An Adventure in Rural Living
Chicken Math

Chicken Math

Our chicks arrived!  We, literally, have too many to count.  I’m not exactly sure how that happened…


After our last DIY shed experience, we decided to turn to professionals for the construction and installation of our chicken coop.  My new chicken coop arrived last Thursday and it is beautiful.  Steve was really not at all excited to have a chicken coop trashing up our place and even he admits that it’s really quite nice.  Shout out to The Cottage Works in Monroe, Wisconsin for having the easiest, best coop/shed ordering, building, delivery, and set up.  I’m not a millennial, but I very much appreciated doing the entire transaction by text and Paypal.


So, shed delivered.  Check.  I guess we really are going to have chickens and we’d better get on that because we’re racing the weather.  We need to grow these things up before it starts snowing again.


So, last Friday night, I invited the family to come look at chickens and weigh in on the chick order.  I hooked my computer up to the TV and took the family on a tour of Murray McMurray Hatchery‘s website, which was Erika’s first choice for where we should place our online chick order.  She says that they are reputable and raise consistently healthy, strong, quality poultry and that they allow small custom orders so we can put together a lovely flock of mixed breeds with only one or two of each kind.


I reminded the family that I have done a ton of research including reading books and articles and, most importantly, talking to Erika several times.  Nathan had also done some research, so he weighed in with things he thought were important for cold weather survival and cold weather layers.  Hannah wanted all the pretty chickens and had no concern for anything other than how they look and making sure that we have a sufficient number of “ridiculous” chickens.  Steve was worried about how many eggs we were going to produce and was committed to keeping our flock as small as possible.  His starting number of chicks was five.


Using all my best coaching and facilitation skills, I listened patiently, asked a lot of questions, showed them all the options, and patiently led them through the recommended chicks list that Erika and I came up with to create our “perfect” flock of 12 chicks.  Steve’s head exploded, “TWELVE!?!  That’s insanity!  Do you know how many eggs that is?  What are you going to do with all those eggs?”  I told him that we used a dozen eggs to make breakfast for our “flock” of people that morning.  I also told him that Erika said we should buy twice as many as we want to end up with because chicks are “delicate” and the mortality rate is high.  Then, Hannah got all serious and said that she really, really didn’t want to deal with dead chicks, maimed chickens, or any of the unpleasantries beyond chicken poop.  She said she is perfectly prepared for chicken poop.


Steve said, “Fine, fine.  Show us the chickens already.  Let’s do this.”


I showed them Ameraucana first because my list was somehow roughly alphabetical.  They all thought it was a fine looking chicken.  I told them that we had put together a variety of hens that will look nice, survive the cold, tolerate the heat of summer, and lay different colored eggs.  The Ameraucana lays blue eggs.  Maybe I shouldn’t have started there.  Steve had to stop the proceedings to talk about egg color.  He wants uniformly beautiful, light brown eggs like I buy at the market.  Lol.  “Blue eggs?  Who eats blue eggs?  Not even Dr. Seuss eats blue eggs.”  Which forced me to tell him, way, way out of alphabetical order, that I’m also planning on getting a Whiting True Green chick for green eggs.  We had to have a family discussion about including a diversity of chickens and colors of eggs in our flock because we’re all that enlightened.  Just kidding.  It’s because we want pretty birds and pretty eggs.  I also promised Steve that I’ll make sure to put all the “normal” light brown eggs in a carton in the fridge for him so that his breakfast experience isn’t disrupted by blue and green eggs.


On my way to showing them the Whiting True Green chicks, we had to pass all the others and the wheels came off the wagon.  Hannah wanted to see all the pretty ones we passed.  So, we looked at a bunch of ridiculous, high maintenance show birds that may or may not survive our climate.  I completely lost control of the situation.  Steve decided that we absolutely must have a White Crested Black Polish.  I told them that Erika said that they are especially delicate and difficult to keep alive.  He said, “Okay, then, let’s get two.”  I rolled my eyes at him and said, “Are you prepared to have them both die?”  He said, “I think we can let all the boring ones or the ones that lay weird colored eggs die.”  I had to remind him that we don’t get to chose which ones live and which ones don’t.  But, he and Hannah insisted that we add two of those weirdos to our flock.


At the end of the evening, we had ordered the twelve chicks that Erika and I agreed were our best flock plus two White Crested Black Polish, one Wyandotte, and one Silver Spandler Hamburg. If you’re dying of curiosity and absolutely must know what they look like, you can go browse Murray McMurray’s website and check them out.  But, I warn you:  This is a very easy way to accidentally end up with a bunch of chicks being shipped to your house.  We ordered sixteen chicks!!! Sixteen!!! Okay, I guess sixteen isn’t that many more than twelve.  Right?  When I asked Erika, she said, “That’s the PERFECT number of chickens!”  But, you can’t trust her.  She has like a million chickens.  She sent me this…




Nathan was concerned that we weren’t planning to get a rooster.  His research all said that the ladies will be happier and safer with a big rooster in the hen house.  I don’t disagree, but I was trying to avoid upsetting Steve and the neighbors over much by including a rooster in the flock. Our neighbors aren’t super close unless you factor a rooster into the equation.  The kids made a good point, though.  Steve is up before the rooster will be every day so it won’t be waking him up.  Steve said, “Getting a rooster would be entirely too much.  That would take the level of ridiculous on this whole thing too far. No rooster.”  Nathan gave me a look that I think meant that he knows we need a rooster, but it’s easier to be right and let it go than it is to convince dad to do something he doesn’t want to do.


At the very end of our order, after they have done some brilliant internet marketing and up sold us vaccinations, electrolytes, and chick starter gel, they do this magical thing.  They offered us a “Free Surprise Chick.”  You can opt out.  The fine print on this chick is that it will be a wonderful selection of one of their spectacular birds including specialty breeds, giant breeds, heritage breeds, etc.  However, sex can not be guaranteed.  You get what you get.  I’m not sure what happened to my family in this moment, but we all agreed whole heartedly and unanimously that we NEED this mystery chick and that is somewhere near 100% likely that it will be a rooster. All our previous discussions of roosters were completely forgotten.  We gleefully agreed to have a Free Surprise Chick included with our order.  And, I think, at this point, we’ll all be really disappointed if it isn’t a rooster.


So, we ordered SEVENTEEN chicks!  For some reason, that seems like way too many.  But, there you have it.  The family said this is the most fun they’ve had on a Friday night in a long time.  We laughed so hard!  Hannah said this was her favorite family meeting ever.


Saturday, we got our brooder all set up with puppy pads, this heat lamp thingie that Erika recommended, a feeder, and a waterer.  Is it called a waterer?  I lack the vocabulary for this new adventure.  We bought chick starter feed but didn’t know if it should be medicated or not.  We thought we read that you can use unmedicated chick starter feed if your chicks come vaccinated.  Erika said we should not use medicated feed.  As it turns out, medicated feed messes up or counteracts the vaccinations.  Erika sent me all kinds of articles on how to care for your chicks and videos on teaching them to eat and drink.  What?  I need to teach them to eat and drink?  I have definitely gotten myself into more than I realize here.


Our chicks arrived by USPS this morning.  The post office called me at 5:48am to let me know that my chicks arrived and needed to be picked up asap.  I can’t tell you how ridiculously happy this made me.  I was smiling like a crazy person on my way over there.  And, then I walked in and heard my babies cheep, cheep, cheeping.  My heart just overflowed.  #Oxytocin anyone?  I lost about three hours this morning, playing with my chicks and teaching them to eat and drink.


The adventure begins…


6 comments found

    1. Good point, AT! I’ll let you know if he can actually tell the difference between the brown, blue, and green eggs. He might not be able to. It will probably be about 6 months before I can report back to you on this. Remind me if I forget…

  1. Regarding the rooster: I noticed in Hawaii they crow all day and all night long. Just keep that in mind. I love your stories, especially since they’re true. Wish I was there to see the babies.

    1. I’m sleep training my rooster. I’ll use Hannah’s sleep training program if I need to. “Alexa, play some white noise…”

  2. Ryan and I are reading this over breakfast and cracking up! Your stories are so funny!!! What was the mystery chick? Or do we have to wait for the next episode?

    1. So, my chicken typing skills aren’t yet up to speed. I can really only identify maybe two or three (of the 12 or so breeds we got) so far. And, I most definitely can’t sex them. The shipping label identifies our surprise chick as a “straight run surprise chick.” Lol. So, we will all have to be in the mystery together. As they get older, we should be able to tell them apart a little bit more. I’ll also get Erika on a video call and see if she can help me sort it out. We’ll definitely keep you all posted.

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