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You’ve learned the difference between a cockerel and a rooster and between a pullet and a hen. You can distinguish between starter, grower and layer, and you know what a cloaca is. While these are all invaluable expressions, if you’re raising chickens, you should add the four following terms to your everyday poultry vocabulary.
1. Chicken Math
A serenely tolerated affliction, chicken math is the subconscious drive that urges you to unnecessarily increase the size of your flock. You may carefully plan to purchase only six baby Orpingtons, for example, but you end up coming home with 14. Chicken-math sufferers tend to rationalize their behavior. You bought more chicks in case the original six all turned out to be boys, for example. You had to get a few of each color variety. The babies being left behind looked so lonely you just had to buy them, too. Chicken math affects both the experienced and the newbie. Intervention by your loved ones doesn’t cure chicken math. It spreads the condition, with your friends and relatives catching this infectious bug for themselves.
2. Boy Jail
If you have more than one male in your flock, you’ll eventually need a boy jail. Your cockerel is overly aggressively with your put-upon pullets? Stick him in boy jail. Two of your roosters are going head to head to determine who’s king of the run? Lock the more obnoxious one in boy jail. Despite the name, boy jail is not gender specific: It becomes girl jail when a hen becomes too bossy and abusive. You can repurpose anything to serve as boy jail: a baby-chick brooder, a large pet carrier, a dog kennel. Boy jail’s occupants are only temporarily incarcerated, earning their freedom after a few hours. Sometimes, however, more drastic measures must be taken with repeat offenders.
3. Freezer Camp
Freezer camp is the ultimate cool-your-heels destination for flock members that cannot be rehabilitated in boy jail. Depending on your local ordinances, you may host your own home-based freezer camp or you may have to contact a professional slaughterhouse (aka sleepaway freezer camp). Freezer camp is not exclusively for the incorrigible; it also welcomes your excess chicken-math chooks, your no-longer-laying layers, and those birds whom you specifically raised to attend freezer camp. No need to name-tag your chickens’ belongings before sending them off to freezer camp. Instead, they’ll come home with labels of their own: broilers, wings, drumsticks, thighs, etc.
4. Fart Eggs
Pullets new to egg laying commonly produce the tiny gems known as fart (or wind) eggs. Fart eggs measure an inch (or less!) in length and tend to be tossed out because they contain no yolk. Fortunately, fart-egg laying is a temporary condition. Once her reproductive system matures, your pullet will start laying normal-sized eggs. Occasionally, however, an established layer will suddenly start producing fart eggs. This is usually due to stress, severe weather, illness and overamorous roosters (see Boy Jail) as prime culprits. Remove the stressor and your hen’s natural laying ability will reassert itself. If it doesn’t, see Freezer Camp.