Chick Tips!

Here are a few tips for your new chicks!

  1. Mail-order chicks may have trouble recognizing food and may eat their bedding, which can make them sick. Use white paper towels (rather than pine shavings or other material) as bedding for the first day or so. Drop some chick starter on it. They will start pecking at the food. Then put the food in a dish. When they have learned where the food is, you can put them on normal bedding.
  2. Set up your brooder a day or so before bringing your chicks home. The brooder should be in a room with a consistent temperature (like a basement, NOT a garage or unheated sunroom). Observe the temperature and adjust as needed. This way your brooder will be at the right temperature for when they move in!
  3. Heat your chicks’ brooder box at 95 degrees F for the first week of life. Then reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week.
  4. Place your heat source at one end of the brooder so they can move away from the heat if needed.
  5. Use a small kitchen thermometer to gauge the temperature.
  6. Be prepared to move your babies to a larger brooder as they grow. They will need about a half square foot per bird from ages 0 to 4 weeks and 1 square foot from 4 to 8 weeks.
  7. Move your chicks out to the coop when they are fully feathered and the temps are 65 degrees F at night.

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping April 29, 2023

I’m excited to be presenting this class on April 29, at 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. with Prairie Food Co-Op, Lombard Historical Society, 23 W. Maple, Lombard, IL.

This class is a slightly scaled down version of my popular 2-hr basic chicken-keep class. It’s designed for curious folks who are considering getting chickens, as well as for those who already have their own birds. Learn how to find local laws, choose and raise chicks, care for adult birds, and more.

For more information, including how to purchase tickets to this event, click here.

Nine Things to Consider Before Bringing Chickens to Your Backyard

Alguire garden2

Photo courtesy of Sandy Alguire

The urban agriculture movement includes everything from gardens to goats, with chickens in between. If you’re thinking about getting chickens, you’ll want to keep in mind of a few things in advance.

1) Chicks require special care. Baby chicks need appropriate warmth, shelter and diet if they are not with a hen who can protect them and show them the ropes.

2) You’ll get fewer eggs as your hens get older.  A hen’s ability to lay peaks at the end of her second year. After age two, she’ll lay fewer eggs per week. Chickens can live to be as many as 10 years old, so consider this in your plans. Are these birds pets who will give you eggs steadily for a few years? Or are they egg-laying machines that will be turned into soup when their laying slows down?

3) Chickens are different from cats and dogs. Birds and mammals are different in the ways they approach the world. For example:

  • Chickens are prey animals; dogs and cats are predators.
  • Their body systems function differently (for example, chickens have very sensitive respiratory systems and hollow bones).
  • They respond to stress in different ways.
  • Chickens need to go to an avian veterinarian, rather than a dog and cat vet.

4) The pecking order is an important reality. Chickens naturally rank themselves in a hierarchy to determine who is the alpha hen. If you introduce new birds to an existing flock, you may not only introduce disease, but you may also disrupt the pecking order, which can result in death for the newcomer.

5) A quality, secure coop is important. Chickens are susceptible to predators such as raccoons, hawks and coyotes. Do your research to determine how best to protect them. You should have a safe, sturdy coop ready well before your chicks are ready to move into it. You should lock your birds in the coop at dusk and let them out first thing in the morning.

6) Chickens are a daily commitment. Again, chickens are different from dogs and cats; you cannot provide extra food and water for your birds and go out of town for several days. Plan to feed, water, and gather eggs both morning and evening and find a chicken sitter if you go on vacation.

7) Diet is important. There are several different formulations of feed, each for different stages in a chicken’s life: chick starter, chick grower, and laying formula. Chickens can eat kitchen scraps, but a properly formulated feed should be the primary source of nutrition. I recommend providing supplemental calcium for laying hens and it’s important to note that treats like scratch and meal worms can cause birds to become fat, leading to laying problems and other health issues.

8) You are the first line of defense for your birds’ health. Birds hide signs of illness so it will be very important to know what is normal for your chickens: weight; food/water intake; respiration; social, sleep, and grooming habits; etc.

9) Chicken owners are chicken ambassadors. If you get chickens, you join the ranks of a group of people who are trying something new. With that privilege comes responsibility: to represent yourself and your fellow chicken keepers well to your community. Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself about chickens by taking a class (Home to Roost Urban Chicken Consulting offers several per year, as well as in-home consultations), reading quality materials (see the Resources tab on the blog Home to Roost Urban Chicken Consulting blog), and visiting the coops of successful chicken keepers. You can also join online forums, such as the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts Google Group.

Online Chicken Coop Basics Class, March 30, 6-8 PM Central Time

I’m offering my popular Chicken Coop Basics class ONLINE on March 30, 6 PM central time. Click here to register by March 29.

Join Chicago-based chicken consultant Jennifer Murtoff of Home to Roost LLC for this popular 2-hr class on caring for chicks and hens! This session offers a wealth of information on caring for chickens and is the first in a series of chicken-keeping classes on health, coops, winter care, summer care, and flock psychology. See all class offerings at here.

Photo by Liz McCrory,

Free Chicken-Keeping Class, March 1, 2023

Join me and Maria the chicken for a chicken-keeping class on March 1, 2023, from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Fossil Ridge Public Library, 386 W Kennedy Rd, Braidwood, IL 60408.

We’ll talk about choosing breeds, chick care, care of adult birds, legal considerations, and other important topics!

Register here:

FREE Webinar on Avian Influenza, Feb. 28, 2023

Join Dr. Julie Gauthier, DVM, Assistant Director for Poultry Health at USDA, and other poultry health experts for a webinar and live question and answer session. As part of APHIS’ Bird Health Awareness Week, Dr. Gauthier will host a discussion about what avian influenza is, how it impacts different segments of the poultry industry and the surrounding communities, and respond to the most frequent questions asked by poultry owners.

Call for volunteer attorney or CPA

Are you a chicken owner who is also an attorney and/or CPA? Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts is looking for someone to advise on or help with setting up a 501(c)3 and other matters related to our community.

If you’re interested, reach out to me by making a comment below or on using the Contact tab and let me know where your experience lies.

Call for Web Design in Chicago Chicken Community

Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts is looking for help with reworking our existing website (a Google site,

If you have expertise in this area, we’d love your advice (and possibly some hands-on assistance) with

-Rebuilding the site

-Making it mobile friendly

-Choosing a platform (WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace?)

-Investigating options/pricing (domain, email, site, storage)

If you’re interested, reach out to me by making a comment below or on using the Contact tab and let me know where your experience lies.


FREE Chicken-Keeping Classes, Spring 2023

Come out for the following classes taught by Home to Roost at local libraries. Learn about choosing and caring for chicks, keeping adult birds, building a coop, and legal considerations.

Jan. 25, Weds., 6-8 pm, St. Charles Public Library

March 1, Weds., 5-730 pm, Fossil Ridge Public Library

May 20, Sat.,1-3 pm, Darien Public Library

June 10, Sat.,1-3 pm, Westmont Public Library

I look forward to seeing you!

Windy City Coop Tour Roosting for 2022

A message from our fantastic Coop Tour coordinator, Jenny Addison. An FYI and a call for help!

The Windy City Coop Tour is Roosting for 2022! Don’t panic! You haven’t seen the last Windy City Coop Tour.

Real talk: it’s been a rough couple of years for your Friendly Neighborhood Coop Tour Coordinator here. In 2021, I had ample time to devote to planning due to pandemic unemployment (yay?) and we had an awesome Tour! But the planning process is complex and delegating tasks to volunteers without significant training is its own challenge. This means the work falls almost entirely to Yours Truly. This year, I started a new job in May (yay!), and my capacity to devote to planning the Tour is low – the bandwidth isn’t there this year.

This doesn’t mean CCE will lie fallow! Improving the Tour and CCE in a meaningful and intentional way has ben on my mind for a few years. Our supporting organization, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, and our own Chicken Educator Extraordinaire, Jen Murtoff of Home To Roost are involved and we are in agreement that the Tour needs a year off to get our ducks in a row. The impetus for this process is to ensure the Tour and CCE thrives, and that our resources and systems are clearly established so when the time comes, passing the torch be smooth and successful. I am excited to take this time instead to re-group and streamline the planning process.

With your support, we can get there! Thank you for your patience, and I can’t wait to see you all in 2023!

– Jenny –