Flock sitting service lets backyard chicken owners fly the coop

Craig and Dana Heinen have raised ducks as their pets like Lefse, Chelan and Gilly here for the last five years.

"I'm allergic to dogs and cats, so having a pet, being a bird, it kind of makes sense for us," said Craig Heinen.

Now the Heinens are making sure other backyard bird owners don't have to cry fowl when they want to get away.

"I have been having a lot of fun getting engaged and meeting people that also own chickens and ducks and other pets and kind of learning the community," said Heinen.

The Richfield couple started their own flock-sitting service after they had a hard time finding someone to take care of their ducks when they were out of town. With more people in urban areas of the Twin Cities owning their own chickens, they figured they were not alone.

"For the most part, people that have dogs and cats, there's plenty of other options for them. So we're kind of filling that niche of fowl for the most part, and smaller animals," said Heinen.

The Heinens provide food, change water, and clean bedding for chickens and ducks, and sometimes rabbits, so their owners can go on vacation. They also take pictures and videos of the pets to send to their customers, so they don't have to worry about their feathered friends while they are gone.

"We'll hang out with them for 30, 45 minutes. Make sure they can stretch their legs once a day, once every other day. Kind of depends on what the homeowner, what their chicken owners want," said Heinen.

The Heinens also host so-called "duck encounters" where people who are interested in having pet waterfowl can learn what they are in for.

But they are hopeful their flock-sitting venture won't lay an egg.

"People really care about their pets and I think that it's helpful that we care about our pets as much as they do. So having us visit them is I guess that's overall just a lot of fun," said Heinen.