It has been just over a year since we brought home our first baby chickens, and they’re all big girls now. We got another set of babies in March, but they’re almost big girls, and just this week, they moved into the “big girl house,” the chicken coop.

chicken coop
Here’s the “big girl house.” My husband hung flowers by the fence, so the girls’ house is all decorated for the summer–and the big move in.

I was so worried about this big move. I love my big girls, but they are Rhode Island Reds. And while we picked a breed of chicken that was intelligent and winter hardy, I didn’t even think about temperament. Apparently, Rhode Island Reds can be stinkers and can be bullies, and this made me worried about the little girls moving in with the big girls.

But we followed the guidelines from all of the wisest chicken bloggers we could find, and it worked. After quite a few weeks of a slow introduction process, the little girls were big enough to move into the coop, and the first night was so hard on this chicken mama. My husband built a new roost, so there would be plenty of room in the coop, and, one by one, we brought the little girls in to sleep with the big girls. I was so worried that I stayed in the coop a long time with them, and when I had to leave, my husband stayed.

Thankfully, all went well. I was so proud of our little girls that I took pictures. My babies were growing up!

This experience with our babies growing up and moving in with the big girls got me to thinking about the kind of chicken mama I am and the kind of human mama I am. Our chickens have taught me many things about myself, but one thing that I find most interesting is how raising chickens has caused me to reflect about the kind of mama I am to my boys. I think reflection is an important part of growing as a person, and our chickie girls often make me reflective. I think that might be one of my favorite things about them.

Lesson 1: I’m an “elephant mom.”

First, I’ve learned that I’m definitely an elephant mom. If you haven’t heard of this, here’s a great read from The Atlantic on what being an elephant mom involves. Essentially, an elephant mom is super nurturing and supportive when her children are young but then gradually lets go and pushes them, when the time is right, into adulthood.

I’m definitely super nurturing as a mom. I spoil both our boys and all of our chickens. But I have one boy who is 19, and I’ve been able to be tough when I’ve had to. I know he’s got to grow up and become independent, and after he graduated high school, I made him go to work and learn how to handle his business at college. I didn’t want to be a helicopter mom.

My oldest especially didn’t like the going to work part, but I know it’s good for him. So even though my heart is sad that he has to sometimes work long hours and deal with grumpy customers at his job, I know he needs to do it. And I have faith that when my youngest needs that push, I’ll give it to him, too.

I’m the same way with my chicky girls. They’re spoiled rotten, and I baby them too much for sure. They get bagels in the morning, grapes cut in half to make them easier to eat in the afternoon, but when they start bullying and acting like this is Orange Is the New Black around here, I’m a tough mama. I stomp my feet and scare those girls into better behavior.

I was watching a nature documentary one time about a family of elephants. There was an incident where a baby elephant fell into a deep mud hole and couldn’t get out. The baby’s mama was a young mama. It was her first baby. She kept trying and trying to get the baby out of the mud hole, but she couldn’t do it. I started to panic, as I was sure I was about to see that poor baby elephant be stuck for good, but then the grandma elephant, who had been watching the whole time, came over to her daughter, pushed her out of the way, like with a swift kick in the butt, and then pulled the baby elephant right out from the mud hole.

It’s good to be nurturing, but, sometimes, I guess you just have to give ‘em a kick in the butt.

Lesson 2: But I can still let go.

Second, I learned that letting go is hard but possible—and necessary and important. When my oldest was little, I couldn’t imagine what I would even do with myself when he grew up and moved out of the house. I realize now it’s a process, and you have to let them gain their independence, mainly for their own sakes. There are many days I hardly see my oldest because of his work and school. And, when I do see him, sometimes, he’s so grumpy that I feel more than ready for him to get his own place, but mostly, he’s a good boy—well, young man. And he’s learning, gradually, how to “adult.”

Seeing our little chicky girls move in with the big girls and be totally fine with it helped me think about the importance of letting go. I was so worried that the little girls would get hurt or be sad, but most of them actually seemed quite happy to be with the big girls. And the couple of little girls who seem to be more mama’s girls and daddy’s girls got used to things after a day or two.

little chickens in coop
This is one of the “proud mama” pictures I took of the little girls on their first night in the coop. Our grumpy broody hen is in the background, not liking any of it.

Interestingly, the letting go part and learning I can do it has led me to the greatest epiphany about myself as a mother.

Lesson 3: It’s important for me to take time. 

The biggest thing I’ve learned from my chicky girls and, well, also from having a son who is nearly grown, is that they do grow up fast. You had better stop in any way you can and take a minute to take it all in.

Not everyone can manage it, I know, but working part time is the best thing I could have done. Though we’ve had to learn a lot about frugality, it’s my time that’s priceless to me.

My youngest son is little, and I want to enjoy this. Raising chickens is a good reminder for me that I need to slow down. I mean, they’re babies for just like six weeks. When they’re babies they are so adorable, so sweet, and so funny. But it seems like overnight they’re grown up, moving into the big girl house, and fighting over the top roost.

If you’re a mom or a dad, I encourage you to take this one lesson from my chicky girls and make sure you take some time out to treasure the days when your little ones are little. It’s not always easy. There’s work, errands, cooking, school, activities, and so much more, but I know we need to make sure we make an effort to slow things down.

Being reflective reminds me that I need to take time to go say hello to the chicky girls, admire the Lego creation my youngest built, and really listen when my oldest is telling me a story about a crazy customer at work.

The letting go is coming, but you have to try to treasure the time before the letting go.

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