Hello friends. I wanted to take a moment to share the past few months with you. Life has thrown us an unexpected curve. We lost my Dad of 28 years unexpectedly this summer after dealing with some things since spring. It threw us all into a tail spin and all of us went into survival mode. It was a loss that rippled across all of our lives and the most difficult of all was watching my children have to suffer as they did. Their hearts were broken and mine broke even more than I though possible watching my own children learn how to grieve and rebound from loss.
Motherhood is fleeting.
It’s exhausting, rewarding, and filled with many moments of pride. From the moment little ones are welcomed into the world and take their first breaths, we are there with them every step of the way. We nuzzle them. Take them under our wings. Feed them and nourish them. We teach them to explore, how to be brave and make life-long friends. Some days we go on adventures to new places and we always remember to tuck them in at night. We give them baths and teach them to bathe on their own. We straighten them out when they are out of line. We love them even through their awkward “teenage” years and watch them grow into mature young adults. Soon enough, we’ve done our job and it’s time to let them flee the nest to make a life of their own, carrying so many lessons we have shared with them along the way.
A couple of weeks ago, like clockwork Dolly went broody again. So as the routine goes, Sunshine pecks the feathers off Dolly’s head and I retrieve a hen saddle because she refuses to vacate the flock’s favorite nesting box. Dolly has been wearing the same saddle off and on for the past year. A couple weeks ago when I was out with the girls, I noticed the saddle laying out in the run. I scooped it up to find that the snaps were still in place. Somehow
she had removed the saddle. I just figured that perhaps the elastic bands were stretched out from the year of use and reordered another one.
Two new adorable saddles arrived just in time. I pulled Dolly’s warm body from the vacant nesting box and plopped her on my lap. It is as if she knew what I was about to do. I gently unsnapped the saddle’s elastic, wrapped the elastic around her wing, and snapped it securely in place. She’s such a good girl and sits patiently knowing that she has no choice. I did the other side too, gave her a kiss on the head and returned her to the run. The saddle fit her beautifully. It was nice to see a new one on her that was not faded from the sun. I felt good that she was once again protected.
Two days later, I was out visiting the girls in the afternoon. It was snack time. All the girls came running including Dolly. Yet, when I saw Dolly, I mistook her for Autumn for a moment. No, it was Dolly, happy as a clam, she was just missing her saddle. As the girls were enjoying their treats, I began to look for the saddle. It was not in the nesting boxes. Nor was it in the coop. Then I saw it in the run soiled with dirt. The snaps were still buttoned. Somehow Dolly must have slipped out of the saddle on her own despite it fitting securely. I am not entirely sure how she did it. Was there an accomplice? Did it take a matter of minutes or only hours? The only thing that I do know is that she does not want to wear the saddle.
Sometimes, even though we like to think we know what is best for others, we can’t always be the judge. I like to think that Dolly was protected by the saddle but this behavior is new. I don’t understand why she did this and perhaps never will. I decided to not replace the saddle despite knowing the possible consequences. It is not possible to have control over all things- trying to keep everyone out of harms way all the time. I’m learning as a parent and a chicken keeper that sometimes it is best to let them things lie and be there to pick up the pieces as only a mother knows how.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
|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
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
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.
Before I left for the West Coast, I had noticed that Tilly had been spending an awful lot of time in the nesting boxes. A few days prior, she did have that egg that kept her in the nesting box for a spell. The thought had crossed my mind that she might be broody. However, still laying eggs, she seemed to be lingering; savoring the entire egg laying process.
|Feathers rocking an amazing do.|
I have three nesting boxes. The problem is that I have four broody Silkie Bantam hens. They are stubborn. As a concession two will often share a box but when one of the big girls comes into lay for the day, it is like World War III. Every Silkie jockeys for position to stay in their box. What does a girl who wants to lay her egg do to the broody girls? She talks to them and gives them a peck. Often, these hormonal Silkies cannot be reasoned with. They have an unreal dedication to brood. The only way they vacate the nesting box is through repetitive pecking by the big girl who wants to lay her egg. Finally, one little Silkie can’t take it anymore and abandons the nest scooting out into the run.
This repetitive pecking for the Sikies comes at a price. It affects their cute little heads. Once filled with a poof ball of fluff, they have now succumbed to the feather styling efforts of the bigger girls. Some little ones sport mohawk-like dos. Others appear to have a sort of male pattern baldness working. Then there are some that are missing a few patches here and there, almost mange-like. I feel badly and know that as soon they snap out of the broodiness, their beautiful poofy coifs return. The Silkies, on the other hand, are unfazed.
I wish I could be unfazed like them when I get a bad hair cut. We have all had them. When trying out a new stylist sometimes the cut is just a little too short, shows off the ears too much or just is the wrong color. I think the worst cuts though have always come when I have brought a photo in as an example. “I want to look just like this movie star.” The problem is we are not in Hollywood. We have humidity; combine that with running around the day, doing errands, laundry, cooking, washing the dog and serving as an after school taxi cab does not always match the do. Having naturally wavy hair, often those Hollywood styles end up at the end of the day looking like a huge ball of frizz with it’s own zip code. Sometimes, I think the chickens could do a better job at styling my hair. Hey, they’d probably do it for free, especially if they found some bugs in there after I was done gardening for the day.
Have you entered the chicken coop giveaway yet? You have only until tomorrow by 11:59pm East Coast Time. Click here for the link.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
I had a feeling that any day I would find Dolly broody again. This morning proved to be the day. When I opened the coop, Dolly remained inside sitting in one of the nesting boxes. I gently scooped her up and brought her out to the run to enjoy some scratch with the rest of the girls.
We had planned a day out off Cape so I checked on the girls before we left. Inside the right nesting box, Dolly and Feathers were sitting together, while Autumn was next to them in the middle box. I closed the boxes, as this could only mean one thing – Dolly was broody again. We hit the road around 9:30am and did not return until a little after 5pm. The first thing that I did was check on the girls, especially Dolly.
As suspected, I found Dolly in that same nesting box. Underneath of her I felt an egg. I took one out. Then another. Then another, and then 2 more! She was sitting on 5 eggs. She is getting to be a professional broody girl. Over the course of the day, she must have gently rolled the other girls’ freshly laid eggs from the neighboring nesting boxes into hers. I know they are not fertile and would never become chicks. Yet, I did not feel any better about taking them from her.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
The Silkies have had varying degrees of broodiness over the past month and a half. It all started with Autumn. Then Dolly, loving to be broody, decided to be broody yet again. She has been broody at least 5 times since December. Then add to the mix, Feathers who has been broody off and on over the past couple of days. Lately, the nesting boxes have had zero vacancy. However, I never expected today. While harvesting the eggs, all of the Silkies were outside and Oyster Cracker was inside sitting on two eggs.
I am not sure if she is broody, but she certainly acted the part. She pecked and growled at me as I checked underneath of her. As a knee jerk reaction, I pulled my hand back and then she very roughly, twisted her beak to her underside and pushed the eggs back underneath. She still needed practice with the eggs. To me, she was a little scary and intimidating. Now I know why all of the Silkies were outside.
I went back to the house and retrieved some goodies. Then, I scattered fresh veggies in the run and put a large chunk of ice in their waterer. I returned to the coop, bravely lifted Oyster Cracker off of the nesting box and retrieved the two warm eggs. She immediately went outside and was fascinated by a chunk of found cucumber that I threw in the run. Is it possible for broody spells to be broken by cool cucumbers?