Chicken Math

by C. Hope Clark
High Hope for the Freelance Writer

“Eight hens is enough,” I said to my husband. “That’s four or five eggs a day.”
“Barred Rock? Leghorns? What breed do we want?” he mumbled, his nose all but pressed against the computer screen.

The coop was almost ready. The breeder down the road only had Rhode Island Reds, and I knew that type bird to be scrappy. “Docile,” I said. “You decide. Just make sure they’re sweet. I want them to sit on my knee and eat out of my hand.” We wanted eggs, but I raised pets, not just farm products. “Oh, and no roosters.”

“You discriminating?”

“No. Last thing I need is Mrs. Harvey next door fussing about the daybreak crowing.”
Twenty minutes later, he logged off the computer. “Done,” he said.

“What’d you get?”

“Let’s see . . . I ordered three Barred Plymouth Rock, three Buff Orpingtons, three Gold Wyandotte, three Silver Wyandotte, and three Dominiques. All laid back varieties.”

I counted. Three, six, nine . . . “You ordered fifteen birds? That’s five dozen eggs a week!”

“I couldn’t decide. Some don’t make it anyway, hon. But they’re all female,” he said with a wink. “Just like you said.”

I couldn’t wait. Days later at six A.M., the post office called with our two-day-old pullets. I rode home with the small, cardboard box in my lap, the heater on for the birds, sweat beading on my temple. I freed the shipping paper off the top and read as my husband drove. “Oh no,” I said.

“They all right?” my husband asked.

“Oh, they’re all fine,” I said as I counted twenty teeny-weeny bodies. “Free males included for warmth” was stamped bold across the receipt. And they were all so dang cute. Thank heavens I’d only wanted eight. If I’d said fifteen, he’d have ordered thirty.

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