Upcoming Chicken Classes at Chicago Rebuilding Exchange

Home to Roost will be teaching five online classes for the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange, including two classes that are new for 2021: “Bird Brains: Flock Psychology” and “Quail: An Overview.” This is an opportunity for you to increase your practical knowledge of how to raise backyard chickens and quail, build safe and comfortable homes for your birds, and understand common chicken health issues. All classes are online. Register now at the links below!

NOTE: All classes are geared to the Chicagoland area, including predators and climate.

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping – Online, February 8, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Chicken Coop Basics – Online, February 11, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

NEW! Bird Brains: Flock Psychology – Online, February 22, 6:30 pm – 7:15 pm

NEW! Quail: An Overview – Online, March 3, 6:30 pm – 7:15 pm

Chicken Health – Online, April 5, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Christmas Message from Home to Roost

Photos and Design: Courtesy of Jennifer Gilstrap

We at Home to Roost want to wish all the chicken lovers out there a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! If you keep chickens, please hug a hen for us today, and make sure all your chickens are safe and warm. Here’s wishing good health to us all, chickens included, in 2021!

In need of a last-minute stocking stuffer gift for the chicken lover in your life? Home to Roost LLC is offering gift certificates for chicken consulting services! To begin the process, fill out this Google Form:

Purchase Home to Roost Gift Certificate

For the affordable price of $60 (convenience and mileage fees may apply), your friend gets a session of chicken consulting. Chicken consultant Jennifer Murtoff will help the chicken keeper with issues related to chicks, adult birds, coops, health, and nutrition. Purchase one or more sessions via PayPal.

Please note: Make sure to enter the email address murtoff@gmail.com in the “Send Money” field when paying by PayPal.

You or the gift recipient will receive a certificate stating the amount of the gift and instructions for redeeming it. Certificates can be sent by e-mail or regular mail.

Wishing you safe and happy holiday celebrations!

Chicken Art gifts for the holidays!

We are fortunate to have discovered some amazing artists who make the chicken their subject. Like many chicken keepers I could mention, these artists’ love for chickens apparently has no bounds, as is evident in their marvelous creations:

Folk Art Chicken Footstools

A small Missouri company makes these gorgeous footstools using traditional fiber art techniques–dyeing, felting, spinning, and knitting. This is Little Nancy P., and her feathers are fashioned with hand-spun 100% Merino wool. Made by The City Girl Farm, these chicken footstools may be on the higher end pricewise, but they elevate the humble footstool into a work of art. And their heads even bob! In fact, if I had one of these I would never put my feet on it.

The Rainbow Rooster

The Rainbow Rooster features “Prismatic Chicks Bearing Special Gifts Just for You,” painted by artist Alicia Zenobia. And what gifts they are: birds with marvelous plumage, each feather painted with care. Each of her paintings holds a special energy; see which one resonates with you!

Chicken Portraits by Photographer Liz McCrory

Photographer Liz McCrory of Kosmic Studio has embarked on an unusual project that caught our attention here at Home to Roost — portraits of pet chickens! We think the results are quite impressive, presenting these birds as little works of art and capturing their unique personalities. Liz is offering an end-of-year special: She will create pet portraits for $100 during the month of January! If you have ever wanted to immortalize your pet in a special portrait, now is the time.

The Electrifying Chicken Art of Heid in My World

Digital artist Heide Royer calls her unusual chicken portraits “kinetic art.” Others might call them stunning, arresting, choose your adjective: there is no question, her chicks demand attention. Heide also creates portraits of dogs and other animals, and accepts commissions from pet owners. View her work at Heidinmyworld.com.

“Laid in the USA” by Mercedese Bantz

On the lighter side, Mercedese Bantz is an artist who creates incredibly fun paintings and sculptures, not only of chickens. But I am definitely biased in favor of her imaginative and fun birds! Mercedese will consider custom order requests. I asked her to paint a picture of the chickens I had as a kid, and I absolutely love the result!

Five Fascinating Facts about Eggs

Chicken eggs are a great source of nutrition. But there is much more to know about the humble egg, often considered nature’s perfect food:

  1. When a young hen first starts laying eggs, they may be strange shapes or sizes until the hen adjusts to the laying process. Eggs may be smaller or larger than normal, have soft shells, or even no shells at all. Tiny eggs may have no yolks, while giant eggs may have two or even three yolks.

  2. Chicken eggs are not just white or brown, like the eggs commonly sold in grocery stores. Some breeds lay copper-colored eggs, others light blue eggs, and some even lay green eggs. So Dr. Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham was not so far-fetched after all! Contrary to popular belief, egg color does not affect the taste of the eggs.

  3. Female chicks are born with all the eggs they will eventually lay. These eggs, or ova, look like a cluster of tiny grapes in the bird’s ovary. Only a small number of the existing ova will be laid as eggs.

  4. Hens lay eggs regardless of whether a rooster is present to fertilize them. Laying an egg is equivalent to ovulation. It is not the same as having a baby!

  5. Stressed-out hens are not good layers. Some common sources of stress include extremely hot or cold weather, predators, unfamiliar food, new living quarters, a new chicken in the flock, or loud noises. So tone down the party music near the coop! Your ladies need some peace and quiet while they are engaged in the very important process of laying eggs.

This holiday season, give the gift of chicken care from Home to Roost!

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Gilstrap

Gift certificates for chicken consulting sessions
are now available from Home to Roost!

You need the perfect gift for the chicken keeper who has everything! Home to Roost LLC is now offering gift certificates for in-home and Zoom consultations. Chicken consultant Jennifer Murtoff will help the chicken keeper in your life with issues related to chicks, adult birds, coops, health, and nutrition.

For the affordable price of $60 (convenience and mileage fees may apply), your friend gets a session of chicken consulting. Purchase one or more sessions via PayPal. To begin the process, click on this link:

Purchase Home to Roost Gift Certificate

Please note: Make sure to enter the email address murtoff@gmail.com in the “Send Money” field when paying by PayPal.

You or the chicken lover in your life will receive a certificate stating the amount of the gift and instructions for redeeming it.

Happy holidays and stay safe out there!

Photo courtesy Jennifer Gilstrap

After Auto Accident, Brooke Ann Bestwina Returns to The Feed Store

It’s great to see Brooke behind the counter of The Feed Store once again!

Many of you know Brooke Ann Bestwina, co-owner of The Feed Store in Summit, IL. We are glad to hear she is back and working at the store once again! Brooke was in an auto/scooter accident several months ago. After spending time in the hospital, undergoing surgery and physical therapy, Brooke is very happy to be back.

I recently talked with her, and she sounded very upbeat and positive. “I am doing much, much better. I can walk without crutches, and my ankle doesn’t hurt anymore. I’ve been back about a month. Which is good, because I was going crazy at home–how much can you clean house and watch Netflix? I need to be out of the house and doing things. I was on crutches, but now the crutches are going away.”

We here at Home to Roost wish Brooke all the best as she continues to heal and get better!

Register Now for Chicken-Keeping Basics — Online Class with Des Plaines Library on Nov. 14!

Are you new to chicken keeping, or thinking about getting your own birds? Learn how to raise chicks and care for adult birds during the “Chicken-Keeping Basics Class” with Home to Roost, hosted by Des Plaines Public Library on Saturday Nov. 14, 10:30am – 12:30pm.

Registration information is available here. This online class is open to all.

Spooky Chickens Part II: Mike the Headless Chicken

In September 1945, a Colorado farmer named Lloyd Olsen went out to the chicken coop to bring back a chicken for dinner. He chose Mike, a young Wyandotte rooster. After the ax fell, the bird was able to stand up and walk around a little unsteadily, sans head!

Olsen decided to keep the headless chicken and exhibit it at sideshows. He was able to feed Mike using an eyedropper. According to Wikipedia, at the peak of Mike’s earning power, he brought in $4,500 per month (equivalent to $51,525 in 2019).

Apparently, in his clumsy attempt to cut off the rooster’s head, Olsen left most of the brain stem intact. For an explanation of the science behind Mike’s survival, see the video below. Mike still attempted to preen, peck for food, and crow, although his “crowing” resulted in a strange gurgling sound in his throat.

This Crunch video explores the science behind Mike’s ability to live without a head.

Unfortunately, Mike passed away a year and a half later. But his fame outlives him, and every spring the city of Fruita, Colorado holds a Mike the Headless Chicken Festival.

The Electrifying Chicken Art of Heid In My World

Digital artist Heide Royer has a thing for chickens. She received her first set of chickens at Christmas 2019 and, chicken math being what it is, she now has a total of 60!

It was only natural that Heide turned to drawing pictures of her birds. “I discovered that chicken people love chicken art,” she said. “I got a great response to the first chicken portraits I did. Now my house looks like a chicken art gallery.” Heide raises her chickens and other animals on a ranch near Weatherford, Texas, appropriately named the “Cock ‘n’ Roll Ranch.”

She calls her electrifying chicken portraits “kinetic art.” Heide starts by sketching the bird, then she moves to a digital tablet to add the kinetic elements, including strokes of digital “electricity.”

“If I look at an animal spiritually, I can see its soul shining out. That is what I attempt to capture in my portraits,” she said.

The response to her artwork has been gratifying and heartwarming. “I found my chicken people,” Heide says. “I feel very, very blessed that I have the chance to create this art for others. In a time when people are losing their jobs, I can bring this joy to them.”

Heide also creates portraits of dogs and other animals, and accepts commissions from pet owners. View her work at Heidinmyworld.com.

Spooky Chicken Tales, Part I: Rooster Burned at the Stake

In 1474, the townspeople of Basel, Switzerland gathered to watch a bizarre sight: a rooster being burned at the stake, with all the solemn ceremony usually reserved for a human transgressor.

The rooster was sentenced to this terrible fate “for the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg,” according to Johann Gross, who wrote an account of the incident in 1624. Witchcraft was suspected, and the magistrates of Basel sentenced the cock to the same punishment usually reserved for witches.

Folks back then were especially afraid of an egg laid by a rooster, because of the superstition that this egg could hatch a basilisk or cockatrice, a terrifying, winged creature with the head of a cock and tail of a serpent. This creature could kill with a glance.

Beware of eggs laid by roosters: people used to believe they could hatch a cockatrice!

The good people of Basel had no idea that such gender-bending can happen in chickens, and it’s a perfectly natural occurrence. I wrote a blog post about this rare phenomenon: “It’s a Hen… or Maybe Not! Gender-Bending Chickens.” In rare cases, roosters can start laying eggs, and hens can begin to crow… and it’s not the result of witchcraft.


Learn more about the trials of animals accused of witchcraft:

“Nature on Trial: The Case of the Rooster that Laid an Egg,” by E. V. Walter

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals
By Edward Payson Evans