Chicken Math

Time for Tea by Celia Klassen
If you’ve had anything to do with chickens you’ll likely know what that term means. Quite simply it’s ending up with more chickens than you planned, and possibly other animals as well.
In the Spring of 2018 I went to Cal Ranch for some dog food, or something as innocent as that. I had been thinking about getting chickens for a while, but I really didn’t know the first thing about them. I didn’t have a coop or anything.
Somehow when I checked out of Cal Ranch I had two chicks and two ducklings, a bag of duckling food and chick food, some grit and various other things that were recommended on the pamphlet attached to the side of the chick box.
This is how chicken math works you see; dog + need of food = 2 chicks + 2 ducklings. I really hate regular math like they learn in school, but I found I quite enjoyed chicken math. 2 chicks + 2 ducklings = 12 + bonus chicken in the mail. Lots of chickens + chicken friend = 3 more ducks. 2 blue eggs + want more blue eggs = 12 more chickens. Looking for adolescent chickens + a hatchery full of chickens needing rescued = way too many chickens.
Bedrest + twins = no more ducks. No more ducks + chickens are easy = more chickens.
Other people have found that their chicken math goes something like 2 chickens + 12 chickens = 3 goats. At the moment I have 8 chickens and no ducks. I really miss the ducks for reasons I’ll go into in a minute, but I was determined to wait until my twins were a little easier until I got more…and then the hatchery catalogue fell into my mailbox.
Anyway, if you think you might enjoy this type of math, or think you’re impervious to it and can stick to only 6 hens, then here are a few things I’ve found interesting. If you get chicks it’s a long wait (20 weeks that feels like 40 – oh look more chicken math!) to get that first egg. But when you do you’ve never tasted an egg so satisfying. It’s also definitely addictive getting all the different colors in your basket.
I find chickens very easy to keep. My six year old managed to keep them alive while I was on bedrest and had newborn twins. Part of the easiness is I have an automatic waterer (sitting on a water heater) and a homemade PVC pipe feeder that will last a week if I want to go on vacation. All in all though the excitement of chickens wears off. I wouldn’t go back to store bought eggs, so I’ll keep them, but it’s less ‘fun’ than it was.
Incidentally, the color of a yolk tells you a lot about how the chickens have been kept. The pale yolks you get in the grocery store show the chickens have been caged or confined. ‘Free range’ only means that they can, in theory, access outdoors. So if there are 5,000 chickens in one barn and space for one chicken to go outside at a time, and they are not in individual cages within the barn, they can call that free range. “Organic” only refers to the feed given to the chickens and often a lack of antibiotics, which is good, but not as good as you’re led to believe. A dark orange yolk (full of vitamin A) shows the chicken had access to fresh foods like grubs, grass, fruit, etc.
Ducks on the other hand are more work. They require water deep enough to at least dip they’re whole beak in or they get very sick. They prefer enough to get their whole body wet, but this water needs to be changed once a week in cooler temps and twice a week or more in hot temps. It also needs to be kept un-frozen in the winter which is difficult. But they have so much more personality.
You’re shaking your head thinking I’m strange, I know, but they have at least as much personality as a cat, and when they all come waddling towards you in the morning you can’t help but start your day with a smile.
Their eggs are much bigger than the egg of a chicken and have a lot more flavor. Another major advantage of ducks is if you can free-range them in your yard, they will keep the fly and mosquito population to almost nothing. We didn’t notice it until we had to get rid of ours, and suddenly the flies were so much worse. They catch the flies in the air and also eat the larvae in the grass.
I didn’t find my ducks ate any of my flowers but they did eat weeds! They are much messier, and more work, but if I had to choose, I’d choose ducks.

Thanks for reading!

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