Seems that I saw the Magnificent Seven in a movie many years ago. Don’t even remember what it was all about, but the title was obviously unforgettable. So are these pet turkeys.
Here they are: all seven of them.
With the state of our Union being what it is, and with the things happening everywhere, my attention has been on things important, such as being ready to die at any time. We see that it can happen, and without warning. I don’t want to leave this world unprepared for eternity.
But, Jesus said for us to “occupy” until he comes. And that means to be about the business of living. Sometimes I get so caught up in living that I forget him and that I am his, and just loose my composure, not to mention my temper. Then, Oh Lord, I am sorry. But after the words are said, or yelled, as is sometimes the case, they are loose to do their damage. Shame, shame.
I didn’t want to get involved with turkeys. No one does. But I had to. Jack doesn’t have a lot to get interested in or to take joy in these days, but he does love his birds. Last fall, he insisted Tony take him way over beyond Asheville to buy three female turkeys. These young females did nothing all winter but eat, no eggs, no nothing. But come spring they began to lay.
Jack said I had to save all the turkey eggs. I sneaked and ate a few (they are very good, better than chicken’s eggs) but there were still plenty. We got one of the incubators out and set it up in the living room on a table where Jack could see it and piddle with it. I think there were eighteen or twenty eggs in it but only six hatched. I put the little turkeys in an open plastic box on the little table where the incubator had been. I couldn’t resist reaching in and grabbing one up as I passed by. They squealed, but I just held and rubbed their beautiful fur. In a few days they began to feather out. Four were yellow with brown markings when they hatched; later they began to be spotted; one was all yellow and one almost black. The yellow one turned out to be gray colored and the black one has a little white on his tailfeathers now. His name is Big Peep.
Here are five little turkeys.
Well I petted my baby turkeys until I had to move them to a diddle cage in a room at the end of the chicken house. Jack made the diddle cage several years ago of wood framing with rat wire for the floor and poultry netting for the sides. The top is plywood, hinged to open and shut. By the time the little turkeys moved to the diddle cage Jack had hatched another setting of eggs, but unfortunately, only one little turkey made it. I called him Little Peep. He was black all over. I spoiled him of course, since he was the only one in the house.
The little ones in the diddle cage were growing and so beautiful. Turkeys ARE beautiful, IF you don’t look them in the face. Just notice their marvelous shape and their pretty feathers. All spring my therapy consisted of going down to the chicken house and spending time petting my little turkeys. In a few weeks I let them out of the diddle cage to run free in the little room where the cage was, and I moved Little Peep from the living room to the diddle cage. I let him stay there a week or two while he and the older little turkeys got acquainted.
This is Little Peep. Well, I did tell you about looking them in the face!
They would look in at him as if to say “What are you doing in there?” I was afraid that when I took him out of the diddle cage the others, being a few weeks older and bigger than him, would terrorize him, but they did not, probably because they already knew him.
By late July or August I turned all seven of them out to the chicken yard. They had no sooner hit the ground than the males began to fight each other. As far as I know there had been no feuding in the chicken house, but they really had it out that day. And then they settled down.
Chickens will go back into their house at night without any encouragement. Turkeys, not necessarily. Our big turkeys always go back in at night. But these – for some reason they wanted to roost outside. They still do. Mostly they roost in a cedar tree at the back of the house, but sometimes they choose a limb of a walnut, or a fence post. When daylight comes they fly down and the whole bunch goes rambling, sometimes far away. One morning I thought a coyote had gotten them, but about 9:00 o’clock all seven of them came traipsing out of the woods.
Even though they are nearly grown now, they are very tame and friendly. If I (or anyone else for that matter) sit at the picnic table they will come up to talk; the dominant males strut around so I can see how lovely they are, even consenting to let me pet them if I rub their feathers in the right direction. Little Peep comes and sits at my side. He is a male also, but he is not letting anyone but me know. He was strutting when he was little, but now he has quit. He is biding his time.
You think I’m kidding? No. Some males do not develop as early as others. Our black and white male was sold to us as a female, and it was a long time before we found that he was a tom. Also, I think some turkeys, such as Little Peep, have sense enough not to let their testosterone get out of control. They don’t want to pick a fight until they are sure they can win.
That surely applies to the gray one. He was always more aloof than the other six. I had to run him down to stroke his feathers and it never seemed to please him very much that I did. I noticed he didn’t join in the fight that occurred the first day I turned them out. I thought he was a duplicate of Madam Gray, an older female we have. I named him Miss Gray.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking on the road behind the shed all by myself when I came upon Miss Gray, who happened to be there alone, digging up bugs. What a show that turkey put on for me! It was as if Miss Gray knew I thought he was a girl and he was glad for this private audience with me so he could set the record straight. I watched in amazement at the transformation. When he saw me he tucked his head up against his neck, and fanned his tailfeathers in a perfect arc. He fluffed all the small feathers on his back and sides straight out. He spread his wing feathers apart and dropped them to the ground, scraping the dust with them as he thumped and puffed at me, strutting up and down as if he were the king of the hill. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it. I had no idea. I had to apologize.
When he was satisfied that I had gotten the message he went back to being a shy and mild mannered fowl, just picking bugs. I have seen no further evidence from him that he is a male. But he is! I would not have known it but for that private encounter.
We have five younger turkeys that have just been turned out. They did not get the petting and attention that I gave these seven and they are wild and no fun at all.
But these seven have been friends. And not just my friends. They cull no one. Give them a little attention and they’ll follow you to the jumping off place. They are a nuisance sometimes, especially when they get on the porch and look through the windows. They wouldn’t do it if they were not crazy about me and they know I’m in there somewhere. The other turkeys never notice the porch.
Earlier this evening I brought Little Peep in for Jack to see how he had grown. Jack grinned, not at Little Peep, but at me, and he said “You love them turkeys, don’t you?”
I have to admit that I do.
Update: Feb. 2017. Well, I am going to have to eat crow (turkey). You can not always tell a turkey’s sex by whether they strut or not. I will spare you the details, but to make a long story a little longer you need to know that a more accurate way to determine whether a turkey is male or female is by the wattles (the flap of skin under the beak) and the bumps or caruncles in the throat region. These are far more predominant in the male at maturity. Before then I guess you just have to wait and see. Sorry. I learn something new about every day.