Strong Momma

Strong Momma

We have ten baby chicks living inside a dog kennel inside the chicken house.  They are four weeks old and so must be kept separate from our hen ladies until they are old enough to defend themselves or at least run away fast enough from our girls who are all sweetness and cuddles until someone new is trying to eat the kale.  The chicks are getting a bit cramped inside the kennel as they grow, so during the day, I like to shut the chicken house door and let the little ones roam free and stretch their wings inside the safety of the house. I have to time this right though - after all the hens have laid their eggs- otherwise we get into the situation where we have one frantic hen wanting in and lots of baby chicks running around and distracting her, or worse, being subjected to her outraged beak.  

The panic was real today.   I was in the chicken run working on setting up some temporary outside nesting boxes as back-up, when Bree, our Buff Orpington, made it very clear that she needed to get to her favorite box inside the chicken house to lay.  It’s amazing how much an angry hen can sound like some ancient creature out of Jurassic Park. I knew I would have to be a bodyguard/babysitter and not let Bree be alone with the babes. I let her in and she went straight up to her box without even glancing at the chicks.  Easy peasy. I sat down to wait for her and as soon as I did, several of the baby chicks jumped on my lap for cuddles, announcing their happiness with chirps. This made me so happy but Bree.... not so much. The chirps drew Bree’s attention and being that I am HERS, she immediately jumped out of the nesting box and made a bee-line toward the offending chicks, aiming her egg-bound frustration at them.  I shielded the chicks, and gave her a gentle nudge of encouragement to go lay her egg and she seemed to understand and went back up to the nest box, with a few Pterodactyl noises on the way.

Her focus on laying only lasted a few minutes before another chick was busy on my lap and she again needed to come down and protect her territory from the tiny fluff ball. After the third time, I realized this was not going to work.  I picked Bree up, placed her in her favorite box and stood in front of the box, blocking her view of the chicks and stroking her and reassuring her that she was QUEEN CHICKEN. This seemed to really work, and she was quiet and focused on making sure every bit of pine shaving was were it should be to welcome her special egg into to the world.  Ten minutes later, nothing had happened and my mind was on all the THINGS I was meant to be Doing on our little farm this day. So, I took my shirt off, draped it over the front of the nesting box, creating a dark, safe, little spot for Bree to focus and push out that egg. I snuck out of the chicken house and stayed nearby so I could hear the cluck of the happy “I WANT TO TELL THE WORLD I JUST LAID AN EGG” rejoicing she would do when she was done.  An hour later, she was ready and I regained my shirt and got tomorrow’s breakfast to boot.

While this was all happening, I realized that I felt strong and capable and in control.  After almost a year of raising chickens, I had learned what their different sounds meant, what they needed, what makes them do what they do, and what makes them happy enough to make that situation today tenable for all.  No blood was spilled and an egg was laid.

I remembered what it felt like after being a mom for a few years - you get in your groove, and everything is no longer scary and new like it had been when you were a new mom of a tiny little thing.  New challenges still happen, but you have the confidence to know that you can get through them and you know that most of the time, hugs and holding (and food and water and a nap) fix or ease most issues.  

It was such a good feeling, remembering that body-memory of being a strong momma.  It had been years and years since I had that feeling. Pre-teen and teen years can totally erase that feeling of capableness from your memory bank - that feeling of being in control, and being able to calm and comfort your little one.  Instead, as the mother of a 13 year old, you feel useless, out-of-date and sometimes unwanted. All the magic powers you had as a mom of a six-year-old are gone gone gone.

I raised my daughter on my own, and my identity for 18 years was predominantly “Sahara’s Mom.”  I loved it, and I loved being able to focus on giving her the best I could. I think I did a pretty good job and she is a strong, confident, independent and curious young woman off seeing the world.  Now my identity is “farmer,” and I hope to do as good a job raising food and creating a beautiful place for people to come and recharge as I did being a mom.

To some,  it may seem ridiculous that caring for a chicken can make me feel maternal, but actually, I felt almost sisterly towards Bree - she needed a midwife, or at least a doula today to help get that egg laid in the bedlam that was the chicken house full of baby chirps. Instead of helping her take deep breaths and massaging her lower back, I gave her a quiet spot and some birdseed and she received it and the results were a healthy bouncing baby egg.   Plus I got to feel like a strong momma again and that was exceedingly nourishing.

1 comment

  • Tracy

    Welcome to the neighborhood. I live just around the corner. 4726. Love following your progress on the ranch. We’ve been here going on 4 years now after relocating from Cobb after losing everything in the Valley Fire. We have pear, almond, apple and plum trees along with blackberries. Our neighbor said we also have 2 pecan trees that his father had delivered many years ago, but no nuts yet. The squirrels, raccoons, birds and other creatures have been feasting on them all for years so it’s a battle to get to the crops before they do. Again, welcome!

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