Posted in Ducks & Other Birds, Hen Pecked

Turkey Wars & Transgenders

Keeping animals can be, in my opinion, a live and learn process. Its good to have books and to talk to people who have owned the type of animal for a good many years. Its good to have those things around for help when you need it. But at the end of the day, it’s still gonna be a live and learn kind of a deal. You won’t know it, won’t foresee it, won’t even hear about it, until it’s knocked you upside the head and put you flat on your arse. Such is the case, but not limited to, my crazy bunch of Turkeys.

In case you missed the post, last July, a few days after the fourth, I brought home two Royal Palm and four Bourbon Turkey Poults. They were all straight run. My plan was to keep one Tom, if I had one, and keep all Hens – if I had them. Straight Run, for those who don’t know, is a guessing game of what you might have. Its hard to Sex Poultry of any kind and even harder, when it comes to Turkeys—until they get a certain age. So when buying, its usually Straight Run. 

A month or so later, I bought five Broad Breasted Bronze, that were destined for the freezer—one day.

As for the July 4th Poults, though I kept them separated for a few weeks, eventually, a Polish Hen we had named, Elvis, decided she was the mother – along with about twenty-something other Black Australorp chics.

The July 4th mix, lived with the chickens and even thought of themselves as chickens until they started sorting out a pecking order. That’s when things got hairy. I had turkeys ganging up on other chickens, to the point, it nearly meant death. Have you seen Turkeys pick a fight? They don’t let up. And when one instigates it, all of them join in. The problem is, once a chicken is pinned down, they don’t let up. They go right for the head and start pecking until blood is drawn and then death. And if you manage to break it up, two seconds later, they are back at it again. This goes on for days, weeks, or until they have taken out the one they don’t like.

Now, this is strange, if you’ve ever encountered the ADD a Turkey is known to have. Meaning, they seem absolutely intelligent until they flipped the switch and become dumber than a box of rocks. Example, they can escape a fence by flying over it a thousand times, but then spend hours and hours and hours pacing back and forth–creating a DITCH—unable to figure out how to get back in.  Even though they have done this, as I’ve said, a thousand times. So for them to carry a grudge for this long with another bird, well, it’s mind boggling.

Regardless, after they pinned my Black Australorp Roo and damn near killed him and then started going after my lap-Roo, Scrappy, I knew, without a doubt, the Turkeys had to be separated. And that’s what we did.

Since my Bronze were fenced in the Garden-area (my master plan to fertilize the garden for next Spring—and the July 4th trouble-makers flew in and out of there with no problems, then that’s where I stuck em. That’s where they have been for months. Living with the Bronze. Side by side. I did have a problem with them flying the fence from time to time, so I clipped one wing. That stopped that for awhile, but not for long. Don’t let anyone tell you that clipping a wing will keep them out of trouble. I have one Hen who can climb a fence. She can fly, too, but she just likes climbing. Usually, I let her escape and stay with the chickens. By herself, she doesn’t cause any problems. But now if any of the others get out there, like my two Royal Palm Hens – Sally & Mae—then all hell will break lose. But that’s just because Sally and Mae act like they’ve spent their life in prison and just wanna instigate and be gnarly whenever they get the chance. Not with humans, mind you, but with all the other animals. However, if they fly over, I just run them back and usually once I run them back once, they stay for the rest of the day. The climber, well, I let her be. They seem to like picking fights with her and she only climbs to escape when it gets bad. By the end of the day, she climbs back unless Sally and Mae hold the grudge. If that’s the case, the Climber sleeps with the chickens for the night.

The plan was, keep the Bronze till Spring or even next Fall, then Butcher. The experts told me that they are ready at 22 weeks but others said they let them grow a year to get a whopper sized Turkey—40- something or more pounds. If they seemed stable—on their legs, since they are prone to have difficulty supporting their weight by a certain time – or so I am told—then I was going to take them as far as I could. Regardless, they clearly outweigh the July 4th Crew. The Bronze are not aggressive, though. They kind of stick together and do their own thing. They sleep together and don’t really muck around the July 4th Crew at all. The July 4th Crew escape the fence but the Bronze don’t. They crossed paths and rub elbows but that’s about the extent of it. All seemed well in Turkey Land except for the mischief the July 4th Crew seemed to cause, which I had learned to nip in the butt and how to bring an end to—at least until the next day.

I even discovered what genders I had. The July 4th Crew, I had two Toms and four Hens. I was happy about the fourth Hen because she actually had us confused for awhile. I thought maybe she was going to be a transgendered — working out a Gender. That may seem funny to the rest of you but I swear, some days she would puff up and strut like a Tom and others, she’d peep and streak like a Hen. I think she chose, Hen, or figured out that’s what she was born as. She is actually my Climber.

As for my Bronze, I knew what I had there because I was able to order specific genders. Four Males and One female. My husband stuck the female in there, not sure why. He had a reason at the time, but God knows the mtn man can’t  remember to save his own life now. Anyway, that’s what we have and all was good to go with the plan I had – knock out one Tom in the July bunch since I only needed one—butcher my Bronze come Spring or Fall. As for my Royal Palms, I ended up with no Toms. I planned on either selling or trading for two Bourbon Hens. Sally and Mae need a man to keep them straight—someone to play warden unless I stumble upon a Royal Tom—then I may keep them because God knows there isn’t a dull moment with those two around.

All seemed well and good – as I said, before—except for the few problems I’d deal with every day or every other day, except for a few days ago. Then all hell broke lose. They decided to pick a fight with one of the Bronze, who did all he could do to get away from them. Since temps were freezing here, and I didn’t get outside for long periods of time, I didn’t catch it and they killed that poor Jake dead. Once they were done with him, they started on another. Needless to say, I lost two of my Bronze. Frantic, I ran to Backyard Chickens and hunted down a Turkey post. Luckily I found some Turkey people who told me the actual truth.

Now, when I say truth, I mean, they didn’t sugarcoat anything like people did BEFORE I got Turkeys. They didn’t tell me nothing but the joys of turkey keeping. They didn’t fill my head with butterflies and cotton candy.  While they specifically said how much they loved keeping turkeys, they also told me the cold hard truth—they are an aggressive, curious and trouble-making bird – which is what made them as much fun as it did a nightmare. Their suggestions – separate the Bronze and the July 4th Crew and keep them separated, even from the Chickens. As far as my Climber, leave her be unless she starts making trouble too. They said sometimes, they’d have one that just seemed better off with the other chickens and livestock. Maybe since my Climber worked out her Gender issues, she is now struggling with what she is. She might not know she’s a turkey, or may not know if she wants to be one. So, we will just let her work those lifestyle matters out.

But as far as turkeys, themselves, picture the Raptors on Jurassic Park. There is one HEAD B-WORD IN CHARGE. In my case, that’s Sally. Mae is her second in command and the Toms and other Hens just fall in line with whatever murder and mayhem they seem to be carrying out. The thing to remember, its all fun and games until someone actually dies. And with Turkeys, as I just learned, that will eventually happen. Dog. Cat. Chicken. Doesn’t matter. If they want to pick a fight, they will. And while they cant remember how the hell to get back over a fence, they always remember who they’ve singled out to bully. You can bet your bottom dollar on that.

Will I continue to keep turkeys? Yup. As the turkey people said, you gotta love them for the good and bad. Their bad, is what keeps them interesting. But they are prison-bound, though, at least at my place. They’ll get their own run and Coop. No more socializin, especially for the July 4th Crew who is hell bent on actin’ out the movie, The Warriors, or, The Gangs of New York, each and every day.



Stylist. Cover Artist. Author.

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