Chicken Math Explained – Calculating Your True Number of Chickens

Approx Reading Time: 6 minutes

I am here to tell you, from experience, that chicken math is a real thing. You see, the mathematics we apply to numbers on a day to day basis, doesn’t apply to chickens.

Sure you can count how many chickens you have but, if you want a number that more accurately lets your husband, wife, or friends know how many chickens you have, you must use chicken math.

Initially, you may find this concept confusing. I mean, if you have 2 chickens at home, and you bring home 3 baby chicks, you might think you now have 5 chickens. Traditional math says 2 +3 = 5.

For the first 10 – 15 chickens this works out OK, it’s easier. Your significant other still thinks your chicken hobby is cute and your friends are sure you are normal.

When Things Start to Change

At about 15 or so chickens, you will likely start to gradually see a necessity to use chicken math.

Suddenly, when friends and family ask you how many chickens you have, you start to feel weird because the number is like, 32 or 58.

You may start contemplating if you should count the chicks but wait, you can’t remember when you actually counted chicks. Oh, and what about that broody hen that may or may not have hatched her clutch yet. Do you count those yet?

Perhaps it’s not a specific number that raises a concern rather, you come home from the feed store once again with a few fluffy chicks and your spouse starts to ask questions like how many bags of feed are you buying a week and why there is wood and chicken wire in the back of the truck.

It is these types of situations where having an understanding of chicken math can really help you out. I even created a handy dandy infographic at the end of this post that you can use as a worksheet.

Using Chicken Math to Count Your Chickens

Alright, it’s time to start with the actual math. Keep in mind that chicken math is still new to me so, I may have missed one or more categories.

Start with the Total Number of Chickens

You are only going to need this number once and then you’ll never use it again. This is the total number of live chickens and chicks currently at home. Things to note:

  • This number does not include unhatched eggs.
  • This number does not include any chicks or chickens currently on order.
  • This number does not include any birds you may have loaned out for breeding.

Now, you can adopt all of the mathematical principals at once, or use them one by one. It really is up to you. All of the remaining categories are numbers we subtract from the total number of chickens.

Just remember as we go along. You never ADD any chickens back in.

Subtract All Meat Chickens

Meat chickens don’t count toward your total chicken count. Whether they are still chicks or almost fully grown, these birds are food.

Yes, you have to feed them and sure, they need mealworms and their flock block because, after all, you are giving them the best life. Ultimately, they are on your farm to feed your family.

Because these meat chickens will be food, chicken math dictates that they are not included in your total chicken count.

Subtract Any Chicks

Chicks don’t count toward a total chicken count for several valid reasons. Here are a few of the most important ones:

  • They are babies and we may lose a few before they reach adulthood. Such is nature.
  • We don’t know if they are even going to stay. They could be roosters, they could be sold, we don’t know yet.
  • They are still babies. Until they can be outside on their own without a heat lamp or their mom, they don’t count yet.

Subtract Any Roosters

Let’s get real for a minute. Roosters only exist on the farm for three purposes:

  1. To make babies.
  2. To guard the flock.
  3. For food.

That’s it. Each of those three reasons is reason enough to determine that, when using chicken math, roosters don’t count.

Subtract Any Layers

Your laying hens are usually why you got “into” chickens in the first place. Farm fresh eggs. Eggs from happy chickens where you know what their environment is like and you know what they eat.

These are the queens of the coop. They make food for your family and carry their own weight around the farm. Unlike chickens in other categories, these girls make themselves useful.

Of all the categories listed, your layers have earned premier status and do not count towards your total chicken count when you are using chicken math.

Subtract Any Birds For Sale

Many chicken farmers offer birds for sale. Whether young pullets, laying hens or extra cockerels, anything that is for sale does not count when you are using chicken math.

These birds are leaving soon. They’ll bring in a little bit of income and move on to their new home. Their stay is only temporary.

Just like you don’t count visiting in-laws as part of your “household” number, chickens for sale don’t count towards your total chicken count.

Subtract Any Bird with A Name

We all have those few chickens in the flock that have a name. For me, it was Goldie and Sparkles. Both were extremely friendly New Hampshire Red hens.

I didn’t name them, my daughter did, and they were absolutely pets. I’m of the opinion that when you give a chicken a name, it no longer counts when using chicken math.

These select few chickens, whether they are roosters or hens, have somehow wriggled their way into your heart and become pets.

The Final Number of Chickens When Using Chicken Math

The way you reach your final number is going to be different for everybody. Obviously you can’t get down to zero chickens, then people will really think you are crazy.

If you want to go REALLY simple, count all live chickens and divide by 2 or 3 or 5…sometimes 10. You’ll know what feels right.

For a more scientific approach, use the method I describe. Trust me, this way it is a lot easier to explain how you reached your final number.

Chicken math winds up being a combination of two things:

  • The way you count chickens in your flock so as to not appear to be a crazy chicken lady.
  • The way that new chickens magically appear (i.e. you go to the feed store to buy 2 chicks and come home with 7, this is chicken math).

If you need help calculating how many chickens you have, here is a helpful infographic. For my fellow bloggers out there, you are welcome to share this graphic (without modifications) on your own website with a do-follow link back to this page.

April Lee

I have a love for all things farmhouse design. I am currently working on designing a custom built farmhouse from the ground up. While the actual build is a few years out, I am using this blog as a place to consolidate all of my research and design ideas. I hope that you find the information here helpful so that you too can have the farmhouse of your dreams! Remember, you don't need a farmhouse to implement farmhouse design in any space.