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Mother’s Day Redux

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“I think you need a brooder box for your birthday,” says brother Neil.

I don’t want to raise anything else, I think to myself. “No”. I say to Neil.

Seven turkeys are running around the farm yard, mostly underfoot and clucking and clicking and gobbling, now that they have escaped the confines of their pen. The two males are puffed up and strutting. The two males are ALWAYS puffed up and strutting. They are a vision in testosterone. The females are busy taking their dust spa.

Raising turkeys is a condensed, distilled snapshot of male/female interaction at its social worst.

“You could sell the poults” Brother Neil says, trying still to convince me. “You know you have enjoyed raising these turkeys”.

I have, I say to myself, but I don’t want to raise any more, and especially not from dadblasted eggs. One day old was trying enough. (For those of you unfamiliar with the early saga, go here.)

“What in the world is wrong with the world if these hens can’t lay on their own eggs and hatch them themselves.” I say exasperated, a few treble decibles higher in pitch and volume than necessary. Google search has already revealed that you have to roll the eggs over twice a day. Yoohoo. Roll the eggs over twice a day.

“Well, you don’t have to be so angry about it,”  Neil says kinda sad, which was all put on. “Those sure were cute little fuzzy yellow balls of fluff. They have brooders that do everything for you, you know.”


Turkey mating season had been going on for almost two months now, and although the toms were juvy in age and it took a few tries, they had been actively, I mean actively engrossed in “going forth and populating the earth.” I knew all the eggs the girls were laying were likely fertile.

Just when does turkey conception begin and was any of this my responsibility? I said to myself. I hate moral dilemmas, I added.

I satisfied myself momentarily with the fact that we are, above all, responsible farm animal owners. We let the turkeys out on a regular basis. When we advertise in the fall for free range, organic Thanksgiving turkeys, there shouldn’t be a doubt in your mind, if you choose to buy one, that at the point of cutting their heads off, you will be getting what we promised you.

Yeah that. I am not going to think about it.

Freeranging for out turkeys was always the same. After the girls finished their dust spa and a few others were enticed to carnal involvement, one of them would sneak off to some underbrush. She’d cackle and flit about in a circle, finally squatting, and then calmly lay an egg. Settling herself around the egg, she would sit. The first time this happened I was elated and terrified.  Elated because it seemed to solve my problem and terrified because there was no way she could stay out of the pen. There ARE evil monsters that come out at night in domesticated turkey world. Almost guaranteed.

I needn’t have spent the emotion, because within 15 minutes, whichever female had the momentary lapse to an earlier wild turkey imprinting, was up and back with the flock, shaking the dust off her feathers, ready for an afternoon out with the toms.

Dumb animals, I said to myself. That’s progress for you. So much for designer breeding. When you create something that can’t even take care of making sure its own species has got some chance of continuing, you’ve probably gone too far. It’s all about responsibility you silly hens! I said to them as they went back over for another dust spa treatment.

I only beginning to briefly entertain the notion of just how good cultural advancement and  is  working for us and our human children when something strange happened. One of the hens made a nest inside the turkey coop and didn’t get up. The knowledge dawned slowly, because the first few days, she did come out, only to return after only a few minutes. By the end of the second week, we knew she was in the for the long haul.

We have watched in amazement. Somewhere, somehow, back in that bird brain of hers, the instinct was still there, she was a nester. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that she was the fav of alpha Tom. He ruffeled her feathers quite often.
And then the second amazing thing happened. Another hen joined her.

Over the last 3 weeks, they have lost some eggs. It’s a mystery to us what happens to them. They’ve adopted some eggs. Clearly the other hens are just a little short of being completely cultured and leave them on their sisters’s doorsteps. Or nest in this case.

We are about 8 days away from knowing what its going to look like for a bourbon red turkey to hatch from underneath its momma’s warm feathery breast.

I’m not so busy thinking about brooders and dilemmas and where being overcivilizied has gotten us.  Mostly I’m just thinking that the plan will always be for a mother to step in and make sure that life goes on. And quite often, there will be another mother who stands the gap with her.

That and clearly, sexy females make good mommas.

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