Monday, November 2, 2015

it's ok to fall in love with a turkey

Sweetgrass turkeys - jakes - strutting for Gypsy Farmgirl

I never took myself for a "poultry person" until the first time I brought home day old chicks from the local farm supply store. 

I've been raising chicks from one-day-old every spring and summer since, both laying breeds and meat breeds, and even trying my hand at hatching out our own (although as luck would have it, we got 10 out of 11 roosters that year!).

Sweetgrass turkey jakes strutting their stuff for Gypsy Farmgirl

But it was my first bunch of Blue Slate turkeys from Cackle Hatchery that really sent me head-over-heels in love with poultry and especially, with turkeys. 

And what an odd love affair this has been.  

the brilliant blue head of a strutting Sweetgrass turkey

Turkeys have an undeserved negative reputation.  Far from being stupid, (and no, turkeys will absolutely not stand out in the rain and look up and drown, so if you've ever said that, please stop it immediately) I have found them to be the most social, the most curious and the most gregarious of all of the domestic birds on our property. 

Their faces are divine studies in theatrical performances, as their heads and necks turn from a pale pink to vivid tones of blues and reds whenever they are near an object of attention - either the hens, or more often, us. 

when you're a turkey, a snood is not just a snood

The names of the parts of their heads are also delightful - from the snood hanging over their beak, which stretches and elongates when they strut, to the caruncles on their head and necks, which also engorge and turn brilliant red during a strut. 

{And yes, for turkeys, snood length does matter, with longer snoods winning the hearts of hens and usually determining the dominance level of the tom.} 

a Sweetgrass tom turkey in full strut

An adult turkey has 5,000-6,000 feathers, from the long proud tail feathers to the tiniest of tiny feathers on the tops of their heads, which appear like an angelic halo (look closely at several pics on this page to see this).  These beautiful feathers are not just for looks, either, as a turkey can fly up to 40 mph and in the wild, naturally roosts in trees. 

Their big brown (or blue) eyes are keenly sharp, as any hunter with a goal to bag one can attest to, their field of vision encompassing 270° and even seeing in color.  

big brown turkey eyes and a 270° field of vision

But it's not the many fine attributes that I fell in love with, although they make it all the more justifiable. 

It's the essence of the turkey personality, the "turkeyness of the turkey," so to speak. 

It's the way the babies are so calm when you put your hand into the brooder, coming up in serious earnestness to investigate your fingers, and their escalating peep, PeeP, PEEP! when excited. 

the end of my turkey tale... or tail.

It's the hens that will curl up in my lap for a snooze, or fly up and roost on my head, or sneak up behind me to steal the gloves out of my pocket, darting away in an exuberant game of "keep-away."

Mostly, turkeys are just darn good company. 

And that, my friend, is good enough reason for me to fall in love. 

Cheers - 

Gypsy Farmgirl loves turkeys


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