I live in Canada, in an area where feedstores are small affairs and live bird sales are not common. When I scroll through online chicken groups based in the USA folks talk about their experiences at mega-feedstores like Tractor Supply or Rural King that sport rows of brooders filled with day old chicks, and sometimes ducklings, quail, guinea fowl or turkey poults. Those little guys are cheap – sometimes going for as little as twenty-five cents on sale days – which is an inducement to buy as many as you can.
I shall reserve judgement about treating animals as low cost commodities with the attitude that if one dies (and they often do) they’ll be replaced with another. Who knows what I would do given the opportunity to snap up all the breeds I covet.
No, today I will put aside my reservations about buying feedstore chicks and instead will focus on the heart of the issue which, of course, is that everyone loves a baby and who can resist a fluffy chick?
So there I was, minding my own business, picking up feed. And then I looked over and I was drawn like a moth to the red glow of heat lamps. I tried to fight it, but the siren song of tiny chirps got louder as I drew near. I told myself I’d just look, maybe hold one. They were surely all reserved anyway. Then I saw the sign for Salmon Favorelles and the kindly old man at the store asked, “How many?” Three just seemed so wrong and there was one lonely Marans. I heard “six” come out of my mouth. FYI: I have 16 more coming in ten days.
I wanted to get more chicks today from one of the stores in town but my wife was cruel and reminded me that we have nine at home, have ordered 20 from a hatchery, have nine chicks that are from Christmas, nine more in the incubator and our count went from eight last year to soon-to-be 47 this year.
That said, I still think she should have at least looked at the baby chicks. Maybe there were kinds we don’t have or that we NEED.
When I first joined online chicken groups I kept seeing the phrase ‘chicken math’. I kind of chuckled at it a little. Any other newbies seeing ‘chicken math’? It’s as real as the days are long!
Long story short: I went to get a 50 lb bag of chicken feed and don’t you know the salesperson says, “I have two Sebrite bantams left and there so tiny I actually have them in the back if you’re seriously interested”. Of course I am. They are, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful chickens I have ever seen. She said I must buy six. I begged her to just let me get the two. Not that I didn’t want more chickens it’s just that I made a promise that we wouldn’t go over ten and now we have 12 and two more that might hatch.
Thankfully I have the room and the financial resources to care for those chickens but some people don’t. I think that if you can prove through your receipt or those rewards programs that track our shopping that we previously bought six chicks within a certain amount of time that we should be able to pick up one or two if we need OR want to.
I completely understand not selling single chicks because they don’t like to be alone.
I was so afraid to put the new littles with my two week olds. Every time the bigger chickens were digging and playing around I was afraid they were going to punt one like a football. I diligently watched them for over an hour. They’re all doing absolutely amazing but I do have the smaller brooder on standby just in case I see any bullying or a lot of accidentally running or stepping on the bantams.
So this is how my chicken math happened. I kid you not.
It went kinda like this:
I went to buy six chicks and the store said, “Well, if you buy six, you get another six free.”
Sigh. So I did.
They didn’t have the breeds I really wanted so I got a pair of each breed they did have. I love variety.
I went home with 12 chicks when I only meant to get six.
Next time I was in the store guess what? They HAD the breeds I originally wanted.
Well, I asked them, “Can I buy just the three I want because I already bought some from you last week so I satisfied the “buy at least six” rule?” “No”, they said. “You have to buy at least six.”
Sigh. “Okay” I said. “Give me two of those, two of those, and two of those.”
Then of course they said “Well if you buy six, you get six free.” Oh no, not again.
Well I can’t just leave six free chicks behind, can I? Well, can I?!
So I got 12 more.
Then a few days later I was in a different kind of farm store getting feed and they also had chicks. They were breeds I didn’t already have!
Hey, at least that store didn’t offer me six more for free.
So over a two-week period, I got thirty chicks and oh what a variety I collected.
Boy oh boy.
Then I had to build a barn with no help. And then a huge run.
You know, I just wanted 6 chicks.
Tractor Supply got me. My 23-year-old son came with me to help pick up hog fencing for the new coop we are building. We walked in and I heard chirping as a woman walked out. The sound of baby chicks! “Oh no” I said and she just laughed.
I was fine. I have a plan and am busy building a new coop for my current flock. I plan on hatching out more this spring with the expensive incubator I bought last summer.
But there went my son. He saw the ‘mini chickens’.
I am proud to say I made it home without any chicks, but it didn’t stay that way. My son called an emergency family meeting to vote on if we needed to go back and get the bantam chicks. I was outvoted 3-1.
Now we have four tiny chicks and the guys are building another coop.
Thanks to everyone for their stories. I’m sure most of us can relate.
So much joy! Perfect reading for a Sunday morning!
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