Archive for May, 2013

Chinese company to buy Smithfield Foods

Another breaking news story: Needing Pork, China Is to Buy a U.S. Supplier

Antibiotics in livestock raising concerns up the food chain

Perhaps we’re finally reaping what years of rampant antibiotic use in livestock have sown. Antibiotics in livestock raising concerns up the food chain

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.

Debunking Myths Around Urban Chickens

Check out this article by Patricia Foreman if you are interested in legalizing chickens in your town. She addresses the most common arguments against backyard birds in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner.

Chicken Health Class Postponed

The chicken health class, originally scheduled for June 1, has been postponed. Keep an eye on the blog for more info. 

June 8, 2013: Chicken-Keeping Class at Green Home Experts in Oak Park

Follow the Facebook link to register for my next chicken-keeping class, June 8, 2013, at Green Home Experts in Oak Park.

This class is designed for curious folks who are considering getting chickens, as well as for those who already have their own birds and who want to learn more! Come learn how to raise chicks, care for adult birds, and keep your neighbors happy!

5 happy hens email


Home to Roost at Plainfield Expo: May 4, 2013

Come out to the Spring Environmental Expo in Plainfield! Lots of great things going on! If you want to hear about chickens, I’ll be doing two presentations.

Event date: Saturday, May 4, 2013 – 10:00am to 3:00pm


Central High School Field House,

24120 W. Fort Beggs Drive,

Plainfield, IL 60544.

See map: Google Maps

This a FREE event hosted by Conservation Plainfield that includes exhibitors with educational displays, demonstrations of sustainable products and practices, sales of “green” products and services, and fun entertainment for all ages. It is a community-wide environmental education event and Conservation Plainfield’s primary fundraising activity for the year.

Some of the activities planned for the day include:

  • Dave DiNaso’s Traveling World of Reptiles (an up-close, live, hands-on experience about reptiles and amphibians from around the world). for more information.
  • Incredible Bats will be giving a multi-media presentation on how beneficial these creatures are to us and our world. Sharon and Dan Peterson have over 15 years of experience in the conservation of bats. They will have live Egyptian Fruit Bats and African Straw-Colored Fruit Bats at the show. Bring your digital cameras or camera phones because after the program a half an hour will be provided for children/families to take their own picture with a bat. Visit for more information.
  • Learn about and try Geo-Caching (an outdoor activity using a Global Positioning System – GPS receiver to hide and seek containers called geo-caches or caches that contain log-in sheets and sometimes trinkets). for more information on geo-caching.
  • Workshop on wind energy (a renewable energy source) that includes the making of a wind turbine model you can take home. There will be two workshops with a maximum of 25 wind turbine model kits for each workshop – one model kit per family. If interested in attending this program, stop by the Conservation Plainfield welcome booth and register.
  • Learn about raising backyard chickens at home. There will be a presentation with live chickens on how to properly raise chickens at home and the benefits of doing so by Home to Roost Urban Chicken Consulting. The Midwest’s only chicken consultant, Jennifer Murtoff provides compassionate, homespun consulting and emergency care for backyard chickens in the Chicagoland area. A farmer’s granddaughter, Jennifer’s passion for fowl developed as she acquired a number of kinds of birds in south central Pennsylvania. Her flock included chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, quail, peafowl, pigeons, and golden pheasants. She offers information and resources on chicken care from chick to adult, and, while she is not a veterinarian, can provide emergency advice and troubleshooting.
  • Exhibit on composting at home
  • An Electronics Recycling Drop-off will be provided by New Life Electronics Recycling (for a list of items that will be accepted, download the attachment on the homepage or down below).
  • An empty ink and toner cartridge recycling drop-off will be provided by Cartridge World, 4722 Caton Farm Road, Plainfield.
  • Conservation Plainfield will also be accepting batteries and cfl (compact fluorescent light) bulbs for recycling. Please be sure to tape both ends of the batteries prior to dropping them off.
  • Working Bikes will be accepting bicycle donations at the event.  The bikes do not have to be in working condition. Working Bikes collects and gives away over 6,500 used bicycles a year. They repair and give away bicycles to local social service agencies, as well as international non-profit bike projects that distribute them to those in need.
  • Make a Craft to Take Home (a fun activity for children and families to make something out of everyday materials you recycle at home).
  • Rain Barrel Sales (for more information on Conservation Plainfield’s Rain Barrel Program and to place an order, download the attachments on the homepage or down below). Starting March 23 and running through the expo, Conservation Plainfield will be holding a spring rain barrel sale. Rain barrels can be purchased for 25% off the regular price.
  • Native Plant Sale (download the order form on the homepage or down below). Please note that if you join Conservation Plainfield as a member you can get free plants. Individual memberships get three (3) free plants, and family memberships get six (6) free plants.
  • Raffling off of Gift Baskets and a Rain Barrel
    • Stop by Conservation Plainfield’s welcome booth and get one free raffle ticket.
    • Those that buy a 50/50 raffle ticket will get one additional ticket for the basket/rain barrel raffle.
    • Those that join Conservation Plainfield as an individual member will get three extra raffle tickets, and those that join as a family member will get five extra raffle tickets.
    • All items will be raffled off at 2:00. Winners will be posted at the Conservation Plainfield welcome booth. Winners need not be present.

Don’t forget to check back on occasion for updates on the day’s activities and exhibitors that will be participating because we are still planning and confirming other activities and in the process of booking exhibitors.

If you are interesting in volunteering to help set-up, break-down or work the event, please contact us.

Conservation Plainfield began as a collaborative effort of the five units of local Plainfield government: Village, Park District, School District, Library District, and Township. We have grown over the years and have become more volunteer-driven with membership comprised of nearly 50 residents and businesses. Our organization holds a series of events and projects each year, including clean-ups, park enhancement projects, and collection days. Conservation Plainfield relies on modest membership dues and public donations to meet its mission of environmental education and awareness. 

Chicken Diapers?

Chicken Diapers?

I don’t recommend chicken clothes or chickens as housepets, but if you want to go that route, here is one solution. 

REMINDER: Coop-building class at the Oak Park Conservatory May 7, 2013

Sign up for Home to Roost’s coop-building class!

Date: May 7, 2013

Time: 7 PM to 9 PM

Location: Oak Park Conservatory, Oak Park IL

We’ll discuss materials, coop components, basic specifications. Everything you need to know about building a chicken coop.

Click on the link to register.