We had two adult turkeys to start, a hen and a tom, both Black Spanish/Royal Palm crosses.
The Black Spanish and the Royal Palm breeds are what are known as heritage breeds. Heritage breeds are a lot different than the Butterball turkey the typical American family enjoys for Thanksgiving. Heritage breeds maintain a lot more of their wild instincts than factory farmed turkeys which have been bred to be docile and easier to handle.
Joel and I decided to free range the turkeys because everything we had read about them seemed to agree that they would be able to take care of themselves. We built them a nice night-time resting area in the barn with food, water and a place to rest. Of course, they ignored it and spent the night wherever they pleased.
The hen, who we call Henny Penny, disappeared after about a week and a half. The male, who we simply called Tom, was always in plain sight, chasing our car down the driveway, pooping on everything, and puffing his feathers up at everyone.
Joel brought a Brush Hog for the tractor so we could mow some of the INTENSE grass around the house and hopefully cut down on the hellish mosquito population. While mowing Joel discovered that Henny Penny had laid eggs! One of her eggs perished in the lawn mowing incident. Joel moved the eggs to a more secluded spot and Henny Penny continued to sit on them.
During this time Tom was driving us crazy. Joel drives a Ford truck and Tom loved to spend his nights either on top of the cab or sitting on the side of the bed. We tried chasing him off. We tried hollering at him. We tried moving the truck. We tried having a rational conversation. Nothing worked! That turkey just LOVED pooping on Joel’s truck. And boy did he ever poop. Maybe if there was money in turkey poop we would have kept him. But there isn’t, so we didn’t.
He made a lovely dinner. And then a lovely lunch. And then a lovely dinner again.
My grad school classmates were absolutely scandalized when I told them about Tom becoming dinner. “YOU ATE HIM???” I am still somewhat puzzled to receive so much criticism from a room full of omnivores.
Isn’t it strange how it is totally acceptable in our culture to eat meat that has been factory farmed, whose every day is a living nightmare, with animals packed into cages barely big enough to hold the bodies they contain; but when I give an animal a good free range life and then at some point, eat him, I am the one that is looked at as strange? The world is a weird place.
Meanwhile, Henny Penny dutifully sat on her eggs. I do not know if she missed Tom. At times, I convinced myself that she did, and I cried a little, true be told. She sat through the wind, the rain and the storm that blew our barn doors off, smashed a hole in the roof, and pushed in the side of our small barn. She hissed when anyone came close and puffed out her feathers. She glowered at Sansa, our Boxer. She hardly ate and she lost weight. She was a good mother.
She sat and she sat.
Yesterday her efforts bore fruit. Following her around since last night are two baby turkeys. If I dared get close enough, they would fit in the palm of my hand. One is all yellowish white and looks more like a Royal Palm. One is more black with yellow markings and looks more like mom, dad, and the Black Spanish breed.
Joel and I tried to do verbal punnet squares to hypothesize about the coloration of the remaining seven eggs, but sadly they have yet to hatch. As the hours pass it becomes less and less likely that they will.
This morning I tried to get close enough to the eggs to try to decide if they were still viable. Henny Penny freaked out and flew at my head and chased me about 20 feet.
Point taken, Henny Penny.