Jenna and Brien Rodenz aren’t your typical chicken owners. While Jenna had the idea of having backyard hens, her husband, Brien, really got down to business. With a background in computers, Brien has created a high-tech chicken coop filled with all the stops.
Brien made the birdhouse and the course with the help of his children. He has the door that leads to the race on a motor that is controlled by a computer program he designed so he can open it remotely. A camera inside allows him to follow the chickens throughout the day and make sure they have enough food and water. Of course, a heater works inside to keep them warm all winter long.
The chicken coop is even decorated with a framed picture of chicken eggs on the wall titled “our family”.
Jenna grew up with different types of birds in her home in Jordan and Prior Lake. She and her brother participated in 4H and now some of her children — Julia, 11; Erica, 9, Andrew, 6, and James, 3 — do the same. Having backyard chickens has been a great learning experience for them, she said.
The Rodenzes want their children to learn about the process of growing a hen, the different stages, laying eggs, how to care for them, and ultimately responsibility. November 30, the first day a hen laid an egg, was very exciting, Jenna said, adding that the children keep track of the date.
Jenna and Brien did some research to see which hens would be best at laying eggs and being gentle with the kids. They opted for the Barred Rock chickens, which are black and white. In July they started with a few extra chicks just in case there were any complications.
Now the family has four chickens. Each child had to choose a chick to keep. The other chicks were given to Jenna’s family in Jordan. The chickens are named Bella, Oreo, Space Rockety and Buttercup.
The chickens grew up around the Rodenz family, so they developed a close bond with them, especially Brien since he is their main caretaker. He didn’t have any growing birds, so he wasn’t sure what to expect from the chickens.
“I think it’s just kind of a bond that they’ve formed with me that they see me as their guardian,” Brien said. “They are very, very friendly.”
Brien recounted a time when the family was in the yard with the chickens. A delivery truck with squealing brakes was in the neighborhood. The chickens must have thought the noise was a hawk or an eagle because they ran alongside Brien’s legs for protection. It’s not something you expect from a chicken, he said.
The Rodenz also consider chickens part of their family. For the holidays, Brien hooked up his television screen to video footage of the chickens in his coop. Instead of having a fire accompanied by jazz music for ambiance, the family had their chickens, he said.
The Rodenz family even learned to communicate with their chickens. Chickens have their own language and by spending enough time with them, Brien says he can understand it. From a book, the family learned different sounds she can make to soothe them or say hello.
“It’s fun to learn their language and try what we learned in the book to communicate (at) a very basic level,” Brien said.
The City’s View of Chickens
In 2019, the city of Chanhassen passed an ordinance allowing backyard chickens on properties of one acre or more. Over time, the town and locals became more comfortable with the idea of backyard chickens. In 2021, the lot size limit was removed from the ordinance.
City staff initially had concerns about allowing chickens in Chanhassen. Planning commissioners thought that on smaller lots it could impact surrounding properties by attracting predators, said MacKenzie Young-Walters, the city’s associate planner. However, the city never received a slight increase in complaints
Another concern was with homeowners associations (HOAs). The issue has largely been resolved, with Chanhassen requiring an affidavit that the owner must notify the association of his intention to have chickens, Young-Walters said.
“At the end of the day, it’s always up to the HOA to enforce its rules,” Young-Walters said. “It ensures that, you know, they’re able to have that conversation and ideally work that out.”
Currently, nine Chanhassen properties in Chanhassen have chicken licenses. The number of properties is lower than the city expected when the ordinance was passed in 2019, but more in line with expectations when it was amended, Young-Walters said.
“We’re not seeing a huge flood of these by any means,” Young-Walters said.
According to Young-Walters, the city wanted to pass this ordinance in the interest of listening to its residents. He thinks there’s a broader trend in the metro and other cities looking to allow residents to have backyard chickens.