Home to Roost 2016 events

Hi, all –

Here is my list of upcoming events:

Feb. 27: AUA Urban Livestock Expo: more info will be posted at http://auachicago.org/

March 12: Basic chicken keeping and coop building at the Chicago Botanic Garden: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/

March 19: Chicken health class at the Chicago Botanic Garden: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/

March 26: Good Food Festival, UIC Forum: http://www.goodfoodfestivals.com/

April 10: Basic Chicken keeping at Oak Park Conservatory: http://www.pdop.org/parks-facilities/oak-park-conservatory/

April 16: Kids program at the Glencoe Public Library: http://www.glencoepubliclibrary.org/

April 23: Earthfest, Oak Park: http://www.oak-park.us/village-services/refuse-recycling/earth-fest

There is a series of classes also tentatively slated at the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange for April and May and a kids’ program at the Garfield Park Conservatory; details to come.

Hope to see you there!


Chickens and Cold Temperatures

We’re due for some VERY cold temps here in Chicago (in the negative degrees F, and windchills even lower), and a number of questions have come up about chickens and cold temps.

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve compiled. If you have suggestions, feel free to post.


  • Keep bedding loose and dry. Deep bedding helps trap heat.
  • Clear snow from bedding.



  • Cover the coop and wire-covered areas (such as the run) with a plastic tarp, greenhouse plastic, dropcloth, or plywood.
  • Fill in cracks and crevices in the coop with newspaper or cardboard.
  • The coop should not be completely airtight; allow some air circulation to prevent frostbite.
  • Stack strawbales around the sides, esp on the sides with northern/western exposure to act as insulation.


  • Make sure roosts are in the least drafty place in the coop.
  • Use wide roosts for toe coverage (2-4 inches in width)

 Supplemental heat

  • If ceiling is higher than 2 feet above the chickens, you may want to install a heat lamp above the roost that will turn on when the temp is below 35 degrees.
  • Be sure that the lamp cannot be damaged by a flying bird and that it is not a fire hazard.
  • If you bring the birds indoors, make a gradual transition to warmer temps – e.g., from 0 degrees to 20 degrees to 45 degrees, NOT from 0 degrees directly to 45 degrees.
  • Note that overheating can lead to obese birds. If you supplement heat, set the thermostat to just above freezing.


  • Watch toes and combs/wattles for signs of frostbite. A little petroleum jelly on combs and wattles can prevent frostbite *however* be careful not to overapply – petroleum products can coat the feathers, reducing their insulating properties.
  • Do not allow them to be out in the snow for extended periods of time to avoid freezing their toes.
  • Clear snow out of sections of the run so they don’t have to walk in it.
  • If chickens do get frostbite, treat with aloe vera, can use aspirin solution for pain (three 325 mg tabs per 1 gal water), don’t massage, don’t heat up rapidly. Allow tissue to die/fall off naturally.

Food and Water


  • Check water several times a day to be sure it’s not frozen.
  • Feed mash mixed with warm milk or water. Some folks feed warm oatmeal. Make sure it is not hot, so the birds don’t burn themselves.
  • Provide a few handfuls of scratch grains in the evening before the hens go to roost. Can also feed a handful or two of scratch in the AM.


  • Extreme temperatures can stress the birds and cause hens to go out of lay.
  • Collect eggs so they do not freeze and lead to egg eating.

Winterizing Your Chickens

If you got chicks this spring, you probably asked the question, “How do I take care of the hens over the winter?” Bringing them into the house is not a great idea, and unlike dogs, chickens generally aren’t given to wearing sweaters and booties. Nor are they given to fluid replacement.

Here are some tips for helping your chickens ride out the winter!

  • Move your coop to an area out of the wind. You can also cover it with a tarp or heavy-duty plastic to prevent drafts – but be sure the coop is not airtight – moisture needs to escape!
  • Minimize moisture in the coop. Moisture leads to frostbite. It’s more important to have a dry coop than a warm coop.
  • Provide lots of bedding or straw. Bedding should be dry and fluffy so that it traps the heat.
  • Stack strawbales around the run to hold in the heat and prevent snow from blowing in.
  • A heat lamp is optional. Beware of fire hazards, especially with the dry bedding, and use a red, rather than white, bulb.
  • If you want your hens to continue laying during the winter, supplement white light in the morning (not evening) so that the hens get 14 hours of light. You can also let their bodies rest and give them the winter off from laying.
  • Make sure they have fresh, unfrozen water and give them more food – their bodies need it to stay warm. You can keep two waterers – one in the house and one outside – and swap them out as the outside one freezes.
  • Use Vaseline on combs and wattles to keep them from freezing.
  • Provide wide roosts that allow the down feathers on their bellies to cover their feet.
  • If your hens run in the snow, watch feet for signs of frostbite – they will look swollen and puffy. They might become infected, and the chicken could lose toes or the whole foot.
  • Provide extra protein for the birds during the winter months. A handful of dry cat (not dog) food will give an extra protein boost.
  • You can provide a handful of scratch grain in the evening, before they head to the roost for the night. This will help keep their metabolism going during the night.
  • Provide a head of cabbage, hung from a string or chain to keep them engaged and prevent pecking.

Contact Home to Roost if you’d like an in-home winterizing consultation!

Basic Backyard Chicken Care, November 7, 2015

Sat, 11/07/2015 – 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park
5500 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

United States

Farm fresh eggs from your own back yard? YES!

Please join us for our comprehensive workshop on best practices for Basic Backyard Chicken Care in Chicago and surrounding communities.

Raising chickens as pets and for eggs is LEGAL in Chicago – and part of our growing local food and urban agriculture scene.

Learn everything from daily needs and year-round care to relevant city regulations to keep your chickens well, and you & your neighbors happy…You will leave the workshop with the knowledge, recommendations, and resources you need for “day in the life” and “year in the life” care of your own home flock.

Sign up at http://www.learngrowconnect.org/event/basic-backyard-chicken-care-chicago

Sat., Oct. 17, 2015: Home to Roost at Chicago Botanic Garden

Come out for a class on basic chicken keeping, followed by my winter chicken care class. Learn more here.

Snow Birds: Winter Care for Chickens Class TOMORROW, 10-10-15

I’m running my chicken winter care class tomorrow at the Garfield Park Conservatory from 10-12. Join the class to learn how to care for your birds during the winter. This class addresses the coop, the run, freezing water, feed, and the birds themselves. (Chicken-keeping class is a prerequisite.)

Marek’s Disease and Avian Flu

In preparation for the coop tour, we should all be aware of how to keep our birds healthy. I’ve seen several cases of Marek’s disease (confirmed and suspected), and the avian flu is a big question mark for bird owners.

I’ve compiled some information to provide some guidance for participating in the coop tour and visiting other families’ flocks at other times.

Marek’s and Avian Flu


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