Cooperative Extension Contra Costa
University of California
Cooperative Extension Contra Costa


Chickens join the list of 'shelter-in-place' must-haves

Like flour, yeast, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, all over the country there's been a run on chicks, wrote Diana Williams in a article published by the Sacramento Bee. The author and her family adopted four chicks, and as they grew, so did her thirst for information on raising chickens at home. 

"Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online," Williams wrote.

Download a workbook free from UCCE specialist Maurice Pitesky's website,
The website, managed by UC Cooperative Extension epidemiology specialist and veterinarian Maurice Pitesky, offers myriad resources for California residents who have backyard chickens or are considering buying them, including a downloadable 44-page family-friendly workbook with critical information, crafts and activities.

Pitesky said there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making it the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Raising backyard chickens seems to be another somewhat senseless hoarding practice taking place during the COVID-19 crisis. Williams admitted that, "this isn't exactly logical if you consider it's about half a year until chicks lay eggs." She speculated that a search for meaning, purpose and connectedness during COVID-19 uncertainty is another driver of chicken adoption, along with suddenly having more time at home.

"So the prospect of being able to have new life inside our house – life that's warm, fuzzy and unfolding in a new way every day – that seemed more than inviting. It felt essential," Williams wrote.

Industry producers are concerned about the trend.

“We don't like all these people getting into backyard birds,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “People start out trying to grow their own eggs and find out it's not so much fun. Instead of trying to get rid of them properly, people turn them loose and they develop a disease. That's what scares the commercial industry.”



Raising baby chicks offers meaning, purpose and connectedness during COVID-19 crisis, says a commentary published in the Sacramento Bee.
Posted on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 10:23 AM
Tags: chickens (8), Maurice Pitesky (12)
Focus Area Tags: Family

Consult UC ANR's map to see how close you live to citrus with HLB disease

UC Cooperative Extension developed an online interactive map that allows Californians to see how close they live to citrus trees infected with huanglongbing disease, reported Jeanette Marantos in the Los Angeles Times. This information is critical for the more than 60% of Californians who are growing their own backyard orange, grapefruit, mandarin, lime and other citrus trees.

Huanglongbing is an exotic citrus disease that kills every tree it infects. An exotic insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, spreads the disease from tree to tree. If the disease makes its way into California's commercial citrus production regions, it threatens the state's valuable and iconic citrus industry.

Go to and type in your address. If you are inside the red circle — within two miles of a hot zone — UCCE suggests you remove your citrus trees and plant different types of fruit trees, such as peaches, pears, apples or figs, until researchers find a cure. In the yellow circle — within two to five miles of a hot zone — consider replacing your tree with a non-citrus fruit tree or protect your citrus trees. Find detailed information on home citrus management here

Go to to find out how close you live to citrus that were infected with HLB.

“When we first started this program back in 2012, I was encouraging Master Gardeners to teach homeowners how to treat their trees [to discourage psyllids, which are the insects that spread HLB],” she said, “but the complaint came back from the Master Gardeners, ‘I treat my trees but none of my neighbors do, so what's the point?'” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension entomology specialist and director of the Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter.

Grafton-Cardwell said the threat is serious. HLB disease devastated Florida's citrus industry when it hit in 2005, destroying half of its acreage and production, and pretty much eliminating residential citrus. 

The battle against the psyllid in California is being helped by the introduction in 2011 of Tamarixia radiata, a parasitic wasp native to Pakistan, by UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist Mark Hoddle and his entomologist wife Christina Hoddle.

"We've had psyllid here [in California] since 2008, but we still have a lot of oranges,” Hoddle said. “The disease hasn't swept through California the way it did through Florida, and I believe our biological control program is why. Psyllid populations have decreased by 70% to 80% since our first parasite release in 2011. We haven't wiped out HLB in citrus trees, but we have mitigated the risk.”

Posted on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 10:16 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

CalFresh Healthy Living, UC supports safe, healthy food access during the COVID-19 pandemic

An article posted to local media channels letting CalFresh/EBT customers know markets are open for them.

Essential services provided by CalFresh Healthy Living, UC delivered over 270 pounds of school garden produce and help farmers markets that accept EBT/CalFresh stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Issue As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds...

Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 5:03 PM

Are coyotes becoming bolder in California while humans shelter in place?

Coyote sightings are on the rise in San Francisco, even taking naps in patches of green spaces in the city, reported Uma Chrobak in Popular Science. However, it is unlikely they indicate a change in wildlife behavior, said UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife interactions advisor Niamh Quinn.

Officials believe the increased sightings may have more to do with a change in human behavior. Many people are at home and bored, so they may staring out the window and going on more walks in their neighborhoods.

Urban coyote sightings can be recorded at (Photo: National Park Service)

Quinn follows five radio-collared coyotes in Los Angeles for a research project. She says her coyotes haven't changed their routines since the shelter-in-place order went into effect, staying in their respective territories, which include areas near a shopping mall and golf course.

The number of coyotes reported in San Francisco on Quinn's Coyote Cacher website isn't unusual, she said.

“People are just at home noticing more things,” she said, "especially in California, we're not all spending five hours a day on the freeway [now], you know?”

If you see coyotes or other wildlife, give them space, Quinn said. “It's very important to keep wildlife wild,” she said. “You should never feed wildlife.”

Coyote sightings can be recorded on the Coyote Cacher website, and the public can view a map of coyotes sightings by ZIP Code on the site.

Posted on Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 10:35 AM
Tags: coyotes (9), Niamh Quinn (12), wildlife (8)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Garden therapy during the coronavirus crisis

Director of the UC Master Gardener Program, Missy Gable, provided helpful advice for families who want to garden to relieve stress during the coronavirus crisis.
"I'm a huge believer in garden therapy right now," famed chef Alice Waters told reporter Aimee Rawlins. To find out how to dig in, Rawlins turned to the director of the UC Master Gardener Program Missy Gable.

"Start modestly and in a way that you can manage it,” Gable said. “If you've never done this before, don't transform a quarter acre.”

She recommends beginning by assessing space you have available for gardening - whether in the backyard, front yard or the corner of a balcony.

“Get to know the space, and watch to see how light moves around," Gabe said.

Most plants need about six hours of direct sunlight a day. Then figure out what kind of soil you're dealing with: Is it dry or rocky? Does it have the consistency of clay? Is there good drainage or does the water often pool? None of these results are “bad” or should dissuade you from planting there, but understanding what you're starting with will inform what you do next.

Gable recommends planting fruits and vegetables that you love to eat.

“For a starting gardener, depending on what your family is most interested in, I always recommend the standards: tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, eggplants. Those are fun and easy," she said.

If you have kids, Gable recommends including some plants that have a shorter yield time, so they can see the results faster. “Radishes are a really nice place to start,” she said. “They mature really quickly, and it's a fun way for kids to see the fruits of their labor quickly so then they're invested in the plants that take a little longer, like tomatoes.”

The UC Master Gardener Program trains volunteers to extend research-based gardening information to the public. Gable recommends looking up your local UC Master Gardener Program to get accurate information based on local conditions.

Posted on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 11:08 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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