Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Avian Flu Update from Illinois Dept of Natural Resources


Effective today, IDNR is recommending a halt to the use of bird feeders and bird baths through May 31, or until avian flu infections in the Midwest subside, especially those that waterfowl may visit. During spring, wild birds will have ample food sources while bird feeders are removed.

HPAI has not been detected in songbird species (passerines) at this time.

Further recommendations from the agency:

👉🏼 Clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) and put away or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.

👉🏼 Remove any bird seed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.

👉🏼 Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.

If five or more deceased wild birds are observed in one location, an IDNR district wildlife biologist should be contacted. Contact information for district wildlife biologists can be found at…/contact-an-idnr…/. USDA Wildlife Services also may be contacted at 1-866-487-3297.

In addition, IDNR requests all occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported to the agency.

Ald. Lopez, no friend of fowl, running for Chicago mayor

In 2019, Alderman Raymond Lopez proposed an ordinance severely limiting backyard chickens and livestock in the city. He is now running for mayor. Consider this as you go to the polls in 2023. (

Although groups with interests in chickens and urban ag reached out to Ald. Lopez in 2019, he and Ald. Napolitano crafted a proposed ordinance without input from the large number of people in the city who own chickens and other animals traditionally classified as livestock. 

The 2019 ordinance proposed limiting chickens, goats, and other traditional farm animals in the city and charged licensing fees per animal. Martha Boyd from Angelic Organics Learning Center and I, along with others from the urban ag community successfully pushed back, and the ordinance did not pass. Currently there are no regulations in place. 

Here is coverage on the 2019 ordinance:

First-hand account of HPAI outbreak

This small farm in New York lost a large number of birds to HPAI. The birds were likely infected by migratory birds flying overhead. Birds under cover were unaffected.

If you have sudden deaths in your flock, report it immediately to the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and state veterinarian.

Sexing Chicks: Why It’s Important

Chick-buying season is nearly here! What do you need to know before you head out to the feed store or purchase mail-order chicks?

It is very difficult to tell the gender of newly hatched chicks, and you don’t want to wind up with 50% roosters in your flock. Nothing against the boys, but many communities have prohibitions against roosters. When they begin to crow in the early morning, and randomly throughout the day, you or your neighbors may have issues. Also, chickens don’t pair-bond, and one rooster will have a harem of hens. Two roosters in a flock can mean a fight to the death—or a seriously injured rooster.

If you do wind up with a surprise rooster that you can’t keep, finding a home for him can be difficult. See my blog post, What to Do with the Roos? If you can’t keep the boys, make sure you purchase properly sexed chicks, so you have every likelihood of having only pullets (female chicks).

Important Questions to Ask

  • First, ask the seller if their chicks have been sexed. You want to avoid Straight Run, which means that no effort is made to separate the boys from the girls. Fifty percent of straight-run chicks will be male.
  • Then, ask if the seller will take back any surprise roosters. Not all feed stores/mail-order companies will do this, however.

Methods of Sexing Chicks

Here is some information on sexing techniques and their effectiveness.

  1. Feather Sexing
    In some breeds, the sex of a chick can be determined by the rate of growth of its wing feathers. The method is largely depended on breed. Sometimes the differences are slight, and this is not a 100% certain way of determining gender.
  2. Vent Sexing
    This method involves examining the vent for the male “eminence” or genital organ. It is difficult to do on chickens and requires professional training. Even the pros do not have a 100% accuracy rate! Most hatcheries use vent sexing, but even so, you may get a surprise boy!
  3. Color Sexing / Autosexing
    Some breeds of chickens have been bred to make gender differences more obvious. These methods involve breeding chicks that will indicate their sex by the appearance of their down. Males may be lighter in color, or they may have a pale spot on the head. These breeds are called sex-linked crosses.
  4. Visual Sexing
    If you hatch your own chicks and don’t have color-sexed or auto-sexing breeds, you should be able to tell the sex between four and six weeks of age. This is when the secondary sex characteristics begin to occur: males will have a larger comb and wattles and start to practice crowing. At 8 to 10 weeks, the hackle, saddle, and sickle feathers will become noticeably different.

More information about sexing chicks is available from this Purina Mills article, How to Sex Baby Chicks.

Even if you purchase properly sexed chicks, keep in mind that no method is 100% accurate. Make sure to have a plan in case you accidentally receive a rooster and cannot keep him.

A rooster I met during the Windy City Coop Tour in 2021. This photo shows the enlarged comb and wattles characteristic of mature roosters. These secondary sexual characteristics do not become apparent until a young rooster is between 4 and 6 weeks of age.

UPDATE: Chicken-keeping classes with Home to Roost change to online format

UPDATE 1/7/22: The two chicken classes I am teaching for Villa Park Public Library will now be held ONLINE via Zoom, instead of in-person. I hope you can join me for these virtual events!

Basic Backyard Chicken Keeping – January 19, 2022, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Please register for this online program (at the link above) and you will receive a link to join on January 19.

This class is 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, and care for adult birds.

NOTE: A license is necessary to keep hens in Villa Park, IL. Here are links to the Village’s guidelines & ordinance, and the license application:

CHICKEN (HEN) LICENSE Guidelines & Ordinance


My next class in the Villa Park Library series, about chicken coops, will also be held online:

Chicken Coop Basics – February 16, 2022 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Please register for this online program (at the link above) and you will receive a link to join on February 16.

This class addresses what you need to know about building a safe and comfortable home for your hens. You’ll learn the basic housing needs of backyard birds. Find out the essential components of a coop, construction materials to choose and avoid, important construction tips, and see different coop styles.

Photo by Liz McCrory of

Hen Looking for Home Update: A Home Has Been Found!!

12/16/21 UPDATE: Isa has a new home!!


Isa the brown hen

Name: Isa
Age/Breed: ~1 year, 7 month old Isa Brown Hen
Description: Spunky and healthy Isa Brown hen that’s a reliable, daily layer.
Location: Chicago, south side
Reason for Re-homing: Our small organization just lost our other hen (a Plymouth Blue Rock) who had persistent health issues with laying for a long time. We are a nonprofit organization that doesn’t have the staffing or space to take other chicks/hens at this time of year. We know that a single hen is not a happy hen… and are concerned about keeping her warm enough through the coldest parts of winter all by herself. We have feed and other supplies.

Give the gift of chicken care! Gift certificates for chicken consulting now available

Photo courtesy Jennifer Gilstrap

You need the perfect holiday 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. Consulting sessions are 1 hour in length.

1 Chicken Consulting Session: $63

2 Chicken Consulting Sessions: $124

3 Consulting Sessions: $155 (a $30 savings!)

Please note that fees for mileage and additional time may apply and are chargeable to recipient.

Please contact me using the form below if you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate! I will email you instructions for purchasing a certificate using PayPal (I can’t accept payment through my blog).

Yes, I am interested in purchasing a gift certificate! Please send me more information.

Thank you for supporting backyard chicken keeping in the city! Warm holiday wishes to you from Home to Roost.

Visit my booth at the Green Living Expo, held online Nov. 6!

If you’re interested in learning how to live more sustainably, join us for the 14th annual Green Living Expo, held online on November 6! Come anytime betweeen 10am and 5pm. I will have a virtual booth at the Expo and also speak about chicken keeping at 3:30pm. When you visit the Home to Roost booth, download our coupon for 25% off a 1-hour session of chicken consulting!

Yes, this will be an adventure, both for us and anyone who attends! We have never participated in an online expo before.

Visit to register and view the agenda for the expo. There will be four unique tracks:

Renewable Energy
Waste Reduction
Food and Farming
Fun and Recreation

Plus, sessions throughout the day focusing on areas of importance to our audience. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: Hens looking for home

As of 11/16/21, these 3 hens are still available. The hens are 2 1/2 years old.

Contact Mary:

Looking to rehome 3 hens as my daughter moved out, and I will be moving soon. We are looking to relocate 1 Welsummer, 1 Easter Egger, and 1 cream legbar to a spacious coop, as they are older hens and like room to roost. All 3 raised together since birth. 

Contact Mary:

Home to Roost unavailable for housecalls 11-1 to 11-5-2021

Hello, all!

I will be out of town attending on-site visits with a poultry veterinary program Nov. 3 to Nov. 5.

I will be unavailable for housecalls on Nov. 1 and 2 due to biosecurity protocols, but you can always set up an appointment for a phone or Zoom consultation!