Rivaled perhaps only by the turkey.
Archive for the ‘Turkeys’ Category
Well, my little August break was nice, but now it’s back to work. I mean, it was still back to work in terms of the chickens, since I couldn’t just go on a vacation from feeding them without any repercussions, I was just taking a break from talking about them. Not from talking to them, though, which I find myself more and more aware of now that there are sometimes people in the house next door. I suppose they’re the ones who need to get used to it, not me. I’m so used to it I don’t even notice I’m doing it half the time.
Beyond my own experiments in inter-species communication, things have been pretty good with the chickens lately. The mites still seem vanquished, and butt feathers are still sprouting. Maybe not as fast as I’d like them to, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned since getting chickens, it’s that everything ends up taking way more time than it’s supposed to. Case in point: building the coop. Hopefully that was a one-time event. As I predicted, molting season may be combining with butt feather regrowth season, since I’ve been seeing a fair bit of Mandrell Sister plumage floating free in the coop lately. I suppose seeing it early is better than seeing it later, since last year they all molted quite late, and it was a very cold time to not be fully feathered. I figure if you’ve got to grow some feathers back anyway because of the mites, why not just dump a bunch and totally start over? I’m not sure that’s how it actually works, but I need to impose some sort of logic onto all this.
We haven’t seen much of the turkeys lately, but that doesn’t mean they’re not around. I suppose since August is when many people take vacations, who’s to say turkeys don’t do the same? Probably people who study turkeys. But since I’m throwing around hare-brained ideas, I might as well get this one in there too.
One big event that happened during my hiatus is only marginally related to the chickens, in that it only happened because I was going out to the coop to feed them. But if they weren’t there, I wouldn’t have been out there alone in the dark, so I guess it’s totally related to the chickens. So let’s proceed from there. I’ve mentioned before that where we live has basically every predator that you can get in New England. I haven’t seen them all personally, but the farmer down the street has, and so I am generally quite vigilant about keeping everyone safe. In the winter, I always look for tracks around the coop in the snow, but so far I haven’t seen any. Either the animals can tell the electric fence, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, is not something to mess with, or they just are really bad at figuring out that there are chickens in there. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying I’m a little surprised that we haven’t seen more break-in attempts. But the other morning as I was coming out with breakfast, I saw a set of eyes reflected in the light of my headlamp. (Sadly, those glorious weeks when it’s light when I get up have passed.) Normally, if I see some eye reflections, they turn and disappear as soon as I approach. This time, not so much. In fact, the eyes began to approach me. This was not good. I quickly began to make out the shape of the creature, and I began to worry that I was looking at a baby bobcat, which could possibly mean that there was a mama bobcat nearby. As my bowels contemplated voiding themselves, I happened to catch a shadow of a tail in the ever-shortening distance between me and the eyes, and thankfully realized that it was just a regular cat, and one we see pretty often. I joke that he’s one of our cats’ boyfriends, since he sits outside the sliding door and looks in at her, but she seems to hate him, so I guess maybe he’s more of her stalker. Either way, if he’s trying to get in with her, I recommend he knock off the scaring me in the morning. He stopped walking towards me when he got to the steps of the sliding door and assumed his place, gazing indoors at our cat who clearly was not pleased about having a visitor. The chickens were safe, and ⅓ of the cats were annoyed. A pretty typical morning.
The turkeys aren’t the only new friends we have around the yard these days. The plum tree is overrun with aphids and Japanese beetles, as well as ladybugs that I introduced to eat the aphids. The ladybugs are reproducing like crazy, and it’s really cool to see their eggs and future ladybugs in their various immature states. I just wish I didn’t have to work them into the scheme of things, because the poor plum tree really has it rough these days. I’m not sure we’ll ever get plums with the way it gets attacked each year, but I keep trying. It was during my pruning of the limbs that had been picked clean by beetles that I found out we have yet another friend who has been hanging around.
I was trimming the branches and sorting them into piles based on whether they were totally decimated, still infested with aphids, or carrying young ladybug types. My mother-in-law got home and came over to see what I was doing, and I was more than happy to gripe about the state of the tree. I was probably happier about it than usual because it was really hot, which made the task even more of a chore. I don’t know why I picked the hottest part of the day to do it, but I usually have to do these things when I think of them, otherwise they never get done. So there I was.
Chickens, as you may or may not know, aren’t always the quietest animals. Ours have a tendency to get quite rowdy early in the morning, which makes us lucky to not have anyone living in the house next door. Someone has bought the place, and is in the process of renovating, but they’re not in there yet. Recently, they were running some loud piece of renovating machinery after 9 at night, and I was contemplating whether or not to go tell them to knock it off. I worried that I shouldn’t play the noise card so soon, given the chickens’ propensity for morning songs of joy. Thankfully the neighbors stopped right when I was having this conversation with myself, so fights about noise can start later. But the point I’m trying to make is that the chickens do enjoy making a good old fashioned ruckus from time to time, and usually when they do, it’s no big deal. It’s more of a “if you want to sing out, sing out,” sort of thing. If they want to express themselves, that’s cool with me, man.
So, when I was trimming the plum tree and regaling my mother-in-law with tales of pestilence, and a wave of raucous bawking came wafting over from the coop area, it was not initially a big deal. The chickens were out foraging, but that doesn’t mean they were going to be quiet. It was only when I realized that they were all joining in that it struck me as odd. Usually it’s one or two being loud, but for such a group effort to go down, I figured something major must be going on. I was worried they were killing a snake. We have a lot of garter snakes around, and I’m paranoid they’re going to peck one to death and it will just be awful, so I headed over to where they were, hoping that it was not a reptocide going on.
It wasn’t. As I approached the coop, I saw that three chickens had headed into the big pricker bush to hide out, and the others were inside the run. And then a large hawk in the tree next to the coop took flight and disappeared into the woods. I kept counting the chickens to make sure they were all there, and they were. That was a big relief. I put them all back in the run in case the hawk came back, and then started to think about what had happened. Did they make the ruckus to scare the hawk, warn the others, or to call for help? Did they know I would come over to investigate the source of the noise, or was it simply what they do when there’s a threat? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I didn’t ignore it, thinking they were just being loudmouths. I saw a hawk again today, and I’m going to have to be extra careful with free-range time now. We hadn’t seen any all summer, but they’re out there, and I’m not taking any chances. I should probably warn the turkeys about this. We can get a whole neighborhood watch thing going on.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Lucille by Wilbur C. Sweatman’s Original Jazz Band)
While I’m awaiting the results of my mite treatments, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the turkeys I mentioned last week. Sure, they’re not chickens, but they’re poultry, and they’re interesting to me, so here we are. Here we are, surrounded by turkeys.
We thought that we had one family of turkeys with 15 poults (which are baby turkeys, if you’ve forgotten) living in our yard and trees, but some of the theories about our large neighbors have recently changed. Last week I came home from work, and saw two turkeys with a lot of babies across the street, heading into the cornfield, which may or may not be good news for the farmer. Then about 10 minutes later, I looked out the window, and there were two turkeys, but only with about six babies in tow. “Where’d all the babies go?” my wife asked, and then we realized we probably knew, but maybe didn’t want to think about it. But then I thought about it. I had seen the big family that morning, spread out across two lawns next door. I had seen the big family across the street a few minutes earlier. Then it hit me. “I’m not sure these are the same turkeys,” I said. “There may be two sets of families working this area.” Then we got to thinking. When we used to see turkeys, they would be further down the road, and it was a flock of 10 to 20 birds. Turkey moms tend to lay their eggs and then pair up with another female to raise the poults. The tom turkeys are basically deadbeat dads in this scenario. If the big flock down the road was all ladies, and they all had babies, then that was 5 to 10 pairs of turkeys with babies. That’s a lot of turkeys. I’m pretty sure the second set of turkeys we saw that day was a totally different family, and the ones I had seen in the cornfield were still in there when these others arrived.
As we watched them walk across the front yard, we were struck by how hilarious it is when the poults run. Those little legs go a mile a minute, but the bodies don’t seem to move that fast. Then a mother and a few babies all lined up, and made the classic Partridge Family logo, or in this case, Turkey Family, which I found out meant that I would have the Partridge Family theme song stuck in my head for days. Then I caught one of the adults looking at my car. In Boston, there are quite a few wild turkeys, and I am convinced that turkeys are the next wave of gentrifiers. The stories you hear about the city turkeys is how aggressive they are, and they often attack cars. It turns out that what they’re actually doing is attacking their reflections in the sides of the cars, thinking it’s another turkey. This would be the males during mating season, and this would be another reason that tom turkeys are probably best avoided. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver talks about how incredibly aggressive her turkeys were, and that the males even tried to mate with her if she turned her back to them. So all these thoughts were going through my head as the turkey looked at my car, and I mumbled aloud, “you leave my car alone.” It seemed to work, and the turkey slowly made her way across the yard, over the stone wall into the neighbor’s yard, and eventually out of sight. It probably also helped that she was not a tom looking for a mate.
Poults will stay with their families for the first year of their lives, so in a few months, or however long it takes them to reach regular turkey size, we are going to have a ton of turkeys milling around. I’m sure some will fall to predators, but then next year they’ll all lay eggs again, and soon there may be even more turkeys. Too Many Chickens(!) may soon turn into Buried By Turkeys. But if they eat ticks, I welcome our new turkey overlords.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Tiger Rag-One Step by Original Dixieland Jazz Band)