Tag / Fifi

Chickens Eggs Stories from Our Nest

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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 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

Habits

Robins return each year habitually to hatch eggs.

Habits can be classified as good and bad.  I think that we all tend to have both.  Good habits can benefit us directly and some are even chore-like.  When I think of good habits, I think of brushing my teeth, setting a bed time, eating healthy (or at least trying to), catching the school bus in the morning, going to church, or regularly meeting a friend for coffee.  Good habits can also be chores, such as paying the bills, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house and cooking dinner every night. Unfortunately, we all have bad habits too. I think of young kids picking their noses.  Biting our nails.  Chewing with our mouths open. I happen to pick my cuticles and hangnails.  Interestingly, I have noticed that chickens also have both good and bad habits.

Their bad habits include kicking shavings into the water, emptying their feed dish, hogging the roosts, sleeping in the nesting boxes and eating eggs (gasp)!  Their good habits include rising early in the morning, running out first thing to have some scratch, going to sleep at night and carrying on conversations with me.

Tilly’s best habit is the job she does as head hen.  Every evening, she is always rounding up everyone and making sure that they are all in for the night. Her bad habit is being mean to the Silkies. Sometimes, she tends to overreact.

Oyster Cracker’s best habit is always being first to greet me at the run door.  Her worst habit is repetitively jumping into my lap when our quality-time session was only supposed to last a few minutes.

Sunshine’s worst habit is pecking my hand very hard when I hand feed the girls scratch.  You’d think she had to make a kill before she ate.  Her best habit is being Oyster Cracker’s inseparable best friend.

Dolly’s best and worst habit is always being broody.

Autumn’s best habit is surveying the run first thing in the morning before dining on any scratch.  She seems to be checking that the perimeter is secure, or…she could be trying to escape.  Her worst habit is sleeping in the nesting boxes.

Feathers’ worst habit is pecking at my jewelry.  Her best habit is being my most friendly Silkie.

Fifi’s worst habit is pretending to be broody and faking me out at least once a week.  She sure does put on a show, complete with growling, tail in the air and the classic poufing up.  Her best habit is taking care of her feathers.  She is the fluffiest little girl for a non-show quality chicken.

If you look closely and observe most species, you will find that they over time develop patterns and repeat things.  Some say that routine is familiar and familiar feels good.  Others say that sometimes things are merely according to schedule.  Animals instinctively fill roles that aid in survival.  People, I believe, are the only ones with the power of insight to change them or at least add one new good habit to out-number our bad ones.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

 

Chickens Coop Care Health Issues Seasonal Care

How To Clean the Chicken Coop

After keeping chickens for a while, you will soon find yourself developing habits that work for you and your flock.  Over time, I have learned to implement a few things.  We view our chickens as our family pets, so we do make extra efforts to spoil them more so than individuals keeping chickens as livestock.  All of these tips are not necessary, but in my opinion, help keep their eggs clean and the girls healthy and happy in their daily lives.  I typically clean the small coop (for 6 chickens) every 1-2 weeks, depending on the need and the weather.  The entire process takes me about 15 minutes start to finish. Here is how I clean the coop for Tilly and the girls.

Chickens Eggs Health Issues Stories from Our Nest

Broody

Fifi is broody for the very first time.  She just celebrated her first birthday.  She has been in the nesting box for 3 days now and has plucked out all of her chest feathers. She is so adorable.  She has not quite realized that other girls are laying warm eggs in the boxes next to her.  My older, professional broody girls, Dolly, Feathers and Autumn, can roll fresh eggs from another box to their box, secretly stealing other’s eggs to make a clutch of their own.  I just love it when she lets out a quiet low growl when I open the nesting box to check for eggs.

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 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.