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Monday, August 8, 2016

Talkin' turkey on the farm

I was heading out to the compost pile early one morning when I felt I was being followed. The cows were already out in the field so it wasn’t one of them. I turned around and no one was behind me – but when I looked down I saw four turkeys standing at my feet. They had followed me across the barnyard to the compost heap and were curiously examining what I was depositing.
“Hey! How did you guys get out?!” They looked up at me and warbled in a perfect chorus. I have no idea how they do that. It’s like they communicate telepathically within seconds and decide they are all going to speak at once. They do it all the time and it freaks me right out.
The Farmer thought the turkeys might like their free range area expanded a bit so he cordoned off a sheltered area in the stable with snow fencing. Then he slid both the back wall and the front wall of the stable open so the breeze can pass through. It’s quite comfy in there, and about ten degrees cooler than outside. We put the turkeys back in their pen for safekeeping at night – we don’t want anyone escaping to wander the yard where they might get picked off by a predator. And it has become apparent that they are quite capable of escaping their snow fencing.
I walked back to the stable, the turkeys in tow. They shuffled along behind me, stopping occasionally to nibble grit and weeds on the ground. Examining the snow fence, I could not clearly see their exit route. There were no gaps in the fence and the bottom had been pinned down to the dirt floor. They must have jumped up and flown over the top. And the Farmer said turkeys with their pin feathers removed cannot fly.
Then I noticed a problem. Their feeders were empty. I dragged a 40k bag of feed off the pile and hauled it into the fenced area. The turkeys followed me in, gullibly. They commented in unison about the new development. They were getting fed. I wonder if they took any credit for collecting me from the barnyard and willing me to do their bidding.
Turkeys don’t eat much but we have a few more birds this year so they are going through the feed pretty quickly. Not as quickly as the cows though – I think our dozen  head and their babes  are halfway through their winter hay already due to the lack of rain and no grass growing on the meadow.
The turkeys have it easy. They seem quite content, and I would like to think they have made it past the age of being targets for raccoons and skunks. I could be wrong there, but fingers are crossed.
I surveyed their domain. The double horse stall had been turned into a turkey pen, and they are quite cosy in there. Turkey poop lines every flat surface – again, a sign that they are able to fly at least a few feet in the air, up to roost. I knocked some of the dung off, shoveled it up, and spread some fresh, dry hay across the spongy floor. Immediately several turkeys appeared on either side of me. They climbed up onto the piles of hay even before I could release it from my fork. I gently pushed them aside with my foot so I could spread the hay out.
“Oh, you like that, huh?” The birds nestled down into the dry hay, preening, cooing and clucking. The brushing action of the hay must feel good under their sweaty feathers in this heat. It dries them off and fluffs them up.
By the time I finished dressing their pen the birds were all shiny and white again. And the four who had escaped to go and find me looked quite pleased with themselves, snuggled together on a fresh pile of hay in the corner.
As I turned to walk away I said “goodbye – have a nice day, birdies…” and they all responded by warbling the same three notes together, simultaneously. I wish they would stop that. Freaks me right out.


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