Saturday, August 20, 2016

Is there a Rooster in our Future?

or, Hey! What happened to Chicken Math?

Okay, two subjects in one post this week.

JoAnn and I noticed that we had two chickens that wouldn't leave the nest boxes after laying, they were getting a bit sassy and even belligerent.   I looked it up and found out they were just broody. Meaning they were wanting to tend to the eggs they laid, not just drop and run.

Since they had no rooster, they were in for a long wait. JoAnn thought it was sad that they would never be mom's with out a man in their life so we started thinking about how, where and when we could get a rooster. after thinking a few days, the girls weren't getting any less broody but we decided that we wanted our neighbors to stay friendly so no rooster crowing for us.

meal worms
We knew our Mealy Worm lady also had lots of chickens(100 by her count) so a few of them would be fertile and we called her to arrange buying a dozen fertile eggs that we'd slip into the nest boxes and under the broody twins. Until then we set out three eggs for each nest box to find out how many of our 6 hens were actually broody. Found out we really did only have two.

The call the next day to the Mealy worm Lady, Now dubbed the Fertile egg lady didn't go so well. Turns out in an ironic twist, chickens can get a form of facial pox called fowl pox and it is contagious, so that is out for now. Okay, now for the two day interlude where we weren't sure what to do, and the car trip that changed our feathers friends days of infertility.

On that bright sunny morning we were driving down beach road just as a Sunday drive and it ended in a small town named Pahoa, a hippy town in the Puna District on the Big Island. In that town there is a feed store that sells chicks. Usually, these chicks are a pre-order type of arrangement, but today was a bit different. They had three breeds of chicks, about 10 or so of each, little balls of fluff, one group reddish, one blackish and the other Reddish with a few stripes on their backs. We chose the Rhode Island Red chicks, knowing we wanted them to join our egg flock. We got 6 in a box and headed home.

We snuck them into the nest boxes of three of the most likely mom's, 2 chicks each. The next morning, we heard a boatload of clucking, like the, "Look! I laid an EGG!" song, but louder. We jumped up and headed out to the pen, all the hens were in the yard area (out of the coop) except one of the broodies. The two chicks were nestled under her wings. The other four were in two nest boxes, looking bewildered so I put them all in with the broody mom.

Okay, here is where the Chicken Math comes in. Chicken Math is the branch of Mathematics where the unbelievably fantastic is totally logical. What? Yes, Math that is crazy in the classroom, but sensible in the barnyard.Don't believe me?

Okay, case in point: the Egg Proof.

Prove: You decide to start raising chickens so you can grow your own eggs.

Given: Most chick purchases are straight run, meaning you have a 50/50 shot at hens.
Given: you want 5 eggs a day so you'll have a few per week to barter for other things among friends.
Given: The hatchery requires a minimum number of chicks per order.

  • Since you want 3 eggs a day: that will mean 21 eggs a week. 
  • Assuming a 72% laying rate (each hen lays about 5 eggs in 7 days)
  • You'll need 4 chickens that are hens.
  • Minimum order from hatchery M is 10 of one breed.
  • Straight run means 50% chance at hens.
Okay, so the 10 you need to order as a minimum is also good for the 50% chance of getting hens. But when you once the box from the hatchery, you see not 10, but 12 chicks. What? Turns out the hatchery can add one or two additional chicks for "loss" in transit. Well, yours made it so you are not going to let them die, they were free! More news about your order. Of the 12, 8 of them turn out to be roosters. but you don't find this out for a few weeks while they are growing.
You do the math again, and this time you realize that the 4 hens won't be enough to make the 3 eggs per day. How can this be? You have 12 chickens growing rapidly, burning feed and in a couple of weeks when they do start laying, you're plans won't be working right. Now you need more. but only one. But you can't order one, you need to order 10. And you still only have a 50/50 shot at getting the one more hen you need for 3 eggs a day. so while slim, you may get 12 cockerels instead of pullets! But you won't return them, of course this means that  you are starting your meat production a little early.

Let's recap- you wanted 5 eggs a week, you needed 4 hens, you end up ordering 20 birds, you get 24. 4 pullets and 20 roosters, and since not all birds lay at 72% ( you may get the 5 a week you wanted anyway). And all is well in the chicken world!

This doesn't even begin to cover the cuteness of the breed differences of Satins, the Polish with their pompadors, Silkies, Bantams, and then their is egg colors! There are chickens that lay eggs in color!!! Even I want a few of those! No wonder most chicken people start out small and end up like our Mealy Worm Lady- Over 100 chicken strong! And she still thinks she needs a few more.

Which brings me to the end of this post: JoAnn thought the little peepers were missing their friends at the feed store so we went back to get them- 6 more that were the Barred Rocks. They were the same ages and we planned on doing a second midnight drop off for the second broody hen.

All went well, the new moms are protective, fluffing and hissing when we go near them, and what seemed odd to us, they don't mix. The Rhode Island Red chicks nor the Barred Rock chicks don't run from one mom to the other!  I thought after four days the imprinting process would not be as strong, but was I wrong.  They climb on, over and around their adopted moms- It's hilarious and we could watch them all day!

Next post: Growing Fast!

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