Tag / Oyster Cracker

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

To Love a Chicken

Orginal Melissa Caughey- oyster cracker in garden

I knew that the day would eventually come.

I buried her underneath a beautiful hosta that still has not emerged from its winter slumber yet.

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my last original chicken, Oyster Cracker. It was one of the most difficult things that I had ever done. I guess it is why it took so long for me to write this post.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Friends Among Hens

I can’t imagine my life without friends.  In my travels through this world, I have met friends in expected places  and sometimes very unexpected places.  Some are in my life more than others.  Some it has been years, yet we can pick up right where we left off.  Others are there because of a certain need or cause.  Some are there for as long as you can remember.  I cannot imagine living without them.  Not surprisingly, chickens have friends too.

I often wonder if some of the same breeds from the hatchery are in fact siblings or just friends.  Sometimes, I don’t think that even matters in life.  To some of us, friends are our family.  In the world of chickens, they share love.  They chatter with each other.  They snuggle on the roosts near each other and yes, they have a preference.  They eat together.  They share a bond.  They spend time with one another and they have favorite friends too.

Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, our Buff Orpingtons, are great friends.  At first it didn’t start this way when they were one day old chicks.  It developed and grew.  They worked at it.  Today, they are thick as thieves, completely inseparable.  A fine example is when one of them needs to lay an egg.  As one sits in the nesting box, the other follows her inside the coop.  Once the nesting box of choice is selected and deemed worthy of the egg, the henny girl sits down and the other goes outside to the run.  As the egg process is occurring inside, the other can not help but come in and check on their bestie every 20 seconds or so.  From the run, she scoots inside and chats with her friend.  Call it coaxing ,words of encouragement or just an “Are you done yet?”, it continues on until the egg is finally laid and they can rejoin each other in the run.  Everyday, they reciprocate this behavior only to one another, to their best friend.

When I have to give Oyster Cracker a bath, I take her away from the flock.  This makes Sunshine very upset.  As the bubbles and scrubbing commence, Sunshine pines for Oyster Cracker’s swift return.  She calls from the run, non-stop.  “Where have you gone?”  Even when Oyster Cracker, our self-professed lap chicken, wants snuggles and spends countless time on my lap, Sunshine is at my feet, content to wait.  Sunshine has never wanted to snuggle like her friend, but somehow understands the connection.

I received an email from a friend the other day.  One of her poor henny girls has been down.  Earlier, they lost a flock member and now another hen went broody, leaving her henny girl feeling alone.  Her chicken became depressed.  It did not matter to her sweet girl that there were other new recent additions to the flock to become acquainted with, she longed for her old dear friends.  To me this was fascinating.

Chickens love.  Chickens make friends.  Chickens have emotions. Yes, chickens live in a flock and find safety in numbers like most birds.  However, in both places, I have now seen that chickens do have long term memories, sweet henny girl memories that they share between one another.  Memories that make them feel good.  How can I blame them for wanting to make more memories with their best friend?  Isn’t that what we do with our best friends?

This post is linked up to Homestead Revival’s Homestead Barn Hop.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

No Place Like Home

Chicken Abbey Road

It is always such a wonderful feeling to return home after some time away.  I am always eager to check on the girls and see how they adapted to life without us.  We are fortunate to have some of the best chicken sitters around, but somehow, I can’t help but think they can never replace us.

I often wonder if the chickens even care who feeds them, who waters them or, especially who gives them treats.  I tend to think that for them visualizing a handful of fresh greens can help them overcome any fear.  Yet, time and time again when we return from being away the girls,we are greeted with giddy excitement.

As we pulled the car in the driveway, the girls must have known and made a bee-line to the coop door.  Wiggling, dancing and stepping on each other’s toes, they could not wait to get out and be reunited with the family.  As we quickly got the youngest one’s shoes on, the girls were calling out.  My husband and I busily unpacked the car as the kids went over to see the chickens.

Once unpacked, I grabbed some fresh greens, a tomato from the fridge and some celery tops that had seen better days.  There the girls were, with the kids so happy.  I could feel my heart smile.  I sat down near the coop and the girls showered me with their affection.  Oyster Cracker could not wait to sit in my lap.  I took a peek in the run.  Just what had the girls been up to during our absence?

They dug holes; big, huge, all consuming holes in the run.  Dolly and Autumn as suspected went broody.  Tilly is done with being broody and continues to molt terribly and the rest seemed to just as they were when we left.  Despite the heat, they had also laid a dozen eggs.

Our two families were once again reunited.  It is amazing how much you can miss feathers and fluff, but somehow, it happens the same every time.  The chickens know and love who we are as much as we feel for them.  Home is a feeling that you get deep down inside; when you feel content, in a safe place and loved.  Returning “home” for us happened yesterday outside the coop sitting in the grassy lawn.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens DIY Projects Gardening Gardening with Chickens Plants

Sunday Herbfest

Each year I make it a point to plant Nasturtiums, a lovely entirely edible herb, near the chicken coop.  This year, I have had to plant them three times as other little critters beside the chickens have found them to be absolutely delicious.  The chickens love them.  I happen to think that they smell and taste like capers.  It never takes long for the girls to notice when I push the stalks up against the wire of the run. Oyster Cracker, my little piggy, always comes over first to take a nibble. Planting herbs for hens is a wonderful way to keep them happy when they can’t free range and also provide a nice source of shade from the summer sun.

Beekeeping Bees Hive Maintainance

Picking Up the New Girls

Yesterday, a friend and I made the 3-plus hour trip to Brewster, New York to pick up our bees.  Finally, the weather had warmed up enough and our bees were ready to come home.  We began our journey after lunch and did not arrive home until after Midnight.  When we arrived in Brewster, we had to wait until 7:30 pm for our new bees to come home for the evening.  We were scheduled to pick up five nucs.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Twister for Chickens

In my jammies saying goodnight to Oyster Cracker

These last couple of nights I have desperately been trying to figure out the girl’s sleeping arrangements.  They always seem to be mixing it up.  Finally, I am finding all four Silkies sleeping side by side on one roost together.  No one is sleeping in the nesting boxes. It has taken months to achieve this and I find myself feeling like I need to do some sort of celebration dance.  However, the other three who have roosted religiously since they were little are no longer roosting.  Last night was the first night I really decided to investigate just what is going on with their bedtime sleeping arrangement.

As I peered through the open lid of the nesting box, I found Tilly on the roost across from the Silkies.  She was asleep facing the wall.  Directly in front of Tilly were the two Buff Orpingtons laying in the shavings.  All I could see was a big round golden fluffy butt in front of me.   I reached in as far as I could.  I ruffled her tail and tried to get her to move.  She was as still as a statue.  I reached in with my other arm to see if I could gain a few inches in my reach.  It was not working.  They were content.  I began to weigh my options.  I had let them sleep like this for two evenings already.  I did not want them to start this new habit.  I determined I had to try and get them to roost.

I knew that I could not reach the girls through the nesting boxes.  I knew the Silkies were happily sleeping on the roost in front of the large double doors.  I was left with only one option; the pop door leading into the run.  I climbed into the run and opened up the pop door.  I whispered to the girls.  They replied back with sleepy chatter.

With my left arm, I reached in past Tilly’s fluffy bottom on the roost and headed straight underneath the non-compliant Buff Orpington.  It was Sunshine.  I gently nudged her upward.  Her head was underneath of Oyster Cracker’s bottom.  She was toasty warm, but she probably could have suffocated under all that fluff!  I nudged her upward and she stood.  No sooner, had Tilly stood up on the roost.  Then I saw Oyster Cracker.  Oyster Cracker was peering at me through Tilly’s legs!  She looked as though she wore Tilly’s butt fluff as a Polish Hen hat.  She cocked her head from side to side.  Sleepily she stared at me as if to say, “What are you doing Mom?”  I felt as though I had suddenly entered a game of Twister with the chickens.  Sunshine had now found herself a place on the perch and I reached in to guide Oyster Cracker out from underneath Tilly.  She is one heavy girl!  I had to reach in with my other hand and guide her to the roost.  Finally, everyone was on the roost.  I waited for a few moments.  No one stirred.

I have no idea how or why the bigger girls ended up in that sleeping arrangement.  Strangely, they all seemed comfortable.  I guess it must be how little kids feel when they play Twister.  They are so limber.  Their bodies can easily place one hand on red, reach over their friend and put another hand on blue while their legs are still on yellow and green.  I for one, find myself achy from just sleeping the wrong way at night.  But I can tell you that I am getting much better at Chicken Twister.  As I write this, I have just returned from locking up the girls for the evening.  I peeked in.  I knew exactly what to do.  I peered in through the pop door.  I confirmed Oyster Cracker’s head underneath of Tilly.  I backed out Sunshine.  She climbed on the roost.  I backed out Oyster Cracker.  She climbed on the roost.  They all settled down and this time, I had this game of Chicken Twister down to a science.  Like a well oiled machine, the girls and I performed tonight’s round of Chicken Twister to an audience of four fluffy Silkie butts.  Ironically, the Silkies missed all of the action as they were obliviously facing in the wrong direction, happily sleeping wing to wing on their roost.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest


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 Stories from Our Nest

Soul Food

The eyes are the window to the soul.
~traditional Proverb
Today, I stole a quiet moment.  It had been long overdue.  The kids were playing so nicely and quietly together that I took time to sneak off into the gardens and brilliant sunshine where I have been working all week long.  I found a place in the grass and sat.  From my vantage point I could see the chickens, the garden and the new beehives. As hard as it was, I refrained from calling out to the flock.
Tilly and Oyster Cracker were wing to wing just sitting in a huge dusty crater they had made; a perfect bath for two.  I felt like a spy.  There I was like a fly on the wall, peeping into their moment together.  What were they doing in there?
There they sat.  I could hear them talking a low sort of muttering under their breath.  Then one would see something on the other’s back and they would gently remove it with their beak.  It would be quiet and then their conversation would resume.  There were no awkward moments of silence.  There was no rush to jump up and grab treats from me.  Their guards were down.  They too were just chilling out relaxing.  This was their stolen moment.
Moments like today are so few and far between for so many of us.  It was strange, this realization that the chickens needed time for themselves too.  They needed quality time for themselves, without the pecking order in the way, other family members showing up trying to squeeze their way into the dust bath or any unplanned visitors to interrupt their day.
Sometimes by doing nothing at all, we accomplish what we truly need.  Hearts are filled.  A sense of peace is restored and we are enveloped in the warmth of the sun’s arms.  Our souls come alive.  If I pay close enough attention, I swear sometimes I can feel it dancing in my heart.

Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.  ~Oscar Wilde

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Taking Turns at Being Broody

Waiting for a broody hen

Every Silkie of ours takes their turn being broody.  It seems that once one is done, another is found sitting upon barren pine shavings in the nesting boxes.  This week, Fifi and Dolly have snapped out of their broodiness and Feathers and Autumn have snapped in.  For the first time, I think that the bigger girls are more curious about being broody.

Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine, all standard breeds, have never been broody.  They are older now and I know they have been curious to know what these little fluffy Silkies are doing staying in the favorite nesting box.  I can hear them thinking.  Why do they stay in the nesting boxes and never come out?  Are they happy when they have to re-establish their place in the pecking order after being broody so long?  Why do they pull out their chest feathers like that, is this something that I should be doing?  Don’t they like treats anymore?  Are you going to be in there all day?  Can I lay my egg in the box you are occupying?  The Silkies guard these boxes as if their life depends on it.  Their heads wear their broody battle wounds.  Their once perfectly tufted feathered heads are matted and missing feathers as they sit stubbornly in the boxes.  The problem is, every flock of hens seem to favor one nesting box.

We have three nesting boxes.  Yet, most eggs are laid in the far left box.  Sometimes, I find the standard breeds trying to squeeze into the boxes with the broody Silkies. They wriggle, squawk and cause quite a commotion; just imagine me trying to squeeze back into that size 2 prom dress from high school.   Eventually, the Silkies are pecked on the head or back and sternly told to leave the box as the bigger girls get to work laying a perfect warm egg.

As one of the larger girls sits and lays her egg, there are the Silkies circling and jockeying for position in front of the nesting box, waiting for the egg to arrive.  Sometimes the larger girls are quick.  Other times, they rest after they lay their egg.  It makes me smile when I check under the broody girls later in the day and find an assortment of various sized chicken eggs.  Oyster Cracker lays the hugest eggs.  Those are the best to discover and easiest.  I always know when a Silkie has one of Oyster Cracker’s eggs underneath her breast. She appears elevated up a few inches, perched upon an egg that is almost a quarter the size of their body.

As the broodiness fades, missing feathers return along with the weight that was lost during their dedication to being broody.  It is cyclical.  It is predicable for some.  Some hens have a strong desire to mother, while others get down to business, lay their eggs and get on with life.  For some the grass is greener outside of the coop where new adventures await, while for the broodies, there may be no fresh grass in the nesting boxes, but it is most definitely a place for eggs.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest


Saturday: A Week in Photos

June 2011
Tilly and Oyster Cracker were enjoying digging and scratching in the same hole.  When one would pick their head up, the other would put their head down.  Chicken Teamwork.

We are away this week visiting Mickey! 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