Tag / Dolly

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Motherhood is Universal

Last Winter

Dolly is broody yet again.  Her instinctual drive to be a mother never ceases to amaze me.  Like clockwork, she completes being broody after 3 weeks.  After about a week off the nest, she begins to lay again.  Once she lays about 10 eggs, she returns to the empty nesting box and restarts the process.

Some women love to be mothers.  Some women never care to be.  I find it fascinating that the same appears to be true of chickens as well.  I have a few hens that go broody very often, while some have never been broody in their lives.

Mothers are dedicated to their unborn.  Like pregnant women that rub their bellies and talk to their unborn children, a broody hen rocks her eggs side to side and whispers in chicken language to all of her eggs.  A broody girl also keeps the eggs warm and pulls feathers from her breast to keep the eggs close to her skin and provide the proper humidity, perfect for hatching.  Over the 21 day incubation course, she leaves the nest once to meet all her daily nutritional and bowel needs.

Mothers are selfless.  Mothers often put their children’s needs ahead of their own, sometimes forgetting that they have needs too.

Mothers are the first teachers.  Once hatched, hens teach their children their language.  They teach their chicks to eat and drink and how to become adult chickens.

Mothers protect their children.  A mother hen will go to extremes to save and protect her baby chicks.  Heroic unselfish acts of sacrifice are seen time and time again.

Mothers set the rules.  A mother hen runs a strict household.  She calls the shots.  She tells the chicks when to eat and drink.  She tells them when there is danger and to seek safety.  She even sets a bedtime.

Sadly, the young leave the nest too quickly.  Like kids, the chicks grow so incredibly fast, hurrying to reach a more complicated adulthood.  At six weeks, the chicks are fully feathered and ready to leave the nest and the comfort of their mother hen.

Mothering is amazingly universal.  These traits are shared across all species.  Mothering has its own language and it begins with love.  It is a love of something much deeper than we will even know for something that we have never seen or met.  It is having a bottomless heart. It is self-sacrificing, given freely and expects big things for such little ones we have never met.  Dolly, you never cease to amaze me.  You are one remarkable chicken.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

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

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Musical Nesting Boxes

Fifi

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

 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Saturday Serenity

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.

 

Autumn

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

Chickens Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

Fall Clean-Up

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.

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Today’s reward for my hard work

Photo Credit: Mr. Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

NPR and Tilly

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Joel from the Woods Hole NPR station.  I had received an email that she had discovered the blog and was interested in doing a radio piece on the girls of Tilly’s Nest.  She came across us while researching farming on Cape Cod.  We reviewed our schedules, arranged a time and met yesterday morning.

It was a glorious sunny day.  We reached temperatures in the mid 60s. Joel, who is a chicken keeper herself, arrived mid-morning with a microphone and a tape recorder.  First, we went over to the coop to meet the girls.  Of course, as expected, Tilly was a microphone hog!  She is always the chicken who has so much to say and yesterday she did not let me down.  In fact, all of the girls were their usual delightful selves; chatting up a storm.  Joel captured the dialogue.  Crouched down at chicken level, I introduced her to all of the girls one by one in detail.

Soon enough, we ventured inside away from any background noise.  We had a lovely conversation.  It was informal and relaxed, despite knowing I was being recorded.  It was easy.  My initial nerves were replaced with comfort as I began to talk about my feathered girls. She asked me some typical questions as well as a few unexpected ones. We spent two hours together.  It was nice.

Before Joel left, we revisited the girls.  She wanted to record them talking one last time.  People are always surprised when they hear the girls.  Since they were a day old, I chatted with them.  As I would sit on an old worn out comforter in front of the brooder our conversations began.  I suppose they emulate what they learn, like our human children. I felt proud of them. It is true that you get out of life what you put into it. They were friendly, for the most part well mannered and polite.   From the beginning, our family gave the chickens much love and attention.  Yesterday, I realized that it had and does indeed make a difference.

I’m not sure if our story will end up airing on NPR.  It is still in a raw form that needs to be molded into some sort of airable piece.  We could easily end up cut by an editor who needs to make room for something more exciting than backyard chickens.  It doesn’t matter to me really.  Sure, I would love to hear our piece in some form on NPR but the greater joy was knowing that I was able to connect with Joel and she was able to connect with Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Dottie Speckles, Dolly, Feathers, Autumn and Fifi.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Sleep Walking

I had a meeting this evening and my husband locked up the girls.  We are expecting rain tomorrow, so I double checked the coop’s windows.  I also wanted to be sure that no one was sleeping in the nesting boxes. Under the cover of darkness, I approached the coop.

Checking the nesting boxes for sleeping chickens seems to be a regular habit.  Yet when I checked the last three nights, I found the nesting boxes had been empty.  Last night, I had even noticed that the sleeping arrangements had changed on the roosts.  Instead of eight girls cramming themselves onto a 4′ roost, yes unbelievably that is what they preferred, they are now evenly distributed between roosts.  Two larger girls and two Silkies now sleep comfortably with room to breathe on their own roost.

I was not surprised when I checked in the boxes this evening.  I found a Buff Orpington egg in the right box and Dolly in the far left.  I scooped up the egg and then I scooped up Dolly.  She was fast asleep.  I first placed her on the pine shavings outside of the box.  I needed to reposition myself to place her on the perch.  After turning my body, I gently lifted her up and guided her feet to the roost. Still sound asleep, her body slowly sank like a rag doll off the back of the roost.  I picked her up again, using two hands this time, and ensured her feathered feet were properly placed on the roost.  She settled in next to Autumn.

I closed up the coop and whispered my good nights.  I know that chickens cannot see in the dark.  Therefore, they typically stay in one place once darkness falls.  I wonder if they realize when they wake up that they are  in a different place from where they started?  Its times like this when I wish we could communicate better.  I’d love to tell them that I am responsible for their sleep walking.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Unexpected Discovery

As I was refilling the feeder a couple of days ago, I happened to notice some spilled scratch on the workbench.  Mindful of wasting and little critters, I brushed the 10 pieces or so of scratch into my hand and tossed it in the feeder with the rest of the feed pellets.  Big mistake!

That afternoon, when I went out to check for eggs, I found the entire feeder emptied.  Feed pellets were scattered all over the inside of the coop.  Every pellet, except for a few orphans, was on the coop floor.   The feeder was empty, twirling in the slight breeze!  One of the chickens either smelled or discovered the few morsels of scratch amongst the pellets and decided to search for every last bit.
Did they take their time and methodically search the feeder one pellet at a time?  Or, was it frantic, like feeding time in the shark tank?  I can only imagine pellets flying everywhere in the chicken’s determination in finding those hidden treats.  Even though I missed the show, the two broody girls in the boxes, Dolly and Autumn, were privy to the entire escapade!  I removed the feeder, washed it completely and filled it with feed only.  So far, feeder etiquette has resumed. It has now been 2 days.
I learned my lesson.  Never underestimate the smarts of a chicken and the power of treats.
Their lips are sealed
Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Eggs Health Issues

Egg Eater

Yesterday, I went out to the coop.  I could not wait to say hello to the girls.  I missed them so.  It was funny.  At first, I do not think that they recognized me.  I opened up the coop door and tossed scratch onto the run floor.  No one seemed to care that I was home.  I was sad.  I figured we would get reacquinted when I cleaned the coop later. It was on my to do list.  I opened the nesting box door.  I did not find any chickens in the boxes. Yet, I discovered my worst nightmare.  Someone had pecked open an egg and ate the entire contents!

The evidence

Strewn on the shavings in the nesting box were pieces of egg shell, gooey strands of yolk and remnants of sticky egg white underneath one of the roosts.  Sunshine, Oyster Cracker and Tilly came into the coop.  Like addicts, they began to peck at anything that seemed like it had raw egg on it.  They pecked at the shell.  They pecked at the egg-soaked shavings.  They pecked at the walls dotted with yolk.  They had glazed over looks in their eyes.  They could not get enough.

Horrified, I chased them out of the coop, scooped up the egg shell and decided that I needed to clean out the coop immediately; so much for those 6 loads of laundry that I had planned on washing.  As quickly as I could move, I cleaned out the entire coop, disinfected the walls, floor and roosts.  I also used an anti-icky spray to rid the coop of any egg smell.  Surely if it worked on pet urine, it should work on raw egg!  I refilled the coop with clean dry shavings and added nesting box blend to the boxes.  Then, the test-I let the girls back inside.

Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine entered at once.  Still recalling the egg, they searched frantically for signs of that ill fated egg.  After a few minutes, they left disappointed.  I determined that this behavior needed to be nipped in the bud.  For me, it was this chicken owner’s worst nightmare come true.  I was going to have to check on the girls every half hour or so for eggs.  I needed to break this habit.   Thank goodness, that huge laundry pile had me on house arrest.

A half-hour later, I went outside and found Dolly in one of the nesting boxes, still broody.  This time though, she had a friend.  It appears while we were away, Autumn has decided to join Dolly’s broody club.  Just like Dolly, she has removed all feathers from her chest.  For once, I thought that this was great timing.  These two broody girls would be protective of any eggs laid.  I should be able to use them to my advantage.

A couple of hours later, Tilly was in the nesting box on the left.  I waited.  The entire egg laying process takes about 15 minutes.  Soon, I peeked in and saw Tilly standing.  I opened the nesting box.  Outside Tilly’s box were Sunshine and Oyster Cracker.  Tilly’s egg was all the rage.  Everyone was interested.  Risking life and limb from a vicious peck, I grabbed the still wet with bloom freshly laid egg.  Phew, I at least saved that one.  And so the day went.  I ended up with a total of 3 more eggs and not one was damaged.

This morning when I woke, I was anxious as anything to get out there early and rescue any eggs from the girls.  There were no early eggs.  I saw that as a good sign.  Today, the chickens were not interested in the eggs.  I kept them distracted with the chicken toy, the treat ball and lots of TLC.  They laid 4 eggs again and none were disturbed.  Overnight, in one fowl swoop, they seemed to have forgotten about pecking the eggs and suddenly remembered how much they loved and missed me.  Today, after my week-long vacation their little brains remembered their chicken mama.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens

A Week in Photos, Monday

March 22, 2011
Baby chick hiding under Dolly’s wing

We are away this week in the Carribean celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  Feel free to leave comments and captions for this week’s photos.  I can’t wait to read them all when I come back.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week of photos.


Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest