Tag / Sunshine

Sunshine flies over the rainbow
Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Sunshine Flies Over the Rainbow

Sunshine passed last week.

I did not want to see her suffer. Chickens are not meant to live long lives like dogs or cats or us.

Fluid had been building up in her belly. I knew it was probably either an egg peritonitis or a cancerous mass that lead to the ascites. A few days ago her legs were so spread apart from the fluid that she needed to balance with her wings. Her mind was sharp, she was alert and eating but I did not want to see her suffer.

You see, she was spending most of her days in the corner of the run. Even Oyster Cracker had sensed that it was her time. They were spending less and less time with one another. She knew, the flock knew, and I knew too.

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 Eggs Stories from Our Nest

Privacy Please

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

Almost A Week in Photos: Sunshine and the Broodies

March 9, 2012

The Silkies were broody again. Sunshine was just sick of it.  All day she kept kicking the girls out of the nesting boxes.  She was on broody police duty.  No one was going to sit in those boxes without laying eggs.  I captured her in all her glory as she chased poor Dolly and Autumn out of the boxes.  As you can see, she meant business that day.

I am away for a few days spending time with my sister and her new baby on the West Coast. Please enjoy these photos while I am away.  I can’t wait to return and share my adventures with you. 

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

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

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 Stories from Our Nest

Room at the Top?

Tilly has been our head hen for as long as we have had chickens.  She is a wonderful leader.  She is thoughtful, compassionate for the little ones and fair.  When the girls free-range, she is careful never to wander too far from home.  In the evenings, she remains outside until everyone is in the coop.  Once she is satisfied that everyone is safe, she then retires for the evening.  The only time when she is not perfect is when she hogs the treats.  For that, I can’t blame her.


Our pecking order two weeks ago:
Tilly
Oyster Cracker
Sunshine
Dottie Speckles
Autumn
Feathers
Dolly
Fifi

Dottie Speckles was introduced to our flock last March.  She and Fifi are almost a year old.  Both are laying eggs but other than that, could not be more opposite.  Raised together, you would never imagine that Fifi is content at the bottom of the pecking order, while Dottie Speckles will not be content until she reaches the top.

A couple of weeks ago as I was giving the girls their late morning snacks, I noticed that there had been a scuffle between the Buff Orpingtons and Dottie Speckles.  All three had injuries to their combs.  The blood had dried and what occurred will always be a mystery.  To me, except for the injuries, everyone seemed to be getting along and happy.  Of course I was concerned, but I did not notice any differences in the way the chickens were behaving and their minor wounds were soon healed.

Yesterday,  I caught a glimpse of  Tilly.  She was stretching up high to reach a treat and I noticed that patches of her neck feathers under the wattles were absent.  She also had an exposed downy patch at the base of her tail.  I took her out and held her.  There was no blood, no mites and she seemed happy.  I was stumped.  I could only think that she was being picked on, but by who?  Last night as I was falling asleep in bed, it dawned on me.  Dottie Speckles was likely responsible.  Two weeks ago, the fight between Oyster Cracker, Sunshine and her was most likely over pecking order.  The only chicken now keeping Dottie Speckles from reaching the top is Tilly.

I was sad and I felt bad.  Dottie Speckles is a true bully and she has worked hard to get to the top.  Blood has been shed, feathers have been pecked and she struts around the coop.  I am worried.  I understand this is natural, but what will the flock be like with a bully at the helm?  Tilly is such a graceful leader.  Dottie Speckles is a reckless chicken.  She pecks at the little ones when they are not even near her.  I have come to determine that she is downright mean.  I am worried.  Apparently in the chicken world, there is only room at the top for one.  I am definitely going to have to think this through.

Our Current Pecking order:
Dottie Speckles?
Tilly
Oyster Cracker
Sunshine
Autumn
Feathers
Dolly
Fifi

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens

Workday Chicken Pictures

We were contacted about a month ago by Workday Chicken Pictures to use one of our photos.  Workday Chicken Pictures add clever quotes to an assortment of chicken pictures.  I get such a cackle when I look at them that I could not resist saying YES when they asked to use Oyster Cracker’s and Sunshine’s picture.  Today was their day.  Here they are with a caption created just for them.

To see more wonderful photos of chicken and clever captions, please visit their website.  It is sure to make you smile and will definitely brighten your day!

Chickens Health Issues

How To Fix a Broken Beak

Sunshine has always had a longer more glamorous beak. Even though Sunshine and Oyster Cracker were born on the same day, their beaks could not be more different. I like to think of beaks as noses. There are short ones, blunt ones, fat and wide ones.  Some are pointy, narrow or rounder. Some hook off the the side and others down toward the ground.  Some even have what appears to be a beak “overbite”.  Oyster Cracker has a short perfect little beak, not too wide yet perfectly straight and blunt. Sunshine on the other hand has a more glamorous beak. Her beak is narrow and long with a tiny downward hook at the end.