My husband, Bud and I never thought we would suddenly become turkey farmers when we retired and we moved to the country in Texas.
One day when our grandson, Joshua was visiting, he ran into my kitchen and said, “Grandma, there are three large birds beside the chicken pen.” I said, “Large? maybe they are some of our neighbors roosters”. He said, “No, they are real big.” I went outside to see and to my surprise there were three beautiful turkeys beside the chicken coop.
I was thrilled, and just stood watching them for some time. They appeared to be interested in the chicken coop wire fence. Bud was in town and I know he would hate to miss this. Finally, I said, “Josh, Grandpa would love to see these birds, lets see if we can open the gate and encourage the turkeys to go into the chicken coop.”
The turkeys were not upset as we approached, they let us walk close to them without running away. Joshua opened the gate and the three turkeys just walked in. They immediately began pecking chicken food on the ground and drinking water.
When Bud came home, Joshua told him about the turkeys and the two of them rushed down to the chicken pen to see them. I was right, Bud was breathless when he came to tell me about the turkeys.
This began our experience with these beautiful birds. At first we opened the door to allow them to come out of the chicken coop but they showed no interest in leaving. It was wonderful to see them display and show off for each other and we enjoyed watching them while we tended the gardens. Our dog, Flora was always around with the flock and if males began fighting, she would break up the fight.
Turkeys are very interesting birds. We never figured out some behaviors they exhibited. They seemed to make our chicken coop home and stayed near it even when they were free to roam our property. We put up a perch for them to sleep on and so it was for some time. We heard that a women nearby had kept the turkeys for a time and then turned them out. We guessed that was why they wanted into the chicken coop-they were used to being fed.
Then the females began laying eggs. They were all over the place where we walked and worked. I called the county agent because I didn’t know how to make them lay in a nest. This person was alarmed. She said, “It is illegal for you to pick up those eggs. Do Not touch them.”
She would not hear that those eggs were in danger. I hung up feeling very undone. Her alarm was catching. I had no idea picking up turkey eggs on well used paths was illegal. Fortunately I had not given my name, maybe this woman would not report us to the turkey egg cops.
Bud decided to collect the eggs and incubate them. This was interesting because our dog Flora, began guarding the door to the bathroom where we set up the incubator. Later I learned Flora did not want the cat to go into the room.
One day I asked Flora to let me by while she sat in the doorway but she would not budge which was unusual. She had the cat cornered and did not want her to get close to the incubator. As the time for the eggs to begin hatching got closer, you could hear the baby turkeys’ small peeps coming from the eggs. That was how I learned Flora knew to guard the eggs (sort of amazing). When the eggs hatched, she insisted on checking each one out by licking and smelling them. This dog had strong mother instincts.
The first group of incubated eggs hatched with Bud and Flora in attendance. As a result the young birds followed Bud every where. (He was their “Head Turk”). He loved the flock, and they loved him too.
We decided to collect eggs and put them in a nest the next time they started appearing. We hoped one of the females would sit on them and that is what happened. Now our small Turkey flock had a lot more members.
Now the turkeys were a family.
In our experience at the Purple Gate Herb Farm where we raised turkeys, once they got it in their heads to attack a person, they were persistent.
One turkey decided my daughter was the enemy and would attack her whenever she went outside. The turkey only attacked her, ignoring other family members. We couldn’t figure out why, because she never hurt them. Finally, we decided it was pecking order. Bud was Head Turk, I was Mommy Turk, then Catherine and then the attacking Snow White, a big, white male turkey. Turkeys are very hierarchical. Catherine was the one to beat.
That turkey seemed to lay in wait for Catherine to go toward her car each day. These attacks were serious. Once Catherine used a medium size cooler to protect her from attack. The bird left a large dent in the side of the cooler. I drove her car home one day and noticed Snow White running toward me. I thought he would attack but when he saw I was not Catherine, he stopped and walked away. A school teacher bought this turkey although we told her about the strange behavior. We heard through the grapevine that she drove her pick up everywhere with the turkey in her front seat.
Our flock gave us many hours of enjoyment and made life more interesting while we worked on our gardens. We toured our herb gardens for groups of people, many times bus loads came who loved the free roaming turkeys.
When we sold our property, we also sold the turkeys, so now the whole adventure is our memory of an amazing time.