In the face of unsettling headlines and strains of social distancing, it’s important to find ways to reduce your personal and your family’s stress levels. Laurie Humphrey, RICP®, BFA™, Granite Financial, St. Cloud, Minnesota, has found a unique way to divert her family’s attention from not living in a normal world, while creating great family memories and learning opportunities. Her family is just putting the finishing touches on a brand-new chicken coop and is nurturing nine fuzzy future occupants in their home’s basement.
With a dog, a cat, two guinea pigs, two rabbits, a turtle and five fish, it was just a matter of time before the Humphrey children (ages 9, 12 and 15) talked their parents into some new pets. And, Laurie will no longer have to worry about finding eggs at her local grocery store. In fact, when the chicks are grown, she expects them to produce 1,200 to 1,500 eggs a year – plenty to share with friends and relatives.
Since the children are currently being homeschooled, Laurie and her husband, Josh, used the project as a learning opportunity. The children helped Josh, a licensed electrician and skilled carpenter, dismantle a wood playset at the back edge of their acreage and repurpose its beams for the chicken coop. For three weeks, they worked alongside their mom and dad during the evenings and weekends – learning how to use a staple nailer, nail gun and miter saw; apply shingles; square up a frame and paint.
“I’ve been thankful to be home and share this experience with our kids,” Laurie said. “Our family motto is ‘Choose Joy.’ So, we’re trying to make the best of our current situation. Once the weather gets warmer, we also plan to host a bonfire and just ask everyone to keep the required distance.”
The Humphreys took several measures to keep their chickens safe and healthy. They dug a trench to the coop to provide power to the warming light to keep the temperature from slipping too low during a Minnesota winter. They also dug down around the run’s perimeter to bury fencing to dissuade dogs and foxes from digging under the fence.
To protect their chickens from eagles from the nearby wooded area, they screened the sides and put a tin roof on the run. The children found a large tree branch for a roosting pole and one of Laurie’s daughters even made privacy curtains for the nesting boxes.
While researching what they needed to know about raising chickens, the Humphreys learned chickens who are handled from a young age are less likely to peck at people when they are older. So, the children gladly play with their baby chicks. They’ve even taken them on an outing to visit their future home during the warmer part of the day.
When traveling resumes and the family can take off for a fishing trip, they plan to trade “chicken sitting” duties with neighbors who also raise chickens.