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Chicken Math

You say it won't happen to you, but chicken math has a way of sneaking up on even the most steadfast of chicken keepers.

Chicken math is a perplexing phenomenon that occurs to nearly every chicken owner. It cannot be explained, and it cannot be understood.

The force behind arithmechick is more powerful than us mere humans can comprehend, and if we're not careful the human race may fall prey to our chicken overlords!

Olive egger and Polish hen in chicken run.
There are only 2.5 chickens in this picture!

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What Is Chicken Math?

Chicken math is, for lack of a better description, a way to calculate the total and utter loss of self-control when it comes to your chicken flock.

It starts innocently enough, with a desire for 2-3 hens in the backyard to help provide delicious eggs for your family. In a short period of time, you're looking at large coops, adding swings in your chicken run, and shopping for incubators.

Before you know it you've got a flock of 35 tiny raptors.

That's chicken math. There is no known cure.

Woman holding 3 chicks.
This might look like 3 beaks, but it's actually only .75!

Levels Of Severity

The level of "mathening" that happens to each chicken owner is different. There's no rhyme or reason to how bad you get the fever and how weak you are to the pull of the Bawk.

Mild cases lead to a couple more backyard chickens than you originally planned and a complete addiction to hanging with your flock.

Moderate reactions to fowlgebra include many more chickens than you intended, coop renovations, run add-ons, and sneaking eggs under broody hens when no one else is looking.

Severe arithmechick can be dangerous. For some people, chickens are the homesteading gateway drug. If you're like us, chickens can open your mind to all of the fun hobby farm animals and livestock that you absolutely need. By now, you're dabbling in guinea fowl, throwing up a pig pen, and painting bee hives.

Woman in forested chicken run.
There are only 4.25 chickens in this photo!

"It Won't Happen To Me"

You're thinking chicken math won't happen to me. I'm not weak, I have self-control.

I am here to tell you that it absolutely will.

Before you know it, you'll be taking coffee breaks in the chicken coop, hanging out with the girls. Building perching spaces, and searching for wooden ladders at yard sales to give your girls new places to sit!

Hen and pullet in chicken run.
You guessed it, only 1.25 chickens!

What Causes Flare-Ups?

Chicken math isn't a linear progression. Like the moon, it waxes and wanes.

You may think you've got a handle on it, but then you visit a friend who just got a beautiful speckled Isbar hen and you're back in it. Asking for her breeder's information and convincing yourself that you need to buy at least 4 baby chicks. You know, for integration purposes.

Maybe you walk into the feed store and hear the chirping of baby Whiting True Blue chicks, and you breathe deeply, picking one up and cradling it like a newborn. But the store has a "must buy 6 policy" so you bring home 6 more babies.

Could be a picture of someone's egg basket that you saw the most gorgeous olive egg and had to add one to your color palette. Or you stumbled across a list of black and white chickens and that white crested black polish captured your heart.

The trigger for your chicken math urges can be varied and as unique as you and your flock.

Farm fresh eggs in a basket.

Chicken Math Pros

  • Better quality, tastier fresh eggs
  • More chickens = more egg production
  • Enjoyment and companionship
  • Healthy compost for the garden and food forests
  • Effective use of food waste by feeding scraps to your flock
  • Learning new skills in animal husbandry

Chicken Math Cons

  • none
  • and also none

More Chicken Content!

How To Do Chicken Math

Head counts are old and busted. Arithmechick is the new hotness.

Don't worry, this version of Fowlgebra is easy - mostly cause it's personal to every chicken keeper. Your chicken math may look different than mine, but here are my basic rules before you start adding things up.

Eggs under a broody hen, in the incubator 0Can't count your chickens before they hatch.
Juvenile chickens younger than 20 weeks, in the coop or in the brooder .25
These have a 50% chance of being a rooster, in which case they'd count towards that total.
Roosters - all of them1It doesn't matter how many roosters you have, they aren't hens - they count as 1 total.
Broody hens-1If they aren't laying, they don't count until they're done parenting!
Small breed chickens and bantams.5They take up less space and eat less food.
Full-size laying hens1These are the only chickens that count 1:1!

Let's do some math on my current flock:

24 chicks (24 x .25) = 6
1 rooster (1) = 1
1 broody + 4 hatched chicks (-1 + 1) = 0
4 Polish hens ( .5 x4) = 2
4 Lavender Orpington hens (4x1) = 4
4 Silverudd's Blue Isbar (4x1) = 4
2 Whiting True Blue (2x1) = 2
2 BYM hen (2x1) = 1
1 Olive Egger (1x1) = 1

My current flock: 21

Broody hen and chicks.
The number of chickens here is actually 0!!

Thoughts From The Chicken Coop

Chicken math is an inexplicable force that creeps up on unexpecting chicken keepers.

While it may seem counter-intuitive at first, understanding the concept and implementing its principles can help you maintain control over people's perception of your flock.

As long as you properly calculate each element according to its modifier value, you can feel confident in the arithmechick!

Related: Tour our chicken coop!

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