-3 hours or until the beef is fork tender.

This recipe can be done in the crock pot on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8.  Just add all the ingredients to the crock pot after you have completed browning the meat and deglazing the pan.  When using the crock pot, keep the vegetables cut larger to prevent mushiness.

Craving more?  Click here.

Please take a moment to vote for our tree today and support 
Tilly's Nest.  It is very easy.  Click here.  Tree #20~Melissa C.
Thank you!

December 8, 2011

Thursdays with Tilly

Keeping chickens is like therapy for the soul.  Somehow, these feathered little ones seem to melt away things that seem to matter so much to people in the human world but aren't really important at all.  Everyone has these sort of days.  Ones that start out with oversleeping.  Ones filled with sadness.  Ones that deliver bad news and ones that somehow never end soon enough.  It is not easy living in this world that we humans have created to "make life easier".  Many days, I think that technology and inventions have done just the opposite.  Today was a day when I just felt down.  I'm not entirely sure why, and I never did put my finger on it, but I was reminded a few things from the chickens  They reminded me that sometimes the important things in life, things that matter, can be easily overlooked in our complicated world.  The girls remind me of lessons learned early in my medical career.

The cold blew in last night.  Today I was a little hesitant to spend a longer amount of time outside with the flock. Yet, I put on my heavy down winter coat, gloves and a hat and went to sit and just watch the chickens.  I needed to unplug.  As I arrived, I delivered treats for the girls consisting today of strawberry tops, apple cores, lettuce, tomatoes and a few grapes.  They could not contain their excitement.  Immediately, they reminded me to be thankful for the "little things" in life.  What was our trash, was their treasure.  This made their day.  Sweet little things like this happen daily.  Strangers smiling back at a smile.  People holding doors open.  People saying "God bless you" when you sneeze.  Strangers stopping to help a car accident.  People helping to pay for groceries of a family in need.

Things like the pip hole on the shell of an egg.

The chickens went about scratching in the dirt and sharing found treats with one another.  I watched and could not help thinking that each of us has something to share with someone.  We all need companionship as much as we need to be companions.  Some people with brave faces carry heavy hearts.

Things like dust bathing companions

Finally after filling their crops with goodies, the girls decided to take dust baths.  Quietly I watched them.  Oyster Cracker made a large hole. Soon enough, it was filled with three Silkies and Oyster Cracker.  None of them seemed to care that the other was sharing in the experience.  Piled on top of each other, they pecked things out of one another's feathers and the surrounding dirt.  It was so relaxing to observe them.  Finally, I could feel my day begin to melt.  I began to think of getting things organized and clean, for a fresh start.  Organizing, cleaning and changing your environment can make a big difference. I came in from visiting the chickens.  As I warmed up,  I asked the kids to pick up the toys they were not playing with.  I went through two days of mail sitting on the kitchen island. I finished our Christmas card list and I figured out what I was making for dinner.  Suddenly, a memory from almost 20 years ago floated into my mind.

Human contact.  A voice. A whisper.  Holding hands quietly.  Feeling a warm body next to yours.  These are what make life special.  At the end, they are all that matter.  When I worked in a nursing home after hours sometimes I would go and just sit with my patients quietly in their rooms.  They had no families.   I was young, unmarried and without a family of my own nearby.  We would just hold hands.  Knowing one another was there, we would say nothing.  Their minds did not function like mine or yours, but every once in a while, I would feel them squeeze me back.  Life should be simple.  Today, the chickens reminded me.  Happiness and love are abundant this season, yet sharing something you can give for free is sometimes the most difficult but the best gift we can give and share with one another.  Thank you Tilly and the girls, for helping me to remember.

Things like the magic of an ordinary beach stone to a 4 year old.

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest

December 7, 2011

Cooper Boone

Two days ago, I received a message in my inbox.  It was from a new friend, Cooper Boone.  As many of you know, I had the privilege and honor last month to travel to New York City and accept a  Blue Ribbon Blogger Award for Tilly's Nest from Country Living Magazine. Up on the 44th floor of Hearst Tower, I was presented my ribbon and cloche from country crooner, chef and chicken keeper; Cooper Boone himself.  There we stood together, with his arm around me, as he read a lovely piece written about my blog.  I was touched!  He was a hoot and we even made small talk up at the podium in front of all the attendees. Once again, two chicken owners bonded over chickens!

Cooper and I at the award ceremony
Yesterday's message, was to follow up with me to see if I had decided to enter our family Christmas tree in his contest.  I hadn't yet.  Then, I decided why not?  It would be fun to be the winner and have Cooper come cook something up in our kitchen.  The kids would love it!  It would make a fabulous blog entry!  I would be in one of Cooper's videos and it would be wonderful time to connect with and get to know our new friend!  Most of all, I would love for Cooper to come and meet all the girls in person.  He has been following our adventures on Tilly's Nest since participating as a judge for Country Living's Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards.  Tilly, Sunshine, Oyster Cracker, Fifi, Feathers, Dolly, Dottie Speckles and Autumn would love meet Cooper too!  I wonder if he would sing a tune for Tilly and the girls?  We just might have to convince him of that one, but first we have to win.

Click here to vote for our family tree~Number 20-Melissa C.

Voting can be done daily through December 24, 2011.

Myself, Tilly and the girls thank you!

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

December 6, 2011

Slugs: A Hidden Danger for Backyard Chickens

When my girls were little they loved dining on slugs.  Cape Cod can be a windy damp place perfect for harboring families of slugs.  Those slug families love living in our yard, tasty perennials are abundant and offer up a wide variety of new dining choices everywhere they slither.  Prior to keeping chickens, we used organic pet friendly treatments to rid our yard of those slimy little sneaky pests that loved to eat the leaves of our wonderful perennials.  However, soon after getting chickens, we discovered that the girls would go crazy for them!  They would catch a view of the slug or the glistening trail and look further to investigate where the tender juicy morsels were hiding.  I loved turning my flock loose to take care of any unwanted snails without shells. Even times when the girls were not out in the yard, I would hand deliver any slugs that I found as I went to check the mailbox or emptied my car from grocery shopping.   That was until Tilly got sick.

At around ten weeks of age, I discovered Tilly gasping for air, coughing and choking.  It was early in my chicken keeping experiences, but it didn't take more than a few hours to realize that my head hen was not right.  I separated her and frantically searched the phone book and internet for any veterinarian on the Cape that cared for birds and chickens.  After a couple of hours, I did locate an urgent care and made the trip with Tilly.  As the vet was interviewing me regarding Tilly's first ten weeks of life, I had mentioned that the chickens were loving the slugs with all of the wet weather we had been having.  It was then that I learned that slugs can be carriers of gapeworms as well as earthworms and snails.  Gapeworms are red round worms that like to attach themselves in the trachea of birds.  This causes difficulty in breathing for the birds and chickens will cough and breathe with their mouths open.  Enough worms can block off the trachea in young chickens and occlude their breathing completely, causing the chicken to die.  After hearing this and making the connection, the vet and I decided to deworm Tilly and the entire flock. Tilly made a full recovery and none of the other chickens ever became ill.

Yesterday, I was out opening up the coop.  The morning light was covered with wet misty fog.  It was like wading through pea soup as I ventured out to the girls.  As I opened up the coop door, I noticed on the locking wooden bar a small black snail.  I was hoping that no one else saw it.  I quickly looked for a stick to help remove the slug.  There was no way I was going to grab it with my bare hands this early in the morning.  As I was returning with a twig, it caught Dottie Speckles' eye and she came to investigate the little slug.  Quickly, I shooed her away and captured the slug.  I removed it from the coop and tossed in some extra scratch for the girls.  Yes, I admit, I know I cannot prevent the girls from eating every delicious morsel that they encounter and find throughout their day.  However, a little shared molluscophobia at this point may not be such a bad thing.

For more information on worms that affect chickens, click here.

Yesterday's looked just like this one.

Photo Credit:  radicalfutures

December 5, 2011

December 3, 2011

Stolen Moment

Sometimes I like to sneak up on the coop so that the girls do not know I am even there.  I hug the North side of the coop as I approach and then I slowly lift up the nesting box lid and watch them through the tiny coop door.

I watch as they scratch in the dirt, discovering wonderful morsel in the soil.  However, it is not too long before someone discovers my existence and notifies the rest of the flock.  My gig is up and like puppy dogs, they come in one by one to say hello.  The big girls, Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are always first.

Today, their hellos were brief, just checking in to see what I was up to, staying for a quick pet and then journeying back out into the run.  I suppose they all agreed that the weather is beautiful. I agree too.  It is wonderfully balmy out. I can't blame them for wanting to be outside.  Come to think of it, I think I will enjoy the weather too, as I check off outside holiday decorations from the to-do-list.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

December 2, 2011

Musical Nesting Boxes


Fifi is over being broody!  It seems as though this little fluff ball had been broody for over a month.  During these past couple of days, I could see the veil lifting.  She has been first with Feathers to jump out the coop door in the morning and I began to find her spending more time in the run and less time in the nesting boxes.  I felt so happy and relieved.

 I always get nervous when the Silkies go broody.  They seem to be broody all the time and being broody is not easy on their bodies.  They eat very little and spend most of their time in a zen like trance that is sometimes difficult to get past.  When I find them broody, I like to reach into their nesting box a couple times per day, scoop them up and force them to stretch their legs out in the run.  Whenever I do this,  it is like they are stunned.  It takes them a minute to realize what is happening, who they are with and what exactly I am doing.  As soon as they realize, I barely have time to return and close the nesting box lid and vooomp, the broody girl has returned.

Imagine my surprise today when I went out late morning to give the girls their treats and Dolly was in the nesting box.  Like clockwork, she is dialed in to broodiness, every other month.  It was easy to confirm.  I lifted her up and found a colorful assortment of three eggs underneath her breast.  I am coming to the realization that this is just who she is and how her body works.  It makes me feel like I understand her and in someways, love her more for it.  I returned inside the house and continued on with my day. Later in the afternoon, I fed the girls some scratch.  The weather was getting cooler as the sun was setting. I took Dolly out of her box and let her enjoy the treat with the others.

Once nightfall arrived, I went out to lock up the coop.  I was in for a real surprise.  I opened up the nesting box door, expecting to shoo Dottie Speckles out and there I found it. Three girls, including Oyster Cracker were inside all three of the boxes. I first gently shooed Oyster Cracker out of the left box. She groggily left and walked off toward the favorite roost. In the middle box, I found Fifi. She was sound asleep so I picked her up and guided her feet to the vacant roosting bar. In the right box, I found Feathers. She too was sound asleep and stirred as I guided her next to her sister. Then, in darkness, I blindly felt in each nesting box for any eggs that had been laid between the afternoon and now. When I got to the box on the left where Oyster Cracker had been, there I found Dolly. Oyster Cracker had been sitting on top of her! I scooped her up as well and then placed her next to her fluffy Silkie sisters. Just when I think I have them figured out, they change their behavior. Tonight, it was like a clown car at the circus. The one expected chicken who like to sleep in the nesting boxes wasn't there but four different ones were.  The hen who was supposed to be broody decided today that another Silkie, Dolly, should now assume that role.

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

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

December 1, 2011

Happiness is...

...a chicken giddy with excitement running across the run to reach you when she sees you.

...eggs in a nesting box.

...the first one out of the coop pop up door in the morning.

...snuggling together on the roosts at night.

..singing the egg song to announce the arrival of a freshly laid egg.

...digging for worms after a fresh rain.

...taking a dust bath.

...fresh vegetables and fruits.

...relaxing in a nesting box filled with aromatic dried herbs.

...jumping on top of a log and being the tallest chicken around looking out into this newly elevated world.

...hatching eggs.

...raising a brood of chicks

...listening to the chickens talk.

...warm oatmeal with raisins.

...being loved by a flock of henny girls.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest