Tag / Tilly

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Allowing Yourself to Bloom

Tilly's Nest- peony (1)wp
Tilly loved hanging out under this peony bush in the backyard.

If I take a deep breath and close my eyes I can still hear her and even smell her warm pine shaving scented feathers. Tilly has now been gone for two weeks. I did a lot of crying for the first few days. The smallest most mundane things would seem to set me off followed by tears rolling down my cheeks. Yet as each day passes, it gets easier.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Tilly Considers an Egg

Patience.
Love.
Understanding.
Encouragement.

It all happened in under a 5 minute time period out in the coop yesterday morning between Tilly and Oyster Cracker.

Yesterday morning, I opened up the coop door and let the vivacious young uns out along with the old ladies. I could hear everyone chattering up at storm out in the run enjoying the freshly scattered scratch that I shared with them. I began to get to work tidying up inside the coop as I typically do each morning. Then I noticed that I had a visitor.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

No Place Like Home

Chicken Abbey Road

It is always such a wonderful feeling to return home after some time away.  I am always eager to check on the girls and see how they adapted to life without us.  We are fortunate to have some of the best chicken sitters around, but somehow, I can’t help but think they can never replace us.

I often wonder if the chickens even care who feeds them, who waters them or, especially who gives them treats.  I tend to think that for them visualizing a handful of fresh greens can help them overcome any fear.  Yet, time and time again when we return from being away the girls,we are greeted with giddy excitement.

As we pulled the car in the driveway, the girls must have known and made a bee-line to the coop door.  Wiggling, dancing and stepping on each other’s toes, they could not wait to get out and be reunited with the family.  As we quickly got the youngest one’s shoes on, the girls were calling out.  My husband and I busily unpacked the car as the kids went over to see the chickens.

Once unpacked, I grabbed some fresh greens, a tomato from the fridge and some celery tops that had seen better days.  There the girls were, with the kids so happy.  I could feel my heart smile.  I sat down near the coop and the girls showered me with their affection.  Oyster Cracker could not wait to sit in my lap.  I took a peek in the run.  Just what had the girls been up to during our absence?

They dug holes; big, huge, all consuming holes in the run.  Dolly and Autumn as suspected went broody.  Tilly is done with being broody and continues to molt terribly and the rest seemed to just as they were when we left.  Despite the heat, they had also laid a dozen eggs.

Our two families were once again reunited.  It is amazing how much you can miss feathers and fluff, but somehow, it happens the same every time.  The chickens know and love who we are as much as we feel for them.  Home is a feeling that you get deep down inside; when you feel content, in a safe place and loved.  Returning “home” for us happened yesterday outside the coop sitting in the grassy lawn.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

TV Show Pays Tilly and the Girls a Visit

A few months ago, I was contacted by our town’s local television station.  They were doing a three part series on Backyard Chickens and they asked me if I would like to be part of it.  Of course, I agreed immediately!  I thought that this would be a great way to share how easy keeping backyard chickens really could be, especially for those interested in exploring keeping chickens but not yet ready to take the leap.

On one of the hottest and most humid days in June, the filming crew and T.V. host arrived at Tilly’s Nest for a morning of filming.  Despite the heat, we had great fun.  I was able to introduce the girls, give a tour of the coop and run, answer questions and even talk about my newest adventure beekeeping.

You can see the entire show here.

Enjoy!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Welcome Back Tilly

Tilly in the background

Finally after an almost record breaking eight and a half weeks of being broody, Tilly has emerged from its spell and is now taking back her place as head hen.  Sunshine who happily filled in during her absence has agreed that Tilly truly does make a better head hen.  It’s not too bad being second.  Plus, there are always lots of goodies and treats to go around for everyone no matter where you are in the pecking order.

Some people will try and break a hen from being broody because when they are broody they cease to lay eggs.  Some breeds go broody all the time, like my Silkies; especially Dolly.  Other breeds rarely go broody, this is because the instinct was bred out of them over the years.  To breeders, egg quantities over the instinct to rear chicks were more important.   Plus there were now incubators to do the job of the Mother Hen.  Some farmers will even cull hens that are broody as they are not seen as being a financial asset.

Only when their lives appear to be in danger from lack of eating and drinking would we ever consider breaking a hen.  With four Silkies we have broody hens all the time, for us, it is just a fact of life around here.  Dolly goes broody about every 3 weeks.  We always are sure to give them extra food and water with vitamins and electrolytes near the nesting boxes.  Plus broody hens truly make the best mothers.  In fact, if we had more room, we would have let her have some chicks to raise.  Under the cover of night, you can easily slip a few chicks underneath of them and create an instant family.

Interestingly, when Tilly was broody the Silkies were barely broody at all.  When one of the Silkies felt the urge to go broody, it never lasted longer than a day or two.   I would find that they had snapped out of it.  I guess having a nesting box next to Tilly was too much for them to handle.

Yesterday, when I went out in the afternoon to check for eggs, Tilly was perched up in the run on her favorite branch.  Inside the nesting boxes, I found all the Silkies piled on top of one another in the nesting boxes.  They all could not wait to be in there without Tilly.  This morning, Tilly was happy to be back to her regular self.  Autumn and Dolly are officially broody and I would not want it any other way for them.  Being broody is a big part of who they are, who am I to tell them not to do what comes natural?

A bit slimmer than before, she will gain back the weight in no time.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Eggs Stories from Our Nest

Privacy Please

Sunshine

Is there such a thing as egg laying etiquette?  I’ve often wonder about this. I have heard stories of hens lining up just to lay their eggs in a favorite box, each patiently waiting until the hen in front of them has had her turn.  Often in our nesting boxes, I will discover two chickens laying their eggs at the same time in the same box.  It is so cute to see them stuffed into the box, chatting together and singing the “egg song” duet.  It must be a bonding experience and one that they enjoy as I discover them this way quite a bit.  However, yesterday things were a bit different.

I was enjoying spending sometime outside with the girls in the morning.  As most everyone was scratching around in the fresh moist dirt I saw that Fifi had to lay an egg.  She popped up the ramp and into the coop to have her pick of all the nesting boxes.  No sooner had she entered the coop, I saw Sunshine make a bee line inside and shoo her out.  This happened repeatedly with lots of squawking and feathers flying.  Fifi came out almost as soon as she went in.  Poor little Fifi, all she wanted to do was lay her sweet tiny little egg in one of the boxes. She would even take the middle one if forced to.  Why didn’t Sunshine understand?  Why was Sunshine so bossy all of a sudden?  Then it dawned on me.
Sunshine was bossy.  Clearly this otherwise docile chicken had begun to transform.  With Tilly being on and off broody, Sunshine has bestowed upon herself the position of head hen!  At first it began with some naughty behavior, like eating eggs (thank goodness she stopped), completely emptying the feeders and bullying the others away from treats.  What had gotten into her?  Power.  She had control and she liked it.  She could do good and naughty and no one was there to stop her.  Her rule is so different from sweet Tilly’s.
I intervened that morning.  I tossed some black sunflower seeds into the run to provide distraction.  Sunshine quickly commanded the scene, gobbling up as many as she could.  Fifi took note and ran into the coop and hid in the nesting box on the far left, the favorite one.  I had bought Fifi about 5 minutes.  Soon enough, Sunshine noticed that Fifi was missing.  She marched on into the coop.  She saw Fifi in the nesting box on the left and determined she decided to occupy the box on the far right.
I returned to the coop about a half hour later to discover Tilly back inside sitting in the middle box with Sunshine’s and Fifi’s eggs underneath of her.  She had been busy.  With her beak, she carefully rolled each egg out of their respective boxes and into her favorite box, the middle one.  With feathers puffed and some cautionary growls from Tilly, I reached underneath of her and retrieved the two warm gifts.
Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Sunday Drive

Tilly is still on and off again broody.  Just when I think the broodiness has ended, I find her back in the nesting boxes. Yesterday I was glad she was broody.  As we were out and about exploring for the day,  I knew that she would keep all the eggs safe underneath of her.  Sunshine has been known to explore with eggs.  She loves to roll them out of the nesting boxes and into the run.  When they break, she enjoys eating them.  This is not a good thing.  Even their tough thick eggshells are no match for a chicken playing kick ball with eggs!
On the other hand, the Silkies love that Tilly is broody.  They have been helping themselves to all the treats.  The hens share the treats that I toss into the run during the day.  Yesterday I shared some arugula, tomatoes and cucumbers before we left.  Tilly did not budge from her nesting box.  She was uninterested.  It’s funny,  nowadays Tilly only comes running out into the run when she hears the crinkling of the Manna Pro Harvest Treats bag.  Filled with peanuts, tomatoes, raisins and more, it must taste really good to draw a broody girl off her nest!

Sometimes, we love to get into the car and explore without any agendas or time restraints.  It is often the best way we discover new favorite places.  We have found delicious ice cream stands, farm stands selling delicious jams and produce, hidden beaches and hiking trails. Days like this make me welcome getting lost. If we hadn’t taken a turn down that tiny inviting road, I would have never discovered this rooster weather vane perched up upon the cupola overlooking the gardens and Atlantic Ocean.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Eggs Stories from Our Nest

Pearly Whites

Silkies are funny little chickens.

Last week, all four Silkies, Dolly, Autumn, Feathers and Fifi were broody.  It doesn’t take much to convince a Silkie that they should be broody.  Clearly this was the trendy thing to do this week.  There they were piled on top of one another inside the nesting boxes.  Toward the end of the week, Tilly decided to join them.  For the past few days, one by one, the Silkies gave up being broody.  It wasn’t as much fun having Tilly there sandwiched between the two boxes overflowing with Silkies.

Tilly has been taking her time to decide if she truly wants to be broody or was just under the weather.  It seems like the old chicken and the egg argument; which came first.  This morning, Tilly was the last one out of the coop.  I watched as they one by one popped out of the coop with a lust for life.  Dolly and Tilly took some coaxing.  I could hear them “talking” to their invisible chicks as I have heard mother hens do.

They all came outside and were enjoying exploring the run.  A pair of robins landed outside the coop.  Tilly ran for them.  Like a watch dog, she chased them away.  They had no business being anywhere near the newly reseeded grass outside the coop.  Life somehow seemed to be returning to normal for Tilly today.

I went inside to finish up with the morning chores and returned about a half hour later to clean the coop.  There, something caught my eye.  Tilly and Fifi had returned to the nesting boxes.  I had to remove them one by one and place them in the run.  I always clean the coop without any chickens inside.  There, I noticed underneath the coop ramp someone had made a nest.  Two pearly little Silkie eggs were laid inside.

The eggs were tinier than usual, due to the Silkies returning to the egg laying process after being broody.  I removed my coop cleaning gloves and gently scooped the still warm eggs up into the cradle of my hand.  I was surprised that Sunshine had not discovered them.  She is ruthless when it comes to discovering eggs that had not been laid by her.  It is amazing to me that she recognizes her own eggs verses those laid by others.

Tilly is quasi-broody.  The Silkies are laying again.  Sunshine did not use the Silkie eggs as kick ball.  Somehow, things are off kilter, but make me feel content.  Life isn’t how one would expect it but somehow, option B turns out to be just as good as option A.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

It’s Tough Being Broody: An Update on Tilly

As Tilly and the girls are safely locked up for the night, I find myself here, in front of the computer sitting and feeling very loved from all of your prayers, words of encouragement and compassion for Tilly.  Thank you.

Just like in pregnancies, some are easier and some are more difficult.  Some women carry their babies beautifully through all nine months.  They barely gain any weight.  They seem to be glowing and they have easy deliveries.  I sort of liken this to Dolly, one of our Silkie hens.  Dolly is always broody and she is very good at it.  She has it down to a schedule and she handles it with such ease.  It is just as though her body is meant to handle this natural process.

Then there are others like myself included, who experience more difficult pregnancies.  We have huge amounts of weight gain, reflux, leg cramps, swelling, medical complications and difficult deliveries.   You might say that this is like Tilly.  I don’t think Tilly’s body is happy with her mind’s decision to be broody.

Yesterday, Tilly was clearly under the weather.  She seemed miserable sitting in her nesting box with her head hung low and her spirits dampened.  Late that afternoon, I had removed her from the nesting box and looked her over.  I felt her abdomen for any eggs. I checked for mites and lice.  I examined her crop.  Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but it is very difficult to remain objective in a situation like this when your heart is involved and your chicken is ill.  Around 4:30pm in the afternoon, I decided to run things by our vet.  We both mutually made the decision to bring Tilly in for an examination the next day.  Of course, weeks prior, I had volunteered for a whale watch at my son’s school scheduled for the morning.

This morning, it was Chicken Grandma to the rescue.  She brought Tilly to the vet early this morning and I participated in seeing Minke and humpback whales with my son.  When we arrived on shore, we raced to the car to pick up Tilly.  The vet and her staff had a chance to examine her and keep her for most of the day under observation.  We knew she was in good hands and our fingers were crossed for good news.

When we arrived, we were met with good news.  Tilly is not egg bound.  Her oil gland is working properly.  She has no mites or lice and her crop seems to be functioning normally.  She is worm free.  Tilly, for now, seems to just be having a difficult time being broody.  When they brought her out to us, we gave her a huge hug.  We were all so happy to be reunited.

It is never easy waiting for motherhood.  I feel badly for her the way it is now; with no fertile eggs, it can never be.  Tomorrow, I have a planned visit to my dear friend’s farm.  I might just see if she has any fertile eggs for Tilly.  Sometimes, it’s the reward that makes these tough times in life worth the difficult journey.