Chicken Math

The fowl factor

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Last weekend, I found myself standing in a poultry barn on a small family farm on Kelly Road checking out a pair of year-old speckled Sussex hens my boyfriend and I had come to purchase.

Trust me when I say that when you’re addicted to the taste and vastly superior nutritional value of free range eggs and the simple joy that comes from watching feathered dinosaurs roam the lawn in search of grass and grubs, this is a viable way to spend a Saturday morning.

My manfriend and I recently lost one chicken to the vagaries of old age and another to a vicious late-night attack from a weasel, and not long after further fortifying the coop we decided the addition of two more hens to our backyard flock was in order. It would bring us back up to four, which I consider to be a perfect amount.

We weren’t the only ones keeping track of the numbers. Our hostess informed us that by sending her lovely hens to a new home, she was making room for another breed she’d long had her eye on.

“I call it ‘chicken math,’” she explained as she spread black sunflower seeds to the approximately two-dozen domestic fowl clamoring for her attention. “If I subtract a certain amount every year, then it’s perfectly fine to accumulate the same quantity. I’m well aware—as is my husband—that if I didn’t occasionally thin the flock, things would get pretty crazy around here.”

We did our part to keep her ratios in check, and not long after meeting her two ladies I was sitting in the backseat of the car with them, making sure the boxes we were transferring the duo in didn’t topple over on the drive back to the city.

We’d factored the fact that the poultry pecking order is real into our equation, so upon our return home, we ushered the older chickens out of the coop, and let the new ones explore their new digs free from any bullying from their predecessors.

When I checked the nesting boxes a couple of hours later, I discovered one of the newbies had already produced an egg.

I surmised that if she and her sister each laid one every day, we’d soon be back to getting a couple dozen huevos a week. And if we added another chicken, the quantity would be even greater, and we could increase our popularity by hosting omelet brunches every weekend.

Of course, that equation led to pondering the procurement of a sixth chicken, and the realization that my chicken math was spiraling out of control. I took a deep breath, counted the flock to make sure they were all still around, and went inside to hard boil an egg.

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