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. (https://wgntv.com/news/chicago-news/ald-raymond-lopez-running-for-mayor-of-chicago/)

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: https://news.wttw.com/2019/09/24/aldermen-propose-limits-backyard-livestock-chicago

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.

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

Home to Roost to offer complete range of Chicken Classes online!


We are now offering chicken classes online via Zoom! It is an exciting new step for us. (We’ll continue teaching classes through partnerships with other organizations, however!)

We have 7 different chicken and poultry-related classes. Which classes would you be interested in? Let us know through this short survey. 

If you would like to fill out this survey on Google Forms, please click HERE.

Thank you for your response!

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.

Chickens are Legal in Lombard!


We are glad to hear that residents of Lombard, IL can now keep chickens! The village board approved an ordinance on March 3, 2022. Congratulations to the Lombard folks who supported and worked for this ordinance.

According to the Village of Lombard website:

“On March 3, 2022, the Village Board approved an ordinance that allows residents to keep chickens (hens) in the rear yards of their single-family home, with a permit issued by the Village.” There is a limit of six hens. More info about the ordinance and permit is located Here.

There is much excitement on the Facebook Lombard Backyard Chickens community. This is a great page to join for Lombard residents interested in keeping chickens!

Pretty soon it’s going to be chickens, chickens, chickens in Lombard! Photo by Liz McCrory, kosmicstudio.org

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.

Visit My Booth at the SCARCE Growin’ Green Garden Market on April 30, 2022!


This market is presented by SCARCE, featuring all manner of gardening supplies, seedlings, compost and more. I will give a short talk on the main points of chicken keeping. It is a family-friendly event, with lots of advice and vendors for green gardening! I hope to see you there. More info is available at the link below:

SCARCE Growin’ Green Garden Market
Saturday, April 30, 2022 9am-1pm

SCARCE Environmental Education Center
800 S. Rohlwing Rd (IL 53), Addison, IL
Note: Located on west side of Rohlwing Rd, about 1/2 mile north of North Ave

SCARCE is an environmental education group dedicated to creating sustainable communities. They present innovative, hands-on education programs for schools and organizations, demonstrate care for people and natural resources through the Reuse Center, and engage the broader public through community-wide events and programs.

My booth at last year’s SCARCE Garden Market!

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.

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.