For the benefit of the uninitiated, “Chicken Math” is force of nature that creates the perceived need to increase the size of one’s existing flock of chickens. There’s even an iPad app for that; the purpose of the app? To teach children addition, of course! The Force is powerful, undeniable and knows no boundaries.
Chicken Math is stealthy and can be facilitated by ordinary objects or people. There is often an incubator, feed store, or online chick catalog involved, and more often than not, the Force works through an enabler. The enabler may innocently show the unwary a beautiful breed in their own flock that then must be acquired, or may present as a conscientious feed store clerk who assures you that, due to store policy, you cannot buy the two chicks you intended to purchase, you must take at least six. There’s no arguing with that. The Force is formidable.
The unlikely enabler this month was my daughter’s kindergarten teacher whose class had been learning about chickens for weeks, culminating in an exciting experiment: incubating chicken eggs. The Egg Project was a delicate operation, requiring precise temperatures, turning and humidity. It would take 21 days of waiting to learn if their experiment was to be a success. My six year old daughter brought home an Egg Calendar and religiously colored it in daily, anxiously looking forward to Hatch Day.
As Hatch Day approached, curiosity got the better of me as I wondered how the chicks were developing. I innocently emailed the teacher for a status report. The Force was quietly at work. On Hatch Day she replied to my inquiry with one of her own: did I have any baby chicksvailable? [Gulp] She explained that someone had tinkered with the incubator’s settings and increased the temperature beyond that which any embryo could survive. The Egg Project was on track to inflict some major disappointment upon the kindergartners. The yellow crayons were now just nubs and there would be nothing but heartbreak to show for their patience and vigilance.
I had already been in the grip of Chicken Math for months prior to the commencement of the Egg Project and had hatched twenty-two chicks to add to our flock of twelve. None were young enough to pass for day old chicks though. Regardless, I couldn’t bear imagining the expressions on the faces of those children upon the realization that their hatching experiment had failed. Something had to be done. The wheels started turning; I had to find some baby chicks!
I immediately put out feelers on the Internet for day old chicks. I posted a virtual “chicks wanted” advertisement online and within minutes, was informed that a feed store just ten minutes from our home had day old chicks in stock. Yes! With the fervent approval and undying appreciation of the teacher, the plan unfolded. I bought the chicks and sneaked them into the classroom brooder before the children arrived to school the next day.
Don’t believe for a moment that this was solely an altruistic gesture on behalf of the children. While I very much did want the kiddos to experience the sense of wonderment and awe that comes with having had a role in bringing new life into the world, Chicken Math was undeniably in play. I knew full well that these fuzzy butts were coming home with me at the end of the week to reside in my new coop and I was giddy about it (giddiness being a common side-effect of Chicken Math).
The fuzzy butts were named before they even got to kindergarten. Meet April, May and June:
The children were ecstatic to see that “their” eggs had hatched and permanent emotional harm requiring years of therapy, averted. Whew. You can attempt to fight the Force, but be advised: resistance is futile, Chicken Math always prevails.
The following Ode on Chicken Math was written by one of my Facebook peeps, Morghan Rogers, and is too funny not to share.
Ode on Chicken Math
If and when you get a hen, make sure in time she gets a friend.
That friend will bring a friend or three and you could have some roos for free!
With roosters comes the rooster dance …a shuffle, a wing, it’s a grand romance.
And romanced hens make lots of babies, and babies get you baby crazy.
So now you’re in the baby trance, all this fuss from a rooster dance.
They all need food so you’re off to the farm store later (we know what that means)
As a chicken keeper you should always say ‘no’ to the incubator!