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Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Reflecting Back~Our Beginning

I received a call from the post office around 2pm.   They had left a message at my home and also on my cell phone.  The cell phone message was from a very concerned postal worker.  Apparently, my peeping package had arrived and it was making them very nervous.  I suppose the Osterville post office does not see too many baby chicks come through their doors.  After all, these were day old chicks, hatched, immunized and sent through the mail overnight.
I returned the call and told them I would be there as soon as possible.  I had been waiting for two days with my “delivery window” and a much needed errand had me down Cape.  As quickly as I could, I drove.  Someone might have even thought that I was about to give birth!  As fast as I could safely go, I did.  My baby chicks needed me!
I arrived about 30 minutes after speaking to the employee.  The post office was cool and the air conditioning felt good on my perspiring skin.  I stepped up to the counter and stated my name.  I was met with, “Oh thank goodness you are here!”  As the woman walked away, I could hear lots of peeping.  She soon returned, carrying ever so gently the peeping package, a 6 inch square cardboard box.  It had air holes and was adorned with “Live Animal” stamps on all six sides.  It was even wrapped with tamper resistant plastic cording.  Somehow, the hatchery knew that others would be curious.
“Open the box here!” shouted one of the employees from the back, “we’ve been listening to that thing all day.”  I politely declined.  I feared the worst.  Perhaps, one of the chicks would be dead.  I have heard that some of them do not survive the strenuous trip.  What if one of them got loose?  How would I ever catch it?  What if they caught a chill from the air conditioning?  “No, thank you,” I replied.
I signed the release form and quickly started off on my way with my peeping package.  I placed it safely on a towel in the passenger side seat.  There it peeped.  I turned off the air conditioning, as baby chicks require the temperature to be 95 degrees during their first week of life.
I had ordered six little chicks from an online hatchery.  I selected breeds that are known to be good with children, friendly, docile, good egg layers and also cold hardy.  I was so excited to get home and meet my new babies, an Australorp, two Buff Orpingtons, and three Silkie Bantams.  I could not wait!
On the way home, I morphed into my vision of a mother hen.  I peeped back.  To the best of my abilities, I spoke chicken!  I mimicked their little noises for a while.  The three mile trip seemed like an eternity.  Finally, no more noises came from the box.  In my mind, the chicks were all now dead!  Yes, I do tend to think the worst and exaggerate!  No, surely they must not be dead, maybe they were just tired.
I arrived home safely.  I was greeted immediately at the door by the kids.  They were giddy with excitement.  I told them to go inside and I would be with them in a few minutes.  It is not unusual to have a chick perish in transit.  Thus, it was recommended that I never tell my children how many chickens I originally ordered.  Just in case one did die, the children would never know.
Slowly with scissors, I snipped the tamper proof cording.  I ran the scissors along the edges of the box.  Cautiously, I lifted up the lid.  Inside huddled into the corner were the tiniest day old baby chicks.  I quickly counted and the loud peeping began again.  Six.   All six were alive.  I called the kids out to the garage.
We had set up their temporary home in the garage, a tiny little house made of left over plywood, a heat lamp and soft pine shavings lining the bottom.  We filled the food dish with crumbles and also added water to their dish.  One by one I grabbed each chick.  They were so tiny.  As the mother hen, I inspected each one from head to toe.  I was not entirely sure what to look for, but I felt it was the motherly thing to do!  Their bodies seemed so small, consisting of mostly feathers.  Their toes were so incredibly tiny, and so were their toenails.   I even counted their toes.  Yes, just as promised, the Silkie Bantams all had 5 toes instead of the usual 4.
I gently grasped each chick and dipped their beaks in the water.  They stood there stunned.  I did it again repeatedly until they all drank for themselves.  One of the Silkie Bantams appeared weak and not as strong.  I was nervous. Was this chick going to make it?  It was clear that I was going to have to observe this one and pay special attention to be sure during this delicate time.  Next, I took each chick and dipped their beaks in the food.  Though they were confused at first, it took them no time to realize how to eat and drink.  Since they had been shipped as one day old, they were still surviving on part of their own egg from which they hatched.  They could survive for 3 days without food and water.  However, they very quickly realized how much they love to eat.
We placed the beach blanket down on the floor and sat in front of the brooder’s window.  We watched chicken t.v.  The kids and I sat there, quietly mesmerized.  The chicks explored their new 2’x2’ surroundings.  They continued to eat and drink and officially introduce themselves to one another.  After the introductions and tours were over, all six little chicks settled down into the center of the brooder.  They were so tired but had no idea how to sit down.  We watched each one, while still standing, fall asleep and then topple over into the pine shavings.  Some woke, others continued to sleep.  They ended up creating a soft blanket of chicks underneath the heat lamp. We picked out names; Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Chocolate, Peanut and Feathers.
 I began writing about the chickens out of a desire to chronicle our trials and tribulations as newbie chicken owners, but it has turned into so much more for me.  Tilly’s Nest is about the journey.  It is a culmination of stories, wisdom and life’s lessons as taught by the chickens. We have had happy times.  We have had sad times.  We have had challenges.  We have had successes and failures.  I never would have thought that I would have so many wonderful experiences and new opportunities as a result of adding these feathered babies to our family.  This June, the chickens celebrated their first birthday.  You ask me, was there cake?  Yes, I made one especially for the girls.  I would not have had it any other way.
Oyster Cracker and Sunshine~3 days old

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Inevitable

When is a rooster mean?  I am not sure that it is entirely easy to draw a line in black and white.  How much does nature and hormones play in their actions?  Can a rooster suddenly turn mean?

I guess I have been thinking about these things lately because Chocolate, for better or worse, is starting to really get more aggressive over these past two weeks.  I can still grab him and hold him. He sits quietly and seems to enjoy my affection.  However, he is really becoming very territorial with his girls.

I can say that all the girls respect me.  They understand that I am the human leader of the flock.  They are curious to see me, giddy almost, and the conversations that ensue as I make my way over to the coop are priceless.  On the other hand, Chocolate does not appear to be so thrilled.

About a week ago, I was going into the nesting boxes to collect the eggs.  All of a sudden Chocolate came storming into the coop.  He had has wings extended outward and fire in his eyes.  I felt like I was going to be dealt with by the rooster.  I was entering his house.  I narrowly escaped his fury by quickly closing the nesting box.

These past few weeks, he has been asserting his dominance with me; dancing his rooster dance trying to let me know that he is the boss.  I was truly nervous when I had to go into the run myself.  I thought that if I bent over for a second, he would surely have his rooster feet implanted into my backside.  His need for humpty love is becoming insatiable. I feel bad for the girls. Finally, today as I was retrieving the waterers for cleaning and refilling, I was pecked. 

My heart is heavy.  Chocolate is just being a rooster.  In my heart of hearts, I feel as if we may have to rehome him soon.  I know that his fate may not be nice and that saddens me.  I am still dealing emotionally with rehoming Peanut. I would love for Chocolate to live a long full life.  Unfortunately, it does not come easy for me.  I am not a farmer.  These chickens are our pets.

I have to come to terms with the reality of the issue at hand.  I think it is now safe to say that I’m pretty sure the answer is not if the time comes, but when.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Baby Pictures

Peanut, our rooster, who we rehomed this past Fall

 

Tilly, the head hen

Last night I was reminiscing about the chickens as babies. They were so cute.  I guess I was thinking about them especially because I have been getting all sorts of information about ordering baby chicks for this Spring. I know that I will not be getting any, as we now have a full flock of eight.  I still however enjoy looking back at their baby pictures; the same as I do with my own children.  They have all grown so very much.  I still can not believe that they now are full grown chickens.

The picture above of Peanut is one of my all time favorites. You can see the curiosity in his face that I wrote about so long ago. I think about him every day.  I wrote the farm that we rehomed him to.  I never heard back.  I’m afraid to reach out again.  I’m not sure if he suffered a terrible fate.  I do keep him in my prayers though.  Every night, I send him a little blessing wherever his little soul might be.  I miss him.

 

Fluffy bottoms at 2 weeks old

 

Feathers

These photos were taken July 7, 2010. The chicks were about 2 weeks old.  It must have been at least 85 degrees outside. I had the run set up. I would sit in the grass with the kids and let the chicks outside to explore for about a half an hour. They sure did love their early adventures. I remember them getting tired fast too.  Looking back, Sunshine always had that long prominent beak. At two weeks of age, they were still peeping.  Low quiet happy peeps for contentment.  Loud fast peeping for being too cool.  I wonder if the chickens remember being that little. I wonder if they would remember Peanut? I wonder if they realize how lucky they are? I know how lucky we are.

Looking in the grass for goodies

 

Sunshine

We have truly be blessed by the discovery of backyard chicken keeping.  It is so easy with so many wonderful rewards that we experience on a daily basis. If you are even considering getting chickens, this walk down memory lane has made me realize even more that the chickens were one of the best things that could have happened to this Cape Cod family.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Are You My Momma?

My poor little chicks, they were so confused in the beginning.  I guess sometimes everything wants a mother.  We all yearn for our mothers even as adults.

To monitor the temperature of the brooder when we first got the chicks, I used a digital thermometer.  It is silvery gray in color has an LED screen and is about the size of a baby chick.  Well after about a day of the stranger being in the brooder with the chicks, they became friends.  It was so bizarre.  I watched the behavior for hours.  It was Peanut who made first contact!  At first, they peeped at it.  It was like watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  They were dedicated.  They would be in the middle of eating, drinking or playing, then all of a sudden one would walk over and peep at it, staring curiously into the LED screen that was reading 90 degrees F.

The next day, they started pecking at it.  That poor thermometer was getting a chick initiation.  They would be in the middle of something then just run over, give it a peck a peep and be done.  This went on for a couple of days.  It was so entertaining to watch.  Early the next morning, I peeked out into the garage with the brooder and what I saw amazed me.  The chicks had accepted the thermometer as one of their own.  There were the chicks, and they had knocked down the thermometer and slept with it.  Amongst their soft fuzzy chick quilt made of blacks, caramels, and golden yellows was my sliver hard thermometer.  They had added the thermometer to the flock.

I kept the thermometer in there for a few days.  But then, I decided to remove it.  It was getting really poopy and I was worried about the day when they discovered that the thermometer was no longer one of them!  After about a week, I finally took it out.  You know, they didn’t seem to mind.  They just went on with their day, sort of when Peanut left.  They didn’t seem to care either way.  I think I was the one worrying about it too much.  Then again, I am their mother.
The thermometer in her glory top right!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Farewell to Fuzzy

I got news today that one of my dear friend’s chickens passed away.  I am praying and hoping time will heal all sadness and grief.

Fuzzy  April 2010-October 2010

She will be missed dearly.  She was loved by her human family as well as her chicken family.  She was always up for new adventures.  She loved our friend Peanut and had great times helping him escape and “paint the coop red”!  She was a friendly little girl that enjoyed a good stroking of her feathers and was always curious and up for new adventures.  She was gentle with all children.  A soft and quiet soul who is now waiting at the “rainbow bridge” for her loved ones. 

The Rainbow Bridge–Author Unknown

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

A Surprise Visit from Peanut, Well Sort of…

I have a good friend whom I have grown even closer to because of our love for chickens. She helped Peanut for a week before he was rehomed.  I was afraid that he was going to be too disruptive with his cock-a-doodle dooing every 5 minutes.  Once he figured out how to do this, he was non-stop!  I was sure my neighbors were going to complain.

My friend agreed to take him.  She lives in a wooded area of Cape Cod and has a large flock.  She has two roosters and about 10 hens.  So, Peanut went to Camp Chicken at her house.  He stayed about 2 weeks and loved the attention from the new girls.    He was never formally introduced to the flock and remained partitioned off from the rest.  They could however talk and see each other through the chicken wire.  Her Buff Orpington, Fuzzy,  really took a liking to him.  Dusky, her Silkie Rooster mix, did not care for Peanut.  One day, Peanut escaped from his enclosure.  He was loose in the large run with all the other chickens.  All of the hens retreated except for Fuzzy.  They had made a love connection!   Upon my friend’s discovery of this escape, she said Dusky was standing by the entrance to the hen house and crowing, as if to say, “Stay away from my girls!”   Who knows how long this chaos lasted?

Once Peanut was returned to his enclosure he remained at Chicken Camp for a few more days.  We took him to his new home on the farm and that was it, or so I thought….

Little did I know, my dearest friend had taken some photos.  Yesterday, I drove up the drive and saw two little squares folded in tissue wrap.  She had made Peanut t-shirts for the kids!  It has been about 2 weeks now since rehoming him.  My eyes welled up with tears at seeing these adorable shirts and Peanut in all his glory.  It was nice to see him again, even if it was on a t-shirt.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

And then there were 5

In the early days, our favorite little chicken was Peanut.  Peanut was always so curious; the first to come to us, discover the newest addition placed into his tiny 2’x2′ world.  Peanut always needed more care than the others in the beginning too.  Peanut was the one that I wasn’t sure would survive.  Peanut seemed the weakest of them all on that first day, droopy and wobbly.  Over time, our love for Peanut blosssomed.  The kids loved holding Peanut.  Peanut would snuggle into our chests and sit for time on end.  Sometimes, we would even hear a pleasure trill!

Peanut is a Buff Silkie Bantam.  At http://www.mypetchicken.com/ you can pay extra to have your chickens sexed.  Many people do not want rooster for the various reasons. Most people will pay extra just to ensure that they will get only females. However, silkies are very difficult to sex.  Most hatcheries don’t even attempt this.  However, http://www.mypetchicken.com/ does!  I paid extra for all females including the Silkie Bantams.

It wasn’t until about week 10 that I had my suspicions.  Peanut soon began to grow so fast.  Peanut’s waddle and comb were getting huge.  I read on the internet that you can be fooled by Silkies, that they often will look like one sex but turn out to be the other.  The other disturbing thing was that anytime I need to hold Peanut, I would be pecked.  At first the pecking was gentle, but as time went on it really could hurt depending on how you were gotten.

One day, early in the morning, my husband was leaving for work and I was in the garage getting their food and I heard it.  From inside the coop, a pathetic, “OOO, OOOO, DOO.”  Was I imagining things?  Then we heard it again.  I could not be sure who it was coming from.  Finally, after about a week I realized that it was Peanut.  Peanut was a rooster.

Over the next few weeks, Peanut turning out to be a rooster was becoming even more evident with each day that passed.  Again, I did research about keeping a rooster.  Currently, in our town, there are no regulations about keeping chickens or rooster.  Thank goodness for that.  I was just worried about his aggressive tendencies and our 2 little kids.  My husband and I decided that our rooster needed a new home.  I emailed many local farms on a whim and a farm off Cape about 40 minutes away agreed to take him.  There he will have about 100 hens to himself.  Oh, what a rooster’s dream!

It has now been about a week since we rehomed Peanut.  I do miss him so.  I miss his silly little antics, his trying to bully the hens, his curiosity, his gorgeous blue earlobes, and even his warm little body.  I do know that we made the right choice and he should be much happier it is just hard to say goodbye.  Just like a baby, he was mine since he was one day old.