Tilly’s Miraculous Kittens – and how I nearly killed them!

Tilly as a kitten herself

Tilly as a kitten herself- last summer

I am embarrassed to share this story, but it is so amazing, and true, that I can’t keep it to myself!

I got Tilly as a kitten from a farm that I visited by chance last summer.

There were plenty of cats wandering around and a batch of kittens that were almost feral – and I fell in love with her and asked if I could have her.  The ‘owner’ – a young lad of about 5 years old – solemnly allowed me to take her home with me, after he had checked me out thoroughly!


sol as a puppy – he lived for nearly 13 years

She has been a joy.  I was still mourning my long time companion, Sol, a sheepdog, who used to come everywhere with me.  I wasn’t able to get another dog, for all sorts of reasons.  So, as I was used to taking him out for short walks in the early morning, and I wanted Tilly to know where she lived – I started ‘taking her out with me’.

Well, she just followed me.  I live on a moderately busy road, and I wanted her to get used to traffic, as she’d never encountered it before, and as there was very little in the early mornings, it was fine.  The odd lorry worried her and she ran straight home – I left the door ajar for her.

Over time, she got more adventurous, and explored her immediate surroundings with me, which allowed me to keep up the habit of stretching my legs for a bit of exercise each day.  I often thought I’d ‘lost her’ – and waited anxiously with the door ajar for her to come back – smile.  She always did!

When we were out one morning, she met another cat – a ginger one.  And then there was another tabby that she followed, and I watched them dance around each other, in courtship.  She followed him up the hill, and when I called her back there was this beautiful swift run back to me, and then – like a thief – her ‘boyfriend’ followed her and enticed her further down the hill.

You can guess what happened.  Tilly hasn’t been spayed, because I think its fairer to allow a cat to have one litter before taking nature away from her – and I live in a semi rural area, so its not as much of a problem as it would be in a large town.

I wasn’t sure whether she was pregnant, for a while, and couldn’t judge when she was due, she is a slightly built cat anyway, but there was a bulge appearing around her belly.

I was due to visit some friends last week, and was worried that she might produce her kittens, so nearly didn’t go.  In the end I took her with me.  She had all the signs, and her teats had dropped, but still no kittens, and I wondered whether she had lost them.

It was the first time she’d been in a car since I’d taken her home from the farm, so I wasn’t surprised she made a fuss, nor was I surprised to find that when I got her out of her new carrier, there was a mess for me to clean up.  She wasn’t all that happy in a strange place, and kept mewing at me.  I kept feeling her belly – there were some lumps, but nothing seemed to be happening, and I was getting rather anxious because it seemed to be getting rather late, and the lumps weren’t moving!

Well, after two days, we came home, and Tilly immediately disappeared.  I thought she was in the garden.  She was back for her food, and still had a huge appetite.  In fact my friends thought she might have worms and wasn’t pregnant at all, and I was going to give her a dose of the medicine.

Next morning, I heard some mewing and was relieved that she had finally had her kittens!

So I went to have a look.  Tilly wasn’t around – but I found a black kitten in the spare room crying for its mother.  But this kitten wasn’t new born – it was at least 10 days old!

I had given Tilly a box in the ‘study’, with a towel and her basket, but she hadn’t used it for a while.  The spare room is so full of stuff – that isn’t junk – smile.  I have boxes of my old greetings cards in there and old furniture etc, and its impossible to find anything!

I picked up this kitten and carried it around with me, calling Tilly for at least 20 minutes.  I was horrified.  Had this kitten nearly starved for the two days we were away?  I couldn’t find where it had come from, and when Tilly finally came back, she immediately fed the kitten – the lumps had been her milk not being able to be used!

I put the kitten in the box and expected Tilly to join her there – but she didn’t.  She kept going back to the spare room, so in the end, I picked up the kitten and put it back where I had found it and Tilly steered it behind the furniture, back to wherever it had come from.

I got to wondering why I hadn’t noticed that she had been a mother for over a week before we went away.  I had sat in the garden and watched her play – as normal, she had disappeared for various periods – as normal.  I had gone out and about my business, as normal.  The only abnormal thing was that she was eating about twice as much as she used to.

I hadn’t noticed anything different, and I had been looking for the signs!  I felt terrible.  And of course, cats normally have a litter of kittens, not just one, so had the others died?  Had this been the only one to survive?  Was Tilly feeding her in the den she had chosen, with the bodies of the dead kittens around her.

I had to check.  It took me about half an hour to find where she had made her den – it was behind several piles of boxes and in a cupboard which stored some old clothes.

I literally had to excavate my way through to it – moving the piles of boxes, and was absolutely exhausted, dreading what I might find.  Tilly was out and about again, and wasn’t there to help or hinder me.  I worried that the maternal link had been broken, and that she wasn’t too bothered – after all – I had taken her away from her kittens!

I didn’t find any inert bodies – I found 4 kittens – healthy and bewildered at being disturbed!  But I couldn’t leave them there, as I wouldn’t be able to get to them easily to see if they were OK.  So, I moved them into the study, and the box I had prepared, and Tilly arrived just as I was doing it, so I put her into the box too – and thankfully – she settled down to feed them!

So here they are – Tilly’s miraculous kittens – how they survived without being fed for two days I really don’t know, but thankfully, they seem fine!



Hello, we’ve been here three weeks now

I am re-blogging this post because of the enthusiasm of this family and they deserve a bit of support.

Unfortunately, its also a warning to newbies in the ‘backyard chicken’ world, that sometimes, things don’t go as you expected – I had quite a conversation with them in the comments section, and it would be nice if others could also offer stories from their own experience – smile!

There a Chick

ChickensWeekThree Comparison pic of the chicks since we’ve had them.

Yesterday marked the chick’s 3rd Week-aversary in our care.

We celebrated the occasion by busting our butts all weekend long (in between baseball games and  everything else we had going on) to get the not-quite finishing touches on their new coop.  DH, Little Dude and I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning up around the outside of the barn where their run is going to be.  I guess we’ve decided to put up a small run for about a month or so, until the get acclimated to the outdoors area and then remove the fencing to let them truly be free range.

The clean up is not quite done.  It included pulling weeds, removing rock, trash, scrap metal, old boards and broken window glass.  There’s a lot to do, but seeing as the chicks are still only 3 weeks oldish and most still…

View original post 454 more words

let’s create a gallery of your work – please contribute ……

The A-Z challenge is over, and I will no longer be referring posts between my two blogs – this one “the spare” and my crafts blog – julzcrafts.com.

I will keep posting information about poultry rearing, and pictures of my chicks on this site, as well as anything I feel like – as its my “place to play” – smile.

a scarf I made!

a scarf I made!

If you are interested in crafts, of all kinds, please check julzcrafts for new posts.

Today, I put an invitation to all my customers, readers and followers to contribute a picture of their work for a Gallery of Your Work.

I AM using this post to direct you there, for information on how to contribute.

Look forward to seeing you there!


V is for Vampire – Naked Neck Chickens ……

VA friend of mine has a thing for naked neck chickens, and when I needed a companion for Missy, my Barbu d’uccle – see my previous post – in a hurry, I went to see her to buy something, anything, immediately!

There weren’t many she was prepared to sell – as she proudly showed me around the pen, and pointed out her naked necks.

Yuck I said – they look like Vampires.

In the end she sold me a black silkie cross for a fiver – she’s now called fiver – because, she had been an unsuccessful attempt to breed a naked neck with a silkie – and she doesn’t have a naked neck – does she`?

fiver was bought for £5

fiver was bought for £5

I hate to think what might happen if I let her sit on her own eggs – what kind of monster chicks might emerge!

NakedNeck_m_600This is what naked neck chickens look like, they actually originate from Transylvania, so they really could be VAMPIRES!

Apparently there is a rather sinister reason they still exist, the breed was refined by German breeders, because they have about half as many feathers as normal chickens and thus are easier to pluck, when preparing for the table!

naked neck chick

naked neck chick

Oddly enough, the naked necks do not seem to affect their ability to flourish – “They are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases. The breed is also reasonably cold hardy despite its lack of feathers. Naked Neck roosters carry a single comb, and the neck and head often become very bright red from increased sun exposure.” (Wikipedia)

U is for Update on my chicks

USo, I got it slightly wrong last time I posted about the chicks, they were not quite four weeks old, and they are just over four weeks old now – Oh, I really should just slide my finger down a calendar!  But, because its the U day in this challenge, its the best fit for another post to show you how they have grown – smile.

It was a big day yesterday – I finally moved them into the pen it took me ages to prepare for them – Outside – in the garden!


This had involved, a major pruning of my bay tree – see Hiatus – working out if I had enuf space to put the new £12.99 mini plastic greenhouse and the cage in the space by the fence – I did!  It then took me three goes to fit all the pieces of this little wonder together – sorry I’ve actually cropped it out of all these pictures – then dragging the large cage out of storage – cleaning it – finding a way to prop it up – a few bricks, slates & whatever else was available – stabilising it with some heavy plant pots that a friend had carried outside for me – the house plants needed some sun – and finally yesterday, getting someone to cut up some old boards for me to fit into a top shelf, so the chicks wouldn’t get lost in the back of the ‘cage’ – oh you really don’t need to know the details!


So – when I realised I hadn’t got a way to add the “extension” – well a sort of extra bit of ‘cage’ that I have fixed onto the front opening so that they have room to jump about – I thought about it for a bit – the thing is, that I’d have to move some ‘kerb stones’ so that there would be no gaps and no escape holes – and it would take yet more time to sort it out – and its supposed to rain today – I decided to let them see the outside world in the sun for the first time, in a cage that was a bit too small for all 10 of them.  And of course, I had actually planned to write this blog and needed some pictures for it!

the inspection!

the inspection!

The chicks were only there for a few hours – they were rather scared of being taken out of their larger comfortable home in the cellar, and it took me a while to catch the last few!  Then I didn’t have room for a feed tray, just the water container – but it didn’t matter – they had been wondering what was outside – I purposely kept the cellar door open so they could get a taste of it – and now they were overjoyed to see something new – and a bit fearful of the dog barking next door, but they did have space to move around and inspect their new quarters, and watch the insects and the birds – whilst of course my other hens, had another good look at them!

That’s “darker” the first of the pair of Maran’s I bought about 6 weeks as POL (point of lay), who has only just started laying some nice brown eggs. (The sign that hens are ready to lay is that their combs turn from pink to a brighter red.)  Her sister ‘lighter’ (names apply to the amount of black feathers they have on their necks – smile) has yet to come into lay.  And ‘fiver’ who will feature in tomorrow’s post, the silkie cross on the right.

The chicks are at the scraggy looking stage – well feathered – their legs growing, able to jump and even fly, but in that awkward ‘pre-teen stage’ – you must recognise it if you have any kids around you – well – if they can get into mischief, they will – I will have to fix the extension cage up for them the next time I put them outside!

So here are a few more pics – its nice to have a record of them on the blog, so I’ll be able to refer back to it when they are fully grown …… if you click on the pictures, it will turn into a slide show ….hover over them and you see the titles ….


S is for Silkies

SI’m following on from yesterday’s post which was entitled Rare Breeds, but I never got round to them – smile.  In fact due to the increasing popularity of “backyard chickens” these aren’t really rare breeds any more, but pure breeds. There are very many different pure breeds to choose from.  I thought I’d start with Silkies.

my pair of white SILKIE bantams - cockerel is in front of shot

my pair of white SILKIE bantams – cockerel is in front of shot

They are as far from factory farmed chickens as you can get!  They wouldn’t survive in those sheds, they’re not good to eat, they have very little meat on them, and they aren’t prolific layers.

But apart from being really attractive, they are docile, can be handled easily – altho the full size cockerels can be fierce in protecting the hens – but best of all, silkies go broody, and will sit on any fertile eggs you have, and mother the chicks perfectly!

silkie cross cockerel

silkie cross cockerel

Silkie crosses, the hens, will usually go broody too. This was a silkie X cockerel I once had, to show you the variations you can get.  I can’t remember what he was crossed with but he was a handsome fellow!

blue silkie chick - from feathersite.com, another good reference for breeds

blue silkie chick – from feathersite.com, another good reference for breeds

Pure Silkies are usually white, black or a ‘golden’ brown colour.  A particularly prized colour is ‘blue’ which is a pretty blueish grey, and they go for very high prices!

Silkie feathers are different from other breeds, they are ‘fluffy’ not flat and streamlined,  and unusually the feathers also extend down to their 5 toes! Other features are bright blue ear lobes and black skin.

Origin: China, found there by Marco Polo in 1298. (ref here!)

If you are keeping chickens, you are usually keeping them for the eggs, and hens are quite happy without ever seeing a cockerel.  Many, but not all of the breeds of hens, will go broody from time to time, and stop laying to sit on a clutch of eggs that are not fertile.

You have two choices in this circumstance – you can buy in some fertile eggs as fast as possible – and put them under her – removing her own eggs, and she will normally but quite happy to continue sitting on them for the 21 days they take to hatch.

If you don’t want to do that, the only thing to do is to keep removing the eggs and taking her out of the box she lays in.  You may even have to move the box, or block it, so she doesn’t return immediately your back is turned!  She may go off lay for a while anyway, until the hormones triggered by broodiness have disappeared from her system.

If you do breed from your chickens, please remember that you should not allow related chickens – ie those hatched from eggs of one pair – to breed with each other.  You may have to swap cockerels, or sell them and buy an unrelated one.

On the other hand, recent genetic research seems to show that chickens actually have more genes than humans, and thus more variations are possible.  You might like to look at this lesson in the genetics of chickens.

Chickens were originally wild birds that lived in forests, before they were domesticated.  They still like scratching around under trees, which give shade in summer, and are omnivorous ie: they will eat almost anything, including insects and raw meat off carcasses!  Of course grass and grain are the usual feeds we give them, together with leftover food scraps.  Exceptions are covered in my recent blog.  If you want to give them a real treat, try grapes and watch them fight to get at them!