Every time I think I’ve witnessed all the quirky behaviors that our turkeys display, they prove that animals are always full of surprises.
As you may have read in my last turkey post Trimming Turkey Feathers, the turkeys are really enjoying their new freedom to explore the larger run. Now that their wings are clipped and we don’t have to worry about them wandering into the road they can hunt for bugs, eat grass and live a more natural turkey life. They love prowling through the tall grass that grows in their area. It reminds me of the scene in Jurassic Park where the Raptors are running through the jungle and the camera shows the swishing and parting of the tall green blades. There is definitely something dinosaur-esque about turkeys.
The other day I went out to the turkey pen to give them some juicing pulp. All the turkeys came running out of the grass at the sound of my voice…all but our tom.
I could hear him thweeping, but wasn’t running to the gate like usual.
So I entered the pen and started separating the grass to find him. I finally spotted him lying on the ground with his head low and he refused to get up. This concerned me. Was he injured? Were his legs ok?
As I approached, he lengthened his neck out low to the ground and ruffled his feathers slightly. This was really unusual behavior for him. He is usually friendly and the first to come eat bits of bread crusts or treats.
At this point I still couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
I got closer and tried to pick him up, but his body was tense and he tried with all his might to stay put. I was afraid that if he was injured that I might be hurting him by making him move. But he was protesting with such strength and vigor that I doubted he was weak with pain. He’s a big, heavy bird and if he doesn’t want to do something, he can be difficult to force. He released a sort of hissing growl in his throat and kicked his feet out scrambling to get back into position. It was in this movement that I caught the small glimpse of an egg under him.
Well, this doesn’t make any sense.
I was relieved that he wasn’t hurt, but really, really confused. I knew now that I could in fact move him without causing pain, so I lifted him to see that he had built himself a nest and was sitting on 3 eggs.
At first I thought, wait, maybe this is a hen and I’m loosing my mind. His snood was drawn in and without his usual prominant display of tail and feathers it was possible that I was just mistaking him for a hen. I quickly looked over the three remianing turkeys, nope…definitely the tom.
Well I’ll be!
After I returned in the house I did some research on turkeys and their nesting habits. Like many birds, both the mother and the father will share in the brooding experience. Some toms take their nesting time pretty seriously and will incubate the eggs entirely by himself allowing the hens only to lay the eggs near the nest and then he will draw them under him the way many chickens will hatch other hen’s eggs.
He has his nest buried in the grass so I have a hard time witnessing whether or not the girls are sharing the brooding responsibility, and he seems uncomfortable when I get too close so I’m trying to give him some distance. But I know he’s sitting a lot because he hasn’t had that presence in the yard like I’m used to seeing. He is otherwise very striking and noticeable.
I’ll let you know if anything comes of the clutch. Our hen gave up her nest because I think the chickens were giving her a hard time. (For more on this, read my post Mamma Silkie’s at it Again.)
Do you raise turkeys? What is the quirkiest behavior you’ve ever seen them demonstrate? Share your stories with us, by leaving a comment below or visit us on the Community Chickens Facebook Page.