Before we acquired our own chickens, we heard about this phenomenon called “chicken math”, where people seem to lose the ability to think rationally about how many chickens they can/should have. We chuckled and imagined that these were people with latent hoarding tendencies. Until it happened to us.
It started early, and without warning. We were at a feed store and saw chicks. We had to have some. We bought a dozen week old straight-run fluffballs, along with the requisite supplies, and happily got them settled in at home. A dozen chicks didn’t seem like many, and we knew we could end up with half being roosters…so, three days later, we got six more. Well, it turns out that only two of the original 18 were roosters (and one marans chick died in the first week), so we had a flock of 15 laying hens!
Fast forward nearly a year: more than half of our free-range laying hens were lost to fox and hawk predation (mostly hawk), so we needed to replenish our stock. We hatched 22 chicks in January, and 13 this month. 35 chicks plus 7 adults = 43. If the incubator didn’t already have duck eggs in it, it would likely have more chicken eggs in there.
So we were at the farm store yesterday and what did we spy? Oh, yes…chicks! And they had a heritage breed, Buckeye, that we wanted to add to the flock. No waiting for eggs to hatch – instant gratification! Fortunately, logic prevailed and we returned home without any chicks. For that day.
Here’s what happens when you impulse buy chicks…you have to buy all your initial supplies immediately; you soon realize you need to build at least a grow-out brooder; you go through lots of chick starter and grit (if they’re outside); you clean up lots of poop and struggle with many pricey, crummy waterers that make big messes in your brooder; you truck teenage chicks to and from the tractor daily so they don’t go stir crazy inside; a thick dust layer covers everything in the brooder room; you worry about every little thing that seems even slightly “off” as you research chicken injuries/diseases extensively; you eventually let them free range outside and then you want to surveil them to ensure they stay safe…and even though it can be stressful at times, you enjoy your chickens and their personalities (and eggs!) so much, you just want to get more. There are so many breeds, so many egg colors…the madness just takes hold and you don’t even realize it.