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.
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!
1 ready made pie crust~ I prefer Pillsbury
1 box Pillsbury fudge brownies
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 package of cream cheese (8oz.)
1/4 cup oil
1 can of Pillsbury hot fudge frosting
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.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
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.
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
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. So what can chickens eat?
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.
|Life’s lessons begin as the mother hen talks to her eggs|
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 happiness my family and I share raising them. Not to mention the eggs!
… 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
… 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.
… 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!
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Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
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.
|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|
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
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