The Trouble with Turkeys

Do you guys remember my three little turkey peeps from last year?  The ones we rescued from the feed store when it became clear that they were quickly destined to be dinner?

We lost one little peep (my favorite) to his birth defect.  We lost another to a predator.

But one of the little peeps survived.

And he isn’t so little anymore.

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Arthur

Meet Arthur of Camelot. Continue reading “The Trouble with Turkeys”

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Tough Decisions and Heartbreak (A post I’ve been trying to not write…)

A few weeks ago, I spent most of a Saturday building a turkey playpen in the yard.  You guys remember our little turkey peeps, don’t you?  The three little misfits my husband brought home around the middle of April?

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I’ve been amazed by these little guys.  They are remarkable social birds, both amongst themselves and with us.  They decided early on that we were pretty awesome (probably because of our apparent never-ending supply of mealworms), and they call and coo for us when they see us nearby.

Well, a few weeks back, I decided that they were big enough to spend some of their time outdoors, especially while I cleaned their brooder, so I set this up in the front yard.

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Nothing fancy.  Just four panels with chicken wire and garden netting, held in place by zip ties.  I would haul the turkeys out of the basement in a cat carrier and leave them in their playpen for the afternoon while we did work around the farm.  But honestly? They liked it best when I sat with them.  They would prance around, but coming running back to me peeping when frightened, such as when the barn cat seemed to think they’d be tasty.

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I really grew to like the turkeys, but one of them, named Igor, became an easy favorite.  He came running when he saw us.  He liked being picked up.  When he was frightened, he not only came running back peeping, but he tried to jump into my lap as I sat, legs folded, in the grass.

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I named him Igor because of a slight limp.

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At first, the limp seemed quirky.  I had a chicken with a similar issue, and she did just fine.  She sort of waddled like a duck when she ran, which was actually kind of endearing and cute.

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But, unlike my hen, a heritage breed chicken, Igor started growing really fast.  And the limp got worse.

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I remember sitting in the playpen with the turkeys and noticing that when Igor ran, he tripped, occasionally falling.  I thought maybe it was an issue with the un-level ground.  We called the vet to ask if there was anything that could be done.  Maybe the leg could be splinted?    Perhaps there was something lacking in their diet?

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Jeremiah and our vet had a lengthy conversation about turkeys.  (Our vet is good for lengthy conversations.)  Among other things, we were informed that our peeps were not, in fact, the native turkey species of our area.  Rather, they were a genetically modified variant bred to look like the native species.  Our guys were created to be fast growing, quick to move from brooder to supper table.

Therein lay the problem.  My poor Igor, never destined for the supper table, was growing more size more quickly  than his bone structure could support.  His leg was splaying out from the hip.  And the vet said there was nothing at all that we could do to help him.  The leg couldn’t be fixed.

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We held off doing anything for a couple of days.  Then one day Jeremiah noticed that Igor couldn’t stand up in his brooder or on the cement basement floor.   And it sucked so hard, but we knew when he couldn’t stand that the kindest thing was to put him down.

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I walked in to check on our chicks before bed, and I realized that there were only two turkey peeps in their brooder.  Moment later, Jeremiah walked in, gun in hand.  He didn’t say anything, but I knew straight away what had been done.

He didn’t tell me first, but I can’t blame him for that.  It took everything in him to end things for Igor, even if it was the only kind thing to do.  And, I helped make the call. The responsibility rested on both of us, but he was the one who had to pull the trigger, and I don’t envy him that.

I was sad about it for days.  Both of us were.

Our two remaining turkeys moved into the chicken coop a few days ago.  They have mostly adjusted, even though our rooster was a bit of an ass about it, and they are generally doing well.  They still run to greet us, and they happily eat from our hands and allow us to pet them.

I like them.  And they may be Jeremiah’s current favorite creatures.  But I haven’t named either of them.  I’m not sure why.

And here’s what I’ve been thinking ever since: A few weeks ago, we had to shoot our pet because his body couldn’t quite withstand the way people had genetically modified his species.

And it made me think about the way we tinker with nature.  Halter horses bred for such a dished face that they can’t breathe properly.  Bulldogs that can’t give birth without a C-section. Turkeys and chickens that grow too big, too fast and can’t walk for the meat weight they carry.

And I’m left wondering, what on earth makes us think we have the right?

Author’s note: I know a lot of people have very strong feelings on this sort of thing.  Feel free to express your opinion…politely.

Here on the Island of Misfit Toys…err…Critters…

There are days when our little corner of the world starts to feel like the Island of Misfit Toys…except, instead of toys, we have creatures, and they don’t really seem in a hurry to leave.

Still, just from where I sit in our sunroom, I see a one-time alley cat who hates outside, a one-time barn cat who was literally too dumb to survive in the barn, and a German Shepherd with hip dysplasia and allergies to pretty much everything (like me!).  Out in the pastures, I have two mini-ponies rescued from New Holland, an off the track thoroughbred who wasn’t nearly fast enough, and more rescued llamas than you can shake a stick at…  And, in my basement…Turkeys.

Our latest misfits are Turkeys.  I am now officially sharing my home with large poultry (but only until they’re big enough to go outside).

My husband brought them home…

You see, my husband…

Well, some of you are familiar with him…

Let Him Eat Cake!
Let Him Eat Cake!
Kilt Man
Kilt Man
Pilot in Command...
Pilot in Command…

He’s…different…

Erm…I mean complex.

On the one hand, he’s a former professional firefighter, former cop, trained farrier, trained sniper who has been in more intense situations than anyone else I’ve ever met.  (Jeremiah once called me to let me know that he had gotten in a fistfight with a professional boxer who had been beating on his girlfriend…SWAT ended up being called in that day.)  On the other hand, he’s a total goofball and one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known.  (Such aspects of his personality are lesser known; this post is totally going to mess with his image…)

A few weeks ago, while I was at the office, he was charged with running to the feed store to pick up some of the farm necessities that we always seem to be running out of.  While he was there, he wandered over to the chicks.  All they had were turkeys, and three of them were separated out from the rest.  Apparently, those three were picked on by the other, bigger turkeys, necessitating their move.

As he was speaking with the clerk, a big guy in camo wandered by.  Upon hearing that the little ones in front of him got picked on, he interjected.

“Oh, that’s easy.  If they get picked on you just kill ’em younger.  Makes good eatin.”

And that’s when my firefighter, cop, sniper, farrier husband who forges his own swords said, “Nope.  They’re mine.  I’ll take them.”

Moments later, he posted this photo to Facebook

“Cherity left my unsupervised and they looked sad… I have peeps!”

I’m not sure what we’re going to do with our turkey friends once they get bigger, but I do know they won’t end up on our dinner plates.  This trio is safe.

For now, they’re living it up in the basement…

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Shakin’ their tail feathers…

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And discovering the joy of mealworms.  These guys think Jeremiah is pretty great; they follow him around with enthusiasm when given the chance.

And really, when you have 50+ animals, what’s three more misfits???

P.S. – Welcome to all of you recent subscribers.  I’m so glad to have you here!