Archive for the ‘Chicken care’ Category

Register Now for Chicken Health Class Online, April 27 at 6pm!


The next class in our Zoom series, Chicken Health, is coming right up! For this class, I will include information on how to protect your backyard flock from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Cases of HPAI have been discovered in wild birds in Illinois and other Midwestern states. I will explain how to protect your flock from wild birds and symptoms of HPAI to watch for. 

Thanks to everyone who attended Basic Chicken Keeping last Wednesday. We need at least 5 participants for Chicken Health to run, so tell your friends!! Registration info is below.

201: Chicken Health Class     

Wed. April 27, 2022, 6 pm (2.5–3 hrs), $28

Learn about the common health issues of chickens and how to keep your flock healthy. Topics include basic chicken anatomy/physiology, disease prevention and transmission, and first aid.

How to Register

To register, email hometoroostllc@gmail.com.

  • In the subject line, write Zoom Classes April-May 2022.
  • Give your name.
  • Give your email address.
  • Specify the class name(s) and date(s).
  • Tell us if you need a certificate of participation (see below).
    • If yes, give your full name and street address.

How to Pay

Each class needs at least 5 participants to run (tell your friends!). We will email you a PayPal invoice. After you’ve paid through the link on the invoice, we’ll send you the link to the class. Only registered participants can use the link.

We need a minimum number of participants to run our classes. If you pay and decide not to attend your class, we will be unable to issue a refund. Thank you for your understanding. If we do not have enough participants to run the class, we’ll notify you 24 hours before the class starts and refund your money via PayPal.


Need a Certificate of Participation?

To get a certificate of participation for your village board, just notify us when you register. We will need your full name and street address. You must attend the class in person and have your camera on to receive the certificate. We’ll email you a PDF certificate when the class is over.

Photo by Liz McCrory, kosmicstudio.org

Home to Roost offers first series of chicken classes online via Zoom!


Home to Roost will be teaching the following Zoom classes, based on responses to our survey. We hope you’ll join us.

101: Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping     

April 20, 2022, 7 pm (2 hrs) $23

Learn the basics of raising healthy, happy chickens in your backyard, including the care and feeding of chicks and adult birds.

201: Chicken Health

April 27, 2022, 6 pm (2.5–3 hrs)  $28

Learn about the common health issues of chickens and how to keep your flock healthy. Topics include basic chicken anatomy/physiology, disease prevention and transmission, and first aid.

102: Chicken Coop Basics

May 4, 2022, 7 pm (2 hrs) $23

Discover the essential components of a coop, important construction tips and materials, and see different coop styles.

How to Register

To register, email hometoroostllc@gmail.com.

  • In the subject line, write Zoom Classes April-May 2022.
  • Give your name.
  • Give your email address.
  • Specify the class name(s) and date(s).
  • Tell us if you need a certificate of participation (see below).
    • If yes, give your full name and street address.


How to Pay

Each class needs at least 5 participants to run (tell your friends!). We will email you a PayPal invoice. After you’ve paid through the link on the invoice, we’ll send you the link to the class. Only registered participants can use the link.


Need a Certificate of Participation?

To get a certificate of participation for your village board, just notify us when you register. We will need your full name and street address. You must attend the class in person and have your camera on to receive the certificate. We’ll email you a PDF certificate when the class is over.

Cancellations

We need a minimum number of participants to run our classes. If you pay and decide not to attend your class, we will be unable to issue a refund. Thank you for your understanding.

If we do not have enough participants to run the class, we’ll notify you 24 hours before the class starts and refund your money via PayPal.

Classes are not recorded.

More classes will be added in the near future! Stay tuned!

Jennifer Murtoff
Photo by Liz McCrory, kosmicstudio.org

Avian Flu Discovered in Illinois Wild Geese


Three wild geese in Will County, IL have tested positive for avian influenza, according to a News Channel 20 report released today. The report stated that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the cases on March 10.

Although avian flu has not yet been discovered in commercial or backyard poultry flocks in Illinois, the USDA is urging chicken keepers to protect their flocks. See my recent blog post, Advice from a Vet: How to Protect Your Flock from Avian Influenza, for steps you can take to protect your birds.

Advice from a Vet: How to Protect Your Flock from Avian Influenza*


A new strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is threatening poultry in the United States, both in backyards and in commercial facilities. A backyard flock in Michigan was diagnosed with the virus on February 24, 2022. Home to Roost recently talked with Dr. Anne Staudenmaier, VMD, DABVP (Avian Practice) of Ness Exotics in Lisle, IL, and Dr. Geoffrey Lossie (DVM, MS, DACPV), poultry diagnostician at Purdue University. Both vets provided us some information about the following questions related to avian flu.

Is avian influenza communicable to humans?

Dr. Staudenmaier provided us with a bit of background for this answer: There are many different strains of influenza, and they’re named based on two proteins that lie on the outer shell of the virus: H (for hemagglutinin) and N (for neuraminidase). Viruses are also divided into types A, B, and C. Type A viruses, which include all avian influenza viruses, are able to infect many different types of mammals, including humans, and because of this, are generally the ones responsible for epidemics. Types B and C are less diverse and have more limited host ranges. That being said, not every avian influenza strain is able to infect humans.

There are several subtypes that cause HPAI, including H5N1, H5N7, and H7N9; and several of these HPAI subtypes can affect humans. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recent HPAI detected in wild birds and domestic flocks does NOT present an immediate public health concern, and human infections with H5 bird flu viruses are rare. In fact, no cases of human infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza A viruses have been detected to date in the United States. However, there are some cases of human infection with low-pathogenic influenza A viruses.

(Our big take-away was that viruses and their naming conventions are complicated. If we’ve gotten something wrong, please let us know!)

Home to Roost note: You can kill viruses and bacteria in poultry and eggs by cooking them to an internal temperature of 165°F. Also, experts say that animal-to-human transmission is unlikely.

How can backyard chicken keepers protect their flocks?

Wild birds are responsible for most cases of transmission to backyard flocks. Shore birds and waterfowl are considered to be natural hosts for influenza viruses and often spread disease during migration paths. Recent reports show bats carrying several new avian influenza strains. To protect your flock, Dr. Lossie points to the importance of biosecurity, especially now:

  • Limit the amount of contact that wild birds have with your birds, including access to food and housing.
  • Avoid hunting waterfowl because hunters can bring the virus back to their flocks.
  • Limit all unnecessary visitors, especially those who have their own poultry.
  • Do not interact with other keepers’ birds.
  • Do not share poultry equipment (feed/water dishes, cages, incubators, etc.) with other keepers.

Dr. Lossie suggests reading the information here.

Should a case of avian flu be reported to the USDA or state department of agriculture?

This strain of virus is a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Highly pathogenic means that this strain will cause more than 75% mortality (it can kill more than ¾ of your flock). If you suspect your flock has this virus, you must report it to the state. According to APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state animal health official, the state veterinary regulatory board, or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

There are other reportable strains of low-pathogenic avian influenza (H5 and H7). The disease should be reported because it can cause devastation to commercial poultry flocks and the poultry industry. It is not due to the fear of a human outbreak, as many think; however, that does not mean there is no risk to humans.

A disease that kills even small percentages of commercial flocks can have serious impacts on food production and the economy. For more information on the impact of a devastating epidemic on livestock and the economy, read about the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 in the United Kingdom.

The USDA is very thorough in monitoring the health of wild bird populations and commercial flocks.

What to watch for in your birds?

Dr. Staudenmaier states that the clinical signs can vary depending on the strain and can be nonspecific, or assignable to a number of conditions. Many of the following signs can be seen with other diseases, but there is always concern when multiple birds in a flock show signs, as opposed to just one bird. These signs include:

  • Decreased egg production or abnormal eggs
  • Swelling of the head/comb/wattles/eyelids
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles/comb/legs
  • Nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of coordination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sudden death

Dr. Lossie points out that many birds dying in a short period of time can be suggestive of HPAI. The birds may not show signs initially, but after isolating themselves, they may stop eating and drinking and eventually die.

How to diagnose and treat HPAI?

Dr. Lossie stresses that avian influenza can only be tested for by a licensed state veterinary authority. Because avian influenza is considered a foreign animal disease, a state veterinary authority or the USDA, rather than a private veterinarian) should examine the bird(s). Dr. Staudenmaier states that to diagnose HPAI, the vet needs to run a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This is the same type of test used to detect COVID-19. It searches for the RNA of the virus in samples from the mouth, cloaca, feces, or tissues. Serology, or blood tests, are also used to look for antibodies to the virus. These tests can detect HPAI in poultry but not in other avian species.

Regarding treatment, different recommendations may be made depending on the strain. For low pathogenic avian influenza, as long as it is not an H5 or H7 strain, treatment is supportive and focused on preventing secondary bacterial infections and supporting the immune system with fluids, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins. For HPAI (H5, and H7 strains), always follow the recommendations of your avian vet and your state and comply with all guidelines to ensure the health of the poultry industry. Dr. Lossie cautions that a flock that contracts avian influenza may need to be depopulated to protect others’ flocks and the commercial poultry industry.   

Other helpful info for backyard chicken keepers

Dr. Staudenmaier offers these take-aways for backyard flock owners are the following:

  • Prevent access of wild animals to your birds’ food and water sources. Wild birds and to a lesser extent, wild mammals, can transmit many different diseases to birds. One of the biggest ways to reduce risk is to store food in protected containers. Change food and water daily to reduce the possibility of attracting pests.
  • Contact the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and state veterinarian if you have question or concerns. They may be able to help with disease testing at discounted rates if you are worried about a disease like avian influenza.

Note: We thank editor and veterinarian Debra Teachout for her assistance with the science aspects of this article.

*Posted updated March 1, 2022, 3:27 PM.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu Hits the United States


A form of avian flu with a high potential to cause disease has appeared in the United States, and it is likely being spread by wild bird migration from the East Coast. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed an outbreak of avian flu at a commercial turkey farm in Indiana on February 8, 2022, as well as two other locations, a commercial chicken flock in Kentucky and a backyard flock of mixed-species birds in Virginia, on February 12.

The USDA is recommending that backyard chicken keepers take precautions against the disease to keep their flocks safe.

We have reached out to poultry vets, asking for their comments on the outbreak and their tips for backyard chicken keepers. Keep watching this blog, we will post their advice soon!!

Some Basic USDA Tips for Protecting Your Flock

This is just a summary, to get you started on protecting your birds. We recommend that you read the complete guidelines HERE.

  1. Keep germs away: Clean all surfaces and items that come into contact with your chickens, including the clothes, shoes, and hands of anyone who enters the coop.
  2. Limit visitors: People who come into your chicken coop and run can bring in the virus that causes HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) on their clothes, shoes, skin, and hair.
  3. Avoid wild birds and pests: Restrict where your chickens roam so they do not encounter other wild birds or rodents.
  4. Follow the plan: Post these rules by your chicken coop so that everyone knows what to do.

When Should I Call the Vet?


When a member of your flock is injured or sick, sometimes it is difficult to know if veterinary care is needed. A predator may have attacked your chicken, and you are not sure if the cuts or scrapes will heal on their own, or if there are worse injuries to attend to. Perhaps your chicken is showing signs of a respiratory infection. Or that bad case of bumblefoot is not responding to home treatments.

While not trained in veterinary medicine, Home to Roost provides “in-between” services for hurt or sick birds that require assistance. We provide first aid and simple at-home, animal husbandry-related solutions; however, for more complicated issues, we will refer you to avian veterinarians for diagnosis and treatment. Visit the “Home to Roost Services” tab of my blog for more information.

Do you need to see a vet? Here are some guidelines:

1. Does your bird have an injury that is life threatening or that involves a wing or leg?  

Any kind of trauma, such as a predator attack, broken bone, amputated limb, or deep wounds, requires a visit to the vet. In these cases, your chicken may need pain medication and/or antibiotics. A trained avian veterinarian should know how to assess the bird’s condition and treat appropriately.

2. Does your bird have a respiratory infection that is not improving?

Signs that suggest a respiratory infection include sneezing, coughing, rattling, wheezing, and mucus coming from your bird’s nares (nostrils). Bubbles in the corner of the eyes can also suggest a respiratory infection. Birds have a complex respiratory system that involves nine air sacs positioned around the body. Because of this complicated system, respiratory infections may not resolve on their own and may require antibiotic treatment. While you might be able to access antibiotics for chickens, antibiotics must be prescribed by a veterinarian.

3. Does your bird have bumblefoot (pododermatitis) that is not improving?

If Epsom salts soaks and drawing salves are not working on your chicken’s bumblefoot, do not perform surgery on your own. Surgery is a delicate procedure that may result in damage to the bird’s foot. Surgery is also very painful, and your bird will need pain medication.

4. Does your bird need antibiotics?

Antibiotics are prescribed based on the kind of infection, the location of the infection, and the purpose of the bird. Some medications are not approved for use in chickens. An avian veterinarian will know what medication to use and how to administer it (injection, drinking water, with a syringe, etc.). It is important to limit unnecessary use of antibiotics; if antibiotics are given too often, bacteria can develop resistance to them, and infections may not respond to future treatment.

5. Does your bird need pain management?

How can you tell when a chicken is in pain? Chickens tend to hide pain to avoid predation and prevent being excluded from the flock. They also do not have facial expressions that can be easily read. A chicken in pain may withdraw from the rest of the flock, show little interest in food, or stop vocalizing. Limping also may be a sign of pain, as well as breathing hard, panting, or a heartbeat that is faster than normal. Chickens often peck at a painful area. Birds that require pain management should be taken to a veterinarian.

Avian Vets in the Chicago Area

If you live in the Chicago area and have a chicken that needs medical attention, I maintain a list of recommended avian vets in the area. Go to the Resources tab of my blog. Tell these practices that Home to Roost sent you!

Jennifer Murtoff
Photo by Liz McCrory, kosmicstudio.org

Listen to Home to Roost, live on WBEZ, Nov. 2 2021!


Home to Roost will be LIVE on WBEZ tomorrow, November 2 at 12:45 pm. Tune in to 91.5 FM or listen on the WBEZ website.


I will be live with chicken keeper Tim Norris on WBEZ’s Reset program, talking about raising chickens in Chicago. I teamed up with Tim and his flock of 25 chickens during the Windy City Coop Tour in September, and am looking forward to talking chickens with him once again!

Chicken keeping, up close and personal with Cluck Nut the chicken


A lot of people turned out at the Lemont Public Library last night to hear me talk about chicken keeping. I was ably assisted by Cluck Nut the chicken, who was a very good sport! She is a client’s chicken I borrowed for the occasion.

It was great to present a live chicken-keeping class for the first time in over a year. Among other topics, I talked about chicken breeds, chicken coops, chicken feed, and how a chicken purse led me to my improbable career as an urban chicken consultant.

A great time was had by all — even the chicken. I invited participants to feel her crop, where all the food goes when she swallows. Filled with grain, It feels a lot like a hackysack! Have you ever seen a chicken’s ears? On Cluck Nut, they are small but unmistakable. While I talked, Cluck Nut roamed the table next to me, getting to know the people lucky enough to sit up front. In-person classes are so much fun!

Learn the Basics of Chicken Keeping: Outdoor Event, June 28!


UPDATE 6/24/21: This event will most likely be held indoors.

We are pleased to announce the first live, in-person event presented by Home to Roost in more than a year! Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping, June 28, 6:00 – 8:00pm at Lemont Public Library in Lemont, IL. Jennifer Murtoff will teach you the basics of raising chickens, from chick to adult bird. Bring your questions about chicken keeping to this live event!

This class is free and open to the public, regardless of where in IL you live. Register now at the link below:

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping, June 28, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Lemont Public Library
50 E. Wend St.
Lemont, IL 60439

We hope to see you there, up close and in person!

Photo by Liz McCrory, kosmicstudio.org

Basic Chicken Keeping, Coop Classes at Fremont Public Library


I will be teaching Basic Chicken Keeping and Chicken Coop Basics for the Fremont Public Library (located in Mundelein, IL) in June and July. These online classes are open to all, regardless of where in the U.S. you live. Please note that all class information on predators and climate will be geared to the Chicago area. Register now at the links below!

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping, Online — Fremont Public Library, June 23, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Learn the basics of raising backyard chickens, from chick to adult.

Chicken Coop Basics, Online — Fremont Public Library, July 7, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Learn the essential components of a chicken coop, important construction tips, and different coop styles. Do you have your own creative ideas for a coop? This class will teach you the basic elements that all coops need to have.