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. Jennifer leads workshops on backyard chickens; does presentations for garden groups, schools, and other interested parties; and assists families with their own flocks.

Her clients include Heartland Housing, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Sunrise Lake Outdoor Education Center, and the Oscar Mayer Magnet School. She has taught classes for Angelic Organics Learning Center, Chicago Botanic Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory, and Oak Park Conservatory, as well as appearing as a guest speaker at green and urban agriculture events.

For more information, leave a comment and we’ll get in touch with you.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 
― Frederick BuechnerWishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Welcome to my place of deep gladness!

*NOTE: All content on the Home to Roost site belongs to Home to Roost unless a source is stated. Material cannot be republished or reused without express written consent from Home to Roost.

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47 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julie Adams on April 16, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Jennifer – I am with Kohl Children’s Museum, and each year we do a Eggs to Chicks exhibit where we hatch Java chickens for kids to see. We have a gentlemen farmer who has thus far taken our chicks after they get to be about 3 weeks old, but he won’t take any chick who has special needs. This year, we have been lucky with a good healthy bunch of chicks born (we’ve even had 3 rare Auburn java Chicks born…maybe you’ve seen it in the local papers?)

    I’m reaching out to you for help finding a home for one baby java that was born last week, who has an issue with his leg…he only uses one leg – he eats fine and seems to be thriving otherwise. I, myself, do cat/dog/rabbit rescue in the city of Chicago but have no resources for helping chickens in need. Do you guys have resources to help find him/her a safe home – where the person doesn’t care if he hops around on one leg? He’s a black Java chick…as cute as can be. I am contacting anyone I can find with chicken connections – so any help/guidance you can give would be great! I need a home for him by the end of next week…the 22nd. Oy!


    • Hi, Julie –
      I’m happy to hear about your successful hatch! Do you have any idea what is wrong with him? Sometimes these things are fixable if they are young enough!

      Are you able to bring him to see me? (I have a busy weekend, so I’m hesitant to travel, but some things are easier to fix when they are young.)

      I will be happy to tap my chicken networks, and if you email me some pix, I can post him and his story on my blog. Do you know if it’s a male or a female?



  2. Posted by nancy hess on June 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Hi, Jennifer. I live in Oak Park. My brother, who lives outside of Toronto, also has an interest in raising chickens, and also has a blog about his first efforts, along with many cute pictures.

    You might be interested in checking it out:



  3. Hi There,

    Very nice to see another urban chicken blog out there. Amy Pavelich is a friend of mine and was as excited to pass on your link as I was to get it. If I ever have any burning questions I’ll contact you. This is our first go ’round with chickens, we brought them home in mid-May and are awaiting our first eggs. Can’t wait. I have to say, even without the eggs they have been well worth it. They are very entertaining and sweet.

    Take Care,


  4. Posted by Erin on November 21, 2010 at 12:33 am

    So thrilled to find your blog! As a suburban Chicago resident, I’ve been talking to my husband for almost a year about getting laying hens! I was raised on a farm and would love to give my kids a small piece of that farm experience here in suburbia.
    I’m looking forward to reading more from you and seeing you on Chicago Tonight!


    • Thanks for your comment, Erin!
      There is quite a community of Chicagoans with chickens. I agree; educating kids is a great reason for chickens! We should be good for Monday!


  5. Posted by jill jankowski on January 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I am trying to find out the legality of backyard chickens in unincorporated cook county-La Grange Highlands. Could you give me direction
    Ive contacted every site and ordinance and person and I cannot find anything. Could you give me direction?
    Many Thanks
    Jill Jankowski


  6. Hello,

    Are you planning a 2011 chicken coop tour? If so, we’d like to list it in our upcoming issue of Chickens magazine.

    Roger Sipe
    Chickens magazine


  7. Posted by nancy on March 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Re:Jill Jankowski I talked with a friend (cook county cop) she said get the chickens. . called cook county they said yes . .wanted more questions answered transfered me to building & zoning left message – no returned calls . .looked up on line all and discusses cockfighting(no) and coloring of chicks for promos and give aways(no) but nothing about how many . . mine are scheduled to come 4/12/11 . . I have no background in raising chickens other than I help my cousin everytime I visit her in Michigan . . and I hope my mother 89 who was raised on a farm can remember things to help . . cant wait!


    • Chicago city code does not mention how many you can have and does not prohibit roosters (only “excessive noise”). You cannot keep them for slaughter or sport, either. Generally when you call you get bounced around – so you can look up the code on line.
      Nancy, if you want, come to my chicken keeping class on April 10! We’ll talk about chicken care from raising chicks to end of life. See my post about the class!


  8. Posted by susan cribari on May 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I am so glad to have found you! I am interested in in raising laying hens in lagrange highlands – unincorporated. I cannot seem to get an answer, as to whether it is allowed. Any suggestions? I appreciate ur help, and look forward to your advise in the future. Suzy


  9. Posted by Nancy C on May 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Jen, thanks for the April 10th invite but I missed it as you can see I am posting this 5/4. My parents live with us Mom(89) was raised on a farm in northern Wisconsin. . and our cousin in Michigan has owned chickens for a few years and has been my guide – not to mention all the reading I’ve done before getting these girls . .also her brother lives nextdoor and is our vet. So I have a nice safety net . . and Thank You for being there if I need an answer


  10. Posted by Carrie on August 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    I recently started doing chicken care for a friend when she went on vacation. I have always loved animals & have been told that I am god with furries & nonfurries alike. I am looking to make myself available to more people who need someone to look after their chickens when they need extra or vacation help. I can provide references on request.


  11. Ms. Murtoff: If you have a moment, I really would love to talk to you about raising chickens for a story I’m writing for the Tribune. You can reach me at 312-731-4173 or sdevore@tribune.com. Anyone in the Lake or McHenry County areas who are raising chickens — feel free to contact me.
    All the best,
    Sheryl DeVore


  12. Hi Jen,

    I’m part of an education startup called Dabble (www.dabble.co) which launched in Chicago a few months ago. We’re trying to support cool people doing cool things and we’d love to feature an “Urban Chicken” class led by you.

    Please check out the website and details below and let me know if you’d be interested in hearing more about the opportunity.

    Thank you!

    Video: What is Dabble? http://vimeo.com/24099532
    For more info about teaching, please visit http://dabble.co/teach


  13. Posted by Cheryl Schulz on January 6, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Hi Jen;
    Heard about your class at the GPC. My daughters and I live on the NW side of Chicago. We are active menbers of 4-H (yes it is in the city and suburbs). 2 years ago we did an Embryology Project and as a result have developed a hobby of raising chickens in the city. Currrently we have 3 hens (1 black one-Monica, and 2 white ones-Thing 1 and Thing 2) and a rooster-Brickle. It is fun watching them interact when they are out of their cages either in the basement or outside (in nice winter weather too). The eggs are indeed delicious too. Glad to know there is a source out there to consult with if needed.


  14. Posted by Rachael Bush Middleton on March 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Jen, I took your class over the weekend. It was very helpful. (I am the one whose kids wanted a silkie.) the Village of Homewood is putting together an ordinance to be votes on in the next month or so. They are at a loss (and preoccupied with bigger issues) & have asked for examples (& even what I suggest, which is laughable since I have never owned a chicken.) Would you have examples or suggestions? They were looking for flock limits (I don’t think roosters are going to ‘fly’ here) and coop sizes, etc.
    Thanks for your consideration!


    • Hi, Rachael –
      I’m glad you found the class to be helpful!
      Congrats on moving forward with this! Probably the first thing to do is to find the draft language for an ordinance on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiast’s Google Group site (link is on my blog’s tab called Legalizing Chickens Resources tab). You might want to look at the ordinances of some of the surburbs that have recently OK’d chickens: Deerfield, Plainfield, Evanston, and others in other states. Have a look, too, at Some of the ordinances are overly complicated, in my opinion (Evanston’s, for example). If Homewood wants to talk to an expert, I’d be happy to serve as a consultant. Good luck!


  15. Posted by blueberry babydolls on May 20, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Hi Jen, I’m glad I found your site. I have a hen that had a soft shell egg brake inside of her today…. i found your article about the hen that you helped save with the same problem. I believe I’ve caught it quick because i witnessed her lay an egg yesterday and she was acting fine all day and this morning she seemed fine too until about 6pm tonight. She had fragments of soft shell and egg membrane coming out of her vent when I checked her, so followed your instructions in that article, but do you think i should treat her with penicillin or something as well? thank you


    • Hi,
      Sorry to hear about your hen! I’m not a vet, so I hesitate to speak to administering antibiotics. Sometimes the body will reabsorb the material, and it won’t cause an issues. You may want to observe her for a while before giving meds or take her to an avian vet.


  16. Posted by blueberry babydolls on May 20, 2014 at 10:43 am

    thank you! Jen for your reply, I think I’ll observe her like you said before starting any meds. This morning in her crete their was more soft egg shell ( maybe the remainder) I hope its not another one 😦
    I read online to flush her vent with mild vinegar/water solution, what do you think about that ?


    • I saw the vinegar/water suggestion, too. I’m not certain about that. I’ll sometimes use a rubber glove to gently apply a mixture of honey (natural antibiotic/anti-inflammatory) and KY Jelly inside the vent.


  17. I would like to get some info on starting a chicken coop in my backyard. I live in Leyden township, Melrose park area.


  18. […] to her website, UrbanChickenConsultant, Jennifer is a farmer’s granddaughter who loves her birds. She has chickens, geese, turkeys […]


  19. Posted by Dennis chavez on June 16, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I live in leyden township and i cant find any information if you can have any chickens in your back yard on leydens township website and when i do call them theyre not very helpful. Can you send me any information on the do’s and the donts so i dont get a citation in the mail


  20. Posted by Sharon Price on July 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I babysit for a couple of kids in Oak Park. They haven’t seen any chickens in people’s backyards yet. And wonder if they are even really Birds. Is it possible for them to visit a nice chicken family in the area sometime this summer.?


  21. Posted by scottbrowniron on July 11, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Hi,Im Scott I live in san Andrea’s just across the street from the library, Oak park drive estates,can I raise chickens at my house there,


    • Hi, Scott – I’m not certain where you are. I’m in Illinois.
      You can look up your local ordinances on Municode or Sterling Codifiers. Find your city’s code, and then search on poultry, chicken, hen to see what the code says.
      Good luck!


  22. I would love to chat with you about doing a program at our library in the Spring!


  23. Posted by Zoe Magierek on November 27, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Hi Jen!

    It has been a while but all three ladies are still here on Natchez. I wanted to schedule a time to talk about a second coop/ separation issue.

    Just let me know what works!

    Thank you! Zoe Magierek


  24. Posted by Ann P on September 11, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    I am new to backyard chicken keeping. What do you recommend to keep your girls warm for the cold Chicago winters? Also, how do I keep their water from freezing?


  25. Posted by poetrybybeatriz on May 11, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Hi! I would love your help and perhaps a referral. We live on the SW side and I have purchased a small Formex plastic coop. Hoping to raise 4 hens but need to construct a wooden run to attach. I have pics of a great one I want to recreate, with bike wheels off the back. Plenty of space which is important. We have no free time to build, and little DIY skills. Any coop carpenters you recommend? Also, are your classes still offered? Virtual perhaps? Thanks. Beatriz beatrizanasandoval@gmail.com or 773-576-4375


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