What is #chickenmath? 

I’ll pause the normal shooty goodness type of blog post here and say that I am so glad you asked! You see #chickenmath is not unlike gun math or shoe math. I find the best way to explain the concept is in journey format, Common Core style.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m a self-proclaimed chicken mama. It all started with books like Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life and Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small SpacesBecoming a chicken farmer seemed so easy and rewarding. My husband was rather skeptical, but as I emphatically told him, if we didn’t like owning chickens, we could just eat them! Seeing as how I do all the butchering and cooking, he reluctantly agreed.

My birthday week, I decided a small flock would be the perfect present from the family. After a quick search on Craigslist, I hopped in the truck and drove an hour and a half to a small town in Kansas to pick up 5 chickens and a ratty little coop for the bargain price of $100.

Julie gets her chickens!

I was so excited! The young cluckers were a hit with my daughters, and a lot of fun. Even my husband thought they were pretty cool. The first members of the Golob flock were the “Fabulous Five” — 3 roosters and 2 hens named Paul Bunyan, Bart, V-Rap, Esmeralda and Mavis.

The Original Fab 5 Flock

As chicken tweens we didn’t have any issues with the birds. However, reliable internet research establishes that an acceptable rooster to hen ratio is ideally no more than 1 rooster for every 8 hens. As the bigger birds in our flock, Paul Bunyan and Bart both ended up in the crock pot leaving our smallest rooster, V-Rap (his gang name and short for Velociraptor) as king of the roost. 

Five was such a good number and so I set out to replace Paul and Bart with hens. That’s when I discovered Silkies. Odd and fluffy, these tiny chickens would be perfect for the girls and they even liked being held! We added 3 named Noella, Naomi and Natasha. The new additions replaced 2 roosters and that’s when we formally introduced #chickenmath to the flock.

The Silkies

With 5 hens all to himself V-Rap went from small and dominated to mighty and mean. My youngest was terrified of him and one evening while I was shutting the chickens up for the night he flew off the roost, right at my head. What the flock! Small spurs flailing I ducked in the nick of time. Out of the coop he flew and into the sunset. I did not appreciate the attempt at kicking me in the face and though I tried to shoo him back in, he would have none of it. Alas, V-Rap met his demise that night, likely eaten by a coyote, fox or some other nocturnal chicken eating beast.

We were back to the Fabulous Five we set out for. All was well.

Then, Esmeralda passed. It was a shock. She produced our first egg and she loved to eat “mealie worms” out of our hands. Devastated that one of our two egg laying hens was dead, we set out to replace her with two more, because #chickenmath. My husband and I took a day date trip to a place called Jacob’s Cave – an amazing congregation where you can literally buy anything likely found in my late Aunt Agatha’s basement, and farm animals. That’s where we found two black Cochins.

Where the Silkies resembled characters in Fraggle Rock, the two new hens were by far the fanciest and most elegant chickens in our flock. We decided to give them Downton Abbey names, Mary & Edith.

That was when my husband said, “we’re done.” Mavis, our star layer, ran the roost. Mary and Edith plodded along with promise. The Silkies were sweet! The problem? Eggs, or lack thereof.

Catastrophe hit one night when I let everyone down. I forgot to close up the coop! Noella and Naomi were slaughtered by what likely ate V-Rap. To make matters worse, Naomi was my husband’s favorite and the girls loved sweet-tempered Noella. It was a rough few days.

I consulted Craigslist once again and found a farm that was overrun with chickens and offering laying hens for the bargain price of $4 each. To replace the 2 Silkies, we brought home 4 Red Stars. Yes, #chickenmath.

The Tetras

The Red Star’s were technically free range birds having spent their lives milling about in a fenced “farm” with other livestock, but truthfully they looked rough, worn out and wary. Assured by the piles of eggs all over the farm, we knew they were producers. Looks aside we welcomed them and named them Ida, Mona, Fiona and Lily. The new additions didn’t seem to care about hen hierarchy and just did their thing. They adapted quickly. With the run of several acres of greenery the quartet happily added to our daily egg count. 

All was well. 

Except… There was just something missing. Sipping coffee one morning it dawned on me how I missed the early morning crow of a male chicken! All my reliable internet research told me that hens are happiest and productive when they have a rooster around. We became friends with local farmers and fellow shooter peeps who happened to have a few spare roosters. The girls and I made a trip and brought one home. Oscar is a Bantam Ameraucana and, unlike the late V-Rap, a rather timid fellow, at least around humans. 

Everyone was happy. The rooster to hen ratio was perfect! All was well.

Except… You see, chickens don’t lay forever. The older they get, the less they produce. Our chickens are all in their prime. Every year we’d get less and less. We had to have a plan for consistent egg numbers. That’s when we added the Ameraucana pullets (young chickens) Khaleesi, Maleficent and Isabeau and a mix breed named Astrid. We couldn’t wait to get the colorful eggs these Easter Eggers are known for.

The Ameraucanas

Alas, they just didn’t do well. One by one they died off. Where the other chickens thrived, the Ameraucanas did not. First Maleficent, then Isabeau. This did not bode well.

Our farmer friends offered to raise some chicks for us over the summer and as soon as they were old enough to fend for themselves we brought them home, 6 of them (#chickenmath). We added 3 Barred Rocks named Nefertiti, Isis and Cleopatra and 3 more Buff Orpingtons named Hermione, Minerva and Penelope.

Everyone was happy. Mavis, Natasha, Mary, Edith, Fiona, Mona, Ida, Lily, Astrid, Khaleesi, Nefertiti, Isis, Cleopatra, Hermione, Minerva, Penelope and Oscar made for the perfect flock. All was well.

Until Khaleesi died. 

The last of the Ameraucanas was gone. To make matters worse, Khaleesi had just started laying these cute little blue eggs! I hit (you guessed it) Craigslist yet again to find suitable #chickenmath replacements and found a farm selling 6-month-old, laying Rhode Island Red hens. We arrived with the intention of getting 3, but ended up with Sansa, Red Sonia, Melisandre and Merida (#chickenmath). 

Julie's Rhode Island Reds

As of today, we get 4-5 eggs a day. All is well.

For now.

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