What Is Chicken Math?
Chickens are well-known as one of the first “gateway drugs” to greener living. They’re easy to get, quick to raise, have a low cost of entry (compared to the other options), and afford their owners meat, eggs, manure, pest control, and feathers.
Some chicken owners end up falling in love with their little feathered friends so much that they end up getting more… and more… and more! In the backyard chicken world, we affectionately call this phenomenon “chicken math.” Sometimes, chicken math can even lead to other farm animals – such as quail or ducks – or even a garden!
Chickens are what started Little Onion Farm’s self-sufficient journey, and they do the same for many others, too. We don’t regret our progression from backyard chickens to full-on homestead. That being said, it’s important to be one step ahead of chicken math so that you and your flock aren’t caught unawares when it happens.
Why Does Chicken Math Happen?
Why is chicken math such a common phenomenon? What leads to it happening to so many of us? While we don’t have a definitive answer – the exact reasons probably depend on the individual – we do have a few theories.
The main reason, we think, is because there are so many breeds for chicken enthusiasts to choose from. It’s too easy to build your starter flock, realize how much you enjoy your chickens, then find a handful of new breeds with new traits you’ve never seen before! Maybe you just need a green egg layer in your flock, or perhaps you want an all-black Ayam Cemani (they’re very en vogue right now, after all). Adding just a few more chicks to your flock shouldn’t be any problem, right?
Chicken math isn’t necessarily bad, even though it can be problematic when you aren’t ready for it. So long as you’re able to keep your flock healthy – i.e., each chicken has space, safety, food, and water- you can, in theory, add as many chickens to it as you want.
In fact, the easy scalability of backyard chickens is another chicken math risk that gets a lot of folks. Picture this: you have a flock of four hens – which you thought would be all you needed – but, during the wintertime, your hens’ laying slows down, and you find that you can’t collect enough eggs for your family through the cold months. Or, perhaps you get enough eggs, but you want more color variety in your egg basket (another very common cause of chicken math).
While there are many potential solutions to those problems, adding more hens is easily the most attractive one! As long as you have enough room in your coop (or the time and money necessary to acquire another one), adding a few more girls to your flock is as easy as a quick trip to the local farm store.
There’s one more cause of chicken math that often creeps in pretty late in the process, and that’s the “hidden benefits” of your flock. The vast majority of chicken owners start their flock for food-related reasons: they want to know where their food comes from, they want to spend less on eggs from the grocery store, or they want some peace of mind in the event of a food shortage.
However, most of us don’t see the other benefits of backyard chickens until later on. Compost is a huge one; just a few chickens provide plentiful raw compost that can be sold or added to your own garden. Chickens will even turn your kitchen scraps directly into said compost, shrinking your footprint and helping to reduce the waste put in our landfills.
Chickens will even do a moderate amount of grass mowing for you if you let them. While they don’t go out of their way to eat grass like a cow or sheep would, they’ll nibble at it and tamp it down enough to make a visible difference. Plus, any droppings that make it into your lawn will leave it healthier and greener than before.
Poultry has always been my passion, but chickens alone do not a homestead make. I’m working to become a better gardener, but it doesn’t come naturally to me the way that chickens do. I feel like Hamama has given me a huge edge with their ready-to-use kits that make microgreens effortless to grow.
I’ve never been a fan of lettuce or romaine, but I find that adding microgreens to my sandwiches, burgers, and other meals is the perfect alternative. Plus, Hamama’s microgreens are nutrient-packed and fresher than fresh, considering they grow right on your counter.
I do think Hamama has a ways to go in terms of sustainability, but they have been making strides. Recently, they started phasing out single-use plastics. I also like that you have the option of purchasing an eco-friendly ceramic grow tray instead of plastic. The seed quilts themselves are also completely compostable and made here in America. My chickens love to pick through the leftover seeds and shoots after I’ve finished each quilt!
I highly recommend signing up for Hamama’s email list (just scroll to the bottom of the home page – it’s a little hard to spot), since they sometimes sell “secret” varieties via email that you can’t buy from their website! Plus, they now sell mushroom and green onion grow kits to help expand your countertop mini-garden.
How to Prepare for Chicken Math
The best way to deal with Chicken Math is to take preemptive measures against it – namely, by getting a larger coop than your flock needs. If you’re starting with ten chickens, order or build a coop big enough for fifteen (or, even better, twenty). Easy enough, right? You’ll probably still want to upgrade eventually, but it’s usually a lot easier to acquire an additional coop than it is to make an existing coop larger.
Another great way to keep chicken math at bay is to do as much research as you can before pulling the trigger. The more you know of breeds, eggs, colors, temperaments, and the like, the less likely you’ll be to discover (and want) more later on. New chicken breeds are being created all the time, so there’s only so much you can do preemptively, but we promise it does help. (Avoiding swap meets and feed stores during chick season can be very helpful, too.)
Finally, check your city, township, or county office for any flock size laws before you establish your flock. Many cities ban roosters altogether or limit your flock to a certain number of hens. If you legally can’t expand your flock anymore, that’s a pretty good deterrent against acquiring more birds in the future.
Have you hear the term “chicken math” in the past? Was it before finding this post, or was the term completely new to you? Are you prepped and ready for chicken math when it inevitably comes? If you have any lingering questions about chicken math, thoughts on how to deal with it, or even an interesting story to share, please feel free to drop us an email and tell us!
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