So I knew Jane (our half wild half domestic turkey named after Calamity Jane) was sitting on a bunch of eggs under the Chinese Cabbage out in the garden. Just about the time I was thinking I needed to check the date to see when she was likely to hatch them, I heard peeping! She only managed to hatch out 5 (out of about 15 eggs) but given the 100+ degree heat in the last month, she did OK. They hatched around August 7th. I’ve left her and the babies out in the garden, away from the rest of the flock. I put out food and water for them, and hope that they all eat squash bugs until there are none left! She’s down to four as of yesterday. It’s not unusual for them to lose a few in the first few weeks. I often think they quite literally lose them as they wander through the tall grass, while the little ones try to keep up.
I keep track of my poultry pretty closely. I’m a chronic counter, and so whenever I’m out in the evenings, I take a head count. I knew I should have had 13 turkeys (4 adult females, 1 adult male, and 8 younger ones from this spring). So I knew I had a gray turkey missing. This time of year, when the urge to nest is strong, I figured most likely I had another female on a nest somewhere, rather than having lost her to a predator. Turkeys can fly short distances, and they often fly over our fences and go on walk about around the property. One even walked into the living room of the next door neighbor one day when they had the door open (Thankfully, I have great and very understanding neighbors). So Tuesday, I’m in the back yard to throw some kitchen vegetable scraps over the fence to the goat, and I hear and then see six wild turkeys in the yard. And when I look again, I see my missing gray turkey, with babies trailing behind her. Turns out the nest was right there in the back yard, in a bunch of weeds we hadn’t had time to pull. They had just hatched, and I noticed that several of the babies were dark colored. Given that my male is a Bourbon Red, a brown bird, I can only assume that Ellie was getting a little something on the wild side, if you catch my drift.
I don’t know if the wild turkeys knew she had just hatched her young, or if they just happened to be in the yard, but it wasn’t hard to believe the sisterhood had shown up in support of the new arrivals.
Ellie is now down to four little ones. I thought for sure she’d lost them all. A few mornings later I was out on the back deck, and she was on the deck as well, making a very loud alarm call. The dogs then came roaring around the corner. I put the dogs in the house, and then walked around the yard with the turkey, her making alarm calls, and me listening for her little ones. I eventually gave up and came inside, my heart breaking for her, thinking the dogs had gotten them. But when I went back outside an hour or so later, there she was with 5 of them. So, babies were safe and no more dogs in the backyard for awhile.
Now I really don’t need more turkey babies (who won’t be large enough to harvest until February. But its hard to not celebrate these two Mamas and all of their hard work and dedication to motherhood. It takes 28 days of sitting to hatch a turkey egg. They hardly eat or drink while sitting. And they often have 10-15 eggs, one laid each day, until they have enough to sit on. And then the rearing and worrying begins. It doesn’t hurt that they are so stinkin’ cute.
Click here for a video of the wild turkeys in the yard.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2014, where we’re not quite awash in turkeys, but are enjoying the bonus round.