How we spent the early morning hours yesterday…

Sitting out front, fleeces on, warm coffee in hand, watching the dynamics of our turkey flocks unfold before our eyes. We now know that we have four toms, six ladies…and yesterday, all the boys were ready to be the top dog. Turkey toms have a beautiful display that serves many purposes; sex appeal, machismo duds, and very convincing defense armor. This is the classic turkey pose–back feathers fanned out like our hands in grade school as we traced out our Thanksgiving art lesson. They also put their wing feathers, (which look like hands themselves) down on their sides, and then puff the rest of their feathers up. It always amazes me how big they can make themselves look when they do this, and when they add in their voices to let you know they are serious; well, I have to admit, I have even turned on my heel with a kind “Ok…I’ll come back when you are in a better mood!”.
So yesterday morning our two older toms- one a Bourbon red that remains from the batch we ordered this spring, the other part wild Turkey that came from our friends-decided to put on their attire and decide you might be the alpha turkey for the day. Now my understanding is that turkey toms in the wild are solitary creatures, except during mating season, and that, unlike in the chicken world where the rooster runs the show and clucks happily along with his little harem following behind, it is the turkey females who choose their mates during this time. What we have going is a little different as far as I can tell. The Bourbon red tom runs with the four other turkeys that we raised from this spring, all females. The part wild tom runs with his sister and the other part wild female and her two babies that we received this summer from our friends. They each have their own routines, and make their rounds of the farm each day foraging away without usually crossing paths.
I can’t say why all the turkeys happened to be in front of the house this particular morning, but perhaps it was simply to provide us with a much needed moment of relaxed humor. As we watched these two strut around each other we couldn’t help but laugh. Here we sat, civilized humans who no longer outwardly accept such blatant outpourings of testosterone, watching the half-wild tom put his beautiful but undoubtedly inferior (by nature’s exacting standards) fellow tom in his place. We couldn’t tell what the rest of the females thought of the display. We were honestly hoping that this little show wasn’t a sign that someone wanted to get frisky…we would rather not have babies as the cool weather begins.
The mother turkey, however, was paying attention. Her two sweet little babies were too. It seems that they understood quite well what was going on, and this is how we discovered what sex these last two little ones were. Small in size but with plenty of brawn, these two raised their tale feathers and were ready to prove their worth. Lucky for them, their mama knew that they needed to let the big birds duel it out and that they needed to stay out of the way. She kept jumping in front of them and blocking them with her wing, chattering in turkey talk words I imagined to be, “Get back you silly boys, get back NOW!” It was endearing, her little turkey wing like an arm, sheltering her babes from the grown up world for as long as she can. I can relate, as it is always I who want my boys to stay little for as long as possible, holding them close for as long as they will let me before they have to go out in the world and prove that they are beautiful toms now too. It was a nice way to start the day, and I couldn’t help but send a silent thank you to the heavens, for this small but precious moment. And then, as if breaking into another world, I got up and began the days work with a good morning to the turkeys and they forgot what they were doing and took their turn as observer, watching to see what their strange human might be up to this morning.

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