Month : December 2010


2010: A Year in Review

This was our first year with chickens.  I feel like we have had them for ages.  I really could not imagine my life without them.  They truly have become part of the family.  Our learning curve has been huge with our feathered friends.

They arrived in a little peeping box; six little day old chicks.  They were barely a couple of ounces and I could easily see how one could crush them without trying from the grasp of their hand.  I was their mother.  I had to teach them everything.  I taught them how to eat and drink.  They instinctually understood the rest.  Their growth has been amazing.  From day one to six weeks, they grew from baby chicks to fully feathered mini-chickens.

We have survived illnesses, trips to the chicken doctor, broodiness, flock integration.  We have learned about chicken psychology, coop construction, predator proofing and the many joys that chickens can bring into the lives of others.  We’ve learned alot about raising backyard chickens.  Through trial and error, we have gained some experiences that we feel we can now share with others.  We might even inspire some people to get backyard chickens themselves.

Here are five of my personal favorite blogs from this year:

#1  And Then There Were Five

#2  A Surprise Visit from Peanut; Well Sort of

#3  We’ll Come Running

#4  Are You My Momma?

#5  Our First Big Egg

I would also like to thank all of our visitors for stopping by Tilly’s Nest this year.  Since I started this blog in October, visitors have come from the United States, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, Belize, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Denmark, Croatia, Australia, India, Canada, Italy, Ukraine, Israel and United Arab Emirates.  We wish you a wonderful New Year in 2011.  Who knows, you might even have some chickens in your future!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Birds of a Feather…

Flock together.  I am convinced that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are best friends.  They have been together since they were born.  I am not sure, but it is entirely possible that they could even be sister.  They are difficult to tell apart.  Oyster Cracker has reached maturity a little faster and is a little bigger than Sunshine.  Other than that, they are pretty much indistinguishable. 

Interestingly enough, I have noticed that my chickens, from early on, like to be near chickens of the same breed.  The Silkies stayed together and the Buff Orpingtons stayed together.  I find this fascinating.  It must be instinctual.  Although, they can see themselves as they go about preening, eating and living their chicken lives; my chickens have never seen themselves in the mirror.  How do they know what their own faces look like?  How do they know what breed they are?

Oyster Cracker and Sunshine spend their entire days together.  The always do the same things at the same time.  They eat together.  They scratch near each other in the dirt.  They take dust baths together.  They even sleep side by side each other with their feathers touching at night.  I would even say they like to snuggle.

When I was little, I remember having a best friend.  We were inseparable.  We did everything together and could not wait to share our day’s event with one another.  I miss having a BFF like I did when I was a little girl.  I am so happy that Oyster Cracker and Sunshine reminded me of those sweet memories.  In my busy adulthood, I had not thought about them much.  Friendships are indeed something very special.

Main Dishes Recipes Soups

Avgolemono Soup

Here is a delicious greek soup for you to try this week.  Serve it with crusty bread for dipping. 
4 boneless chicken breasts-cut into bite size pieces
8 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 leek, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
2/3 cup uncooked rice
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper


1. In a large stock pot, sauté the chicken, onions, leek, carrot, in the olive oil.

2. Add the chicken stock, uncooked rice and bay leaves. Simmer on low for 40 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and lemon juice. Remove 2 cups of broth from the soup and slowly combine it with the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Once well combined, add back into the chicken soup. Stir well to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from a recipe by Cat Cora.  The original can be found on

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

We’ll Come Running!

No matter where you’ve been all day,
To your feet we’ll run to play.
Like a loyal dog to some,
When I call, my chickens come.
Early morning you say hello,
Eating, scratching fresh fallen snow.
Beaks and toes with mud galore,
Chickens dig forever more.
Where you’ve been it doesn’t matter,
Chicken feet go pitter patter.
Sometimes fast and sometimes slow,
They know where they want to go.
Into the grass to frolic and play,
Until the end of this sunny day.
And when it’s time to say goodnight,
Into their coop without a fight.
Sleep my chickens cozy and warm,
Feathered and happy, they sleep ’til dawn.
—Tilly’s Nest
copyright 2010, All rights reserved

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Females, Hormones and Chickens; Oh My!

Whoever said it was easy being a female?  Dolly is a huge ball of hormones right now.  As females, we have so many wonderful traits to be proud about.  However, sometimes, hormones get the best of us.  Right now, I see that happening with Dolly.  Here are my not so scientific observation from the week: 

1.  Crankiness–Dolly speaks low and almost inaudible.  She seems to be complaining and kvetching about everybody and everything.  Sometimes, she even growls.  She is cranky and bothered by the littlest things.

2.  Bloating–Dolly is puffed up into a large ball.  She looks so huge with her head pointed down and her tail in the air.  She is definitely too big for her skinny jeans.

3.  Short tempered–When she goes out into the yard.  She is all business; including picking on those below her.  She runs around the run giving the lower girls pecks for what seems like no reason.  Everybody and everything seems to annoy her.

4.  Cutting her hair–Have you ever cut your long hair during a stressful time in your life?  Dolly is plucking out her chest feathers.  One by one she has lined her nest with them.  Her chest is bald.

5.  Antisocial/Reclusive Behavior– Dolly sits upon her nest day in and day out.  She only leaves it when I force her to get up and stretch.   Sometimes I just want to sit at home and curl up with a good book.  I don’t feel like doing anything.  I want to wear sweatpants, hide under a blanket and even take a nap. 

6.  Broody Bowels— Enough said.

7. Emotional Tendencies—  It is hard for me to keep removing Dolly’s eggs and the other chicken’s eggs out from under her.  Perhaps I am personifying her too much, but I truly feel that she is emotionally attached to the eggs.  She is waiting for chicks to be born.  She is proud of her creations.  During my pregnancies, I too “nested” around the house.   Each time, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my children.

I smiled as I wrote this blog today.  I am glad that I can sometimes see myself acting like a hormonal chicken.  Maybe next time I feel hormonal,  I will remember to take a deep breath, smile and think about Dolly.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Bracing for the Storm

We are expecting a large snowstorm tonight into tomorrow afternoon.  The winds are expected to reach up to 60 mph.  I hate storms like this.  The good news is that none of us need to be anywhere in the morning. I have locked the chickens into their coop and I put the tarp over the run.  Last year in a storm like this, we woke to find trees down.  I hope this will not be the case.   None the less, I was given a snowblower for Christmas; just in time. 

Despite the weather, Dolly is still broody.  I still remind her a few times during the day to eat and drink.  I also noticed when I gave her the medication this morning, she pulled her breast feathers.  Broodiness includes pulling out chest feathers.  Being in direct contact with the skin keeps the eggs warmer.  She uses the feathers to line her nest.  This afternoon, I removed an egg from underneath of her.  She fussed a little but seemed to understand.  The snow floated from the sky onto her back while the nesting box was open.  The egg was toasty warm regardless of the winter chill and snow.

I’ve been thinking maybe I should just let her sit on the eggs.  I fear the chicks would perish from their inability to keep warm.  During their first week of life, chicks need a sustained temperature of 95 degrees F.  I’m just not sure that she can achieve that.  I would hate to removed dead chicks from the coop in Winter.

I am praying that her broody spell is lifted soon.  God knows that hormonal women are difficult to reason with, including hormonal hens.  For now, maybe the snow gods are the one’s I should be talking to.  Perhaps, I can convince them not to dump 2 feet of expected snow on us.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Day Five: Still Alive

Today I noticed an overall improvement in Dolly.  Thank God!  When I opened the coop up this morning, she was in her usual nesting box.  Her crop was firm but smaller and almost flat.  I removed her from the box, wrapped her in a towel and gave her medicine. I also gave her some water via the syringe.  She was feistier about having me give her the medicine.  I viewed that as a good sign.

I returned her to the run and then closed the coop door so that I could clean the coop.  While I cleaned, she socialized scratched, ate and drank.  All while I cleaned the coop, I heard knocks on the door.  “Who is it?”,  I asked.  That would be proceeded with another knock; so darling. 

After cleaning, I opened the door, and the bigger girls immediately went in to rearrange, decorate and explore the new bedding.  Dolly remained in the run.  She didn’t seem to care that the door was open and she was free to run back to her box.  After about a total of 15 minutes outside of the box, she eventually did return to nest on her invisible eggs.  Slowly but surely, we are all getting the hang of dealing with a broody hen, even the hen herself.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Day 4 in Broodyland

Poor Dolly, she has now been brooding in her nesting box for four days.  She really wants those babies.  Yesterday, Dolly did not lay any eggs.  She will typically lay two days in a row and then take a day off.  However, we did find out who was laying the large eggs.  It was not Tilly after all, it was Oyster Cracker, our big Buff Orpington.

Yesterday, as Dolly has taken residence in the “favorite” nesting box, Oyster Cracker wanted in; never mind that we have two other boxes.  She was determined to lay her second egg in the same nesting box that Dolly occupied.  She shoved her way in and made herself comfortable.  After a couple of hours, I went out to check on them.  Oyster Cracker no longer occupied the box.  Dolly had made her way back into the center of the box and underneath her warm chest feathers was Oyster Cracker’s egg!  I gently slid it out.  She made a quiet low growl.  I petted her on the back and felt her body.  She was toasty warm.  I felt her chest.  Her crop seemed unusually large for a chicken that was not eating much.  I decided that since Christmas was quickly approaching that I probably should take her to the vet and have her crop evaluated.

We have a fantastic vet in our area that treats chickens.  I understand that this is a rarity, so I consider myself a very lucky girl.  The vet agreed that her crop seemed larger than normal.  She also felt that Dolly had become dehydrated.  The vet cleaned out Dolly’s crop and filled it with water.  She also gave us a medication to help with her digestion.  Thank goodness that the crop was not sour and she did not have anything stuck in her crop.

When I opened the coop this morning, Dolly did not come out.  She was in her nesting box.  I took her out, gave her medicine and then set her free in the run.  She did not do much socializing.  She scratched a little and ate some corn in the run and then went back to her box.  I created a small water dish that I suspended in her nesting box.  I also placed a small amount of food near her.  The vet said that she could be broody for about 3 weeks.  I guess nature will just have to take it’s course.   I cannot imagine baby chicks in the middle of Winter.  I’m not sure they would survive.   I’ll consider this practice for motherhood in the Spring.  I just hope she is broody then!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Hen Gone Broody

Dolly, a lavender Silkie Bantam, is our best and was our only egg layer up until a couple of days ago.  Yesterday when freshening up the three nesting boxes, I found a rouge egg laid in a corner piled under shavings.  It was smaller than Dolly’s and pointier; another silkie had a laid an egg.  Who laid it is still under going investigation. 

Silkie Bantams typically lay approximately three eggs per week.  However, Dolly seems to be in overdrive.  She has laid an egg everyday.  I love getting her fresh eggs daily, but I finally realized why.  She wants to start a family.

Amongst the coldest and snowiest days so far this winter, her hormones and maternal drive have begun to overpower her chicken brain.  She has babies on the brain.  Yesterday, she spent the majority of the day sitting in her favorite nesting box.  She just sat and sat and sat.  No matter what I put in the run to lure her out, she sat. 

I have not been able to touch her at all until yesterday.  Typically she is skittish and shys away from me.  Yesterday was different.  I stroked her back and she purred.  I thought that maybe she is not feeling well.  I picked her up from the box and held her in my lap.  I thought that cooling her down might do the trick.  I gave her body a quick check, she seemed fine. 

Over the course of the afternoon, I repeated removing her from the box and trying to break her of this broodiness.  Each time after I returned her to the coop, she would go into the run, scratch around for about a minute and then return again to the box.  Finally, around 3:30pm, I checked.  She was still in her box.  I felt underneath her body and there it was, a small silkie egg kept warm under the feathers of her breast.  I gently removed the egg from underneath her.  She then went out into the run.  She stayed out with the rest of the flock until it was time to come in for the night.  Great, I thought, she has snapped out of it. 

This morning, the whole flock came out into the coop to scratch, drink and feed on delicious treats.  When I returned from dropping my son off at the bus, I checked on the chickens again.  Dolly had returned to her box; sitting on invisible eggs for now.  I am not sure how long this will last, but her drive to be a mother is strong.  Maybe, we can let her do just that come Spring.