I dedicate this column to my homesteading friend and fellow New Life On A Homestead writer, Sarah Rodriguez. I once received a text from her as she traveled back from a doctor’s appointment – passing Rural King on the way.
The text read, “I tried to call you. I was just as Rural King and they had some chicks marked down to a quarter!”
I rushed to find a good cell signal on our middle of the woods homestead and called her back as quickly as my fingers could punch in the numbers on my cell phone keypad.
“Go back,” I begged.
Being an awesome friend and probably not wanting to be the only one in our neighborhood in trouble with her husband, she did just that.
“Do they have guineas…” I texted back as a panicked afterthought after realizing I forgot to ask that all-important question before leaving the “good” cell signal spot.
They did. Sarah got me some…
Chick days events happen just two times a year – at the beginning of the spring and as summer winds into fall. Homesteaders of all sizes eagerly await the “chirp chirp chirp” at local agriculture supply stores and catalogs from their favorite hatcheries to arrive.
There is just something so special and exciting about chick days time of year.
It breaks the horrific cabin fever you have been shivering through all winter, and gives you a break from the heat sitting in the shade on a porch swing during the hot days of summer as you browse through a hatchery catalog or online postings by local breeders.
Chicken Addiction Warning Signs
Learning how to spot healthy chicks and choosing the right breed for our climate and homestead are serious topics of discussion that should be fleshed out fully before going to a chick days event.
Common sense and fiscal responsibility tends to take a back seat to even the most intelligent and frugal mind when those adorable little chicks come into view.
Stopping a chicken addiction before it starts or curbing already present urges can help prevent your chicken habit from getting out of control – and the dreaded “chicken math” syndrome from developing.
More chicken addictions are developed when those fluffy little chicks and adorable fuzzy ducklings begin to appear. It is easy to get overly excited, and scoop up all the darling birds when you see them at the start of a chick days sale.
That “kid in a candy store” feeling can wash over you quickly when staring down at the livestock tub full of cute little chicks, and there is no one there to stop you, unless a sensible husband tags along.
I rarely go chick shopping with my beloved, that type of thing is always best done with a girlfriend – one who also loves chickens, of course. So yes, I have had chicken math issues in the past, as well.
What is Chicken Math?
Chicken math involves the inability to correctly factor numbers when the price is right and the chicks are just too cute to pass up. Whether you are a newbie chicken keeper or a flock tender from way back, chicken math syndrome can overtake your arithmetic abilities.
In the most basic terms, chicken math is the addition of new birds to a new or established flock in copious quantities – and sometimes even ducklings, guineas, or poults as well.
Have you ever gone into a store intending to buy just a half a dozen chicks, and came out toting double that amount PLUS four darling ducklings? Then you too have been a victim of chicken math.
Some of my homesteading friends have promised both themselves and their husbands they are only going to get the minimum number of chicks required for purchase during a chick days event…
…but when they carefully put the box(s) in their truck somehow 15, 20, or in severe chicken math cases, even 30 new baby birds are on their way to a new home!
If you’re buying new spring or fall chicks from a local farm or breeder, there might even be a baby bunny or two – or a rambunctious goat kid also joining the crowded pickup truck bed on the way back to the homestead. Chicken addiction, it is real folks.
Chicks are very inexpensive to buy in most instances. They take up only a small space to house – especially if you are free ranging, and cost darn little to feed. Unless you garner a rowdy rooster in the mix, chickens are fun to watch mill about, as well.
It is for just these reasons that saying aloud while hovering over the chick tub, “What difference would a couple more chicks make, really!?” happens over and over again during spring and fall chick days sales.
Here are some examples of chicken math equations my chicken keeping friends and I have uttered over the years:
- 6 ducklings from chick days surprise by hubby + 12 Bantam eggs gifted to me by our Amish farrier + 8 chicks and two more ducklings gifted to me by our grown daughter = a lot of new critters the first spring on our survival homestead.
- 4 laying hens gifted to me by a friend of our daughter + 12 heritage breed Buckeye chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery + 6 ducklings from my incubator = quite an expansion of our existing flock.
- 33 chickens (not chicks, chickens) spotted for free at a local yard sale + 1 gifted rooster + 12 X $.25 chicks at an end of chick days sale at Rural King.
Looking at it all typed out there, it seems clear that a reasonable person would not willingly take on so many new birds. But, reason flies right out the window in the midst of a chicken freebie or bargain buying scenario.
If you have ever resorted to sneaking a box of chickens out to your chicken coop and hoping your loving spouse does not notice you added to the flock, then you have failed at learning from past chicken math experiences and might have a chicken addiction – but you are so not alone.
We all tend to get a little chicken crazy twice a year.
Recognizing the signs of a chicken addiction before opening that hatchery sale email or rushing out to Tractor Supply is the first step at (attempting) to regain your willpower and preventing another chicken math “F.”
How to Overcome Chicken Addiction in 10 No-So-Easy Steps
- Be honest with yourself – admit that going chicken shopping alone or with like-minded pals is not something you can do while sticking to a previously agreed upon number or budget.
- Repeat to yourself three times, “I am more powerful than the call of the chicks” to help you resist buying more fluffy baby birds and all the brightly colored accessories stationed around their tubs at the farm store.
- Promise yourself you will never, ever, under any circumstances walk next to the chick days area of the farm store if you only went shopping for a bag of feed or any other non-poultry bird related purchases. And for heaven’s sake, do not make eye contact with the chicks from the feed aisle. If the chick addiction is really bad you might need to wear cotton balls in your ears upon entering the store to avoid being tempted to venture close enough to snatch some out of the tub because their chirping lured you near.
- To avoid a chick buying spree locally or online, grab a pencil and paper, and complete a full and thorough chicken inventory. Count your ducks, guineas, and poults too in an effort to avoid all types of poultry bird fever side effects. Heck, even count your chickens before they hatch. Yes, the eggs currently being warmed in your incubator count too!
- Do not allow yourself to use the “Well, not all of the chicks ever make it,” rationale before going chick days shopping. While such a statement is true and accurate, a chicken addict will use such a turn of phrase to justify buying an extra dozen or so discounted chicks. You know, just to make sure the coop never stands empty and a sudden craving for eggs goes unsatisfied.
- Avoid like the plague all chicken Pinterest boards and Facebook groups, even the general homesteading ones, AFTER you made your sole chick day event shopping outing. Yes, you can only go once when fighting an addiction!
- Put someone without a chicken addiction in charge of thwarting your desires in the early spring and fall. Submit to complying with an order to head back out to the chicken coop, and doing another poultry bird inventory on command if you desire to sneak out the door to Rural King or visit a hatchery websites is about to overcome your willpower. If you stay up late just so you can sneak a harmless little peek at a hatchery’s current sale after your non-chicken addict spouse goes to bed, be fully prepared for them to check your browsing history in the morning – and send you back to the coop with pen and paper once again.
- This is the only answer that is acceptable for a recovering chicken addict to give when a fellow sufferer asks if you merely want to “ride along” to Tractor Supply with them to see if they have any of their favorite breeds in stock: “No, thank you.” That’s it. That’s all. No is the only answer acceptable if you are serious about kicking your chicken addiction this year. Any wavering at all might lead to you accepting the ride-along offer before your willpower is strong enough to resist that cute little duckling sitting all by itself in the corner of a tub.
- If necessary, ask a non-chicken addict to run into the farm store for you to pick up a NECESSARY item if you do not trust yourself to stay away from the chick days area.
- Now, the final step in overcoming a chicken addiction is a whopper, fellow homesteaders. Armed with your tablet of probably multiple chicken inventories at this point, admit OUT LOUD the number of chickens, ducks, guineas, and poults currently in your possession. Do not whisper, say it like you mean it. Once you feel strong enough to utter more than the number and are truly in recovery mode, try this phrase, “I have 37 chickens, 12 ducks, and 13 guinease. I DO NOT need anymore.”
It’s rough, I know, but the more you say it, the better than chances are that you will actually mean it. I would feel remiss by not noting that chicken addiction relapse is quite common.
My favorite homesteading girlfriends and I were just chatting yesterday about a chicken addiction not actually being such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things…
…then our husbands walked in, so we tabled the discussion for a more appropriate time – perhaps after the new hatchery catalog arrives in the mail.
It is true, I have relapsed more than once. Since chick days are nearing once again, it is time to tug on my muck boots and go take inventory – something I will probably have to do a few times. There is a hatchery sales flier in my inbox right now.
Well, fellow homesteaders I have a confession to make. I had a chick days relapse. I walked into Tractor Supply today just to pick up a bag of horse feed. Seriously. I did not even know Chick Days had started yet.
By the time I was close enough to the tubs of chicks and ducklings it was too late to plug my ears and turn around. I mean dang, they put the Chick Days right smack dab in the middle of the whole store.
There is simply no way to miss it unless you immediately turn and walk along either wall aisle upon entering. Of course, the feed section is just beyond the cute little balls of fuzzy feathers.
Even if I had walked along the edges of the store there was no way to avoid making eye contact when grabbing a bag of feed off of a pallet.
I think I might have been able to resist the urge if Tractor Supply did not have Bantam chickens among their tubs. They do not often have Bantys at our local store, and I have really been missing mine.
I had fully intended to buy more this year, but had promised my husband I would wait until it was warm enough to put them straight into the outdoor brooder built inside the chicken run. This was so we wouldn’t create a fire hazard by shining those heat lamps down at them and their bedding.
But, in the end, I merely could not resist the sound of the chirping. I texted my friend Sarah as soon as the chicks and I got back into my truck – barely taking time to remember to load my bag of horse feed in the back.
She gave me the two thumbs up and thought I had hit an awesome find .. my husband not so much. But as all good homesteading husbands do, he will forgive my Chick Days fever …. over time.
updated 03/02/2020 by Tara Dodrill
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.