If you’ve followed our turkey woes this season you already know that our turkey hen, Jenny, had a tough start to spring this year. A number of her eggs were either damaged or destroyed while our always-struttin’-his-stuff Tom turkey tried to defend her nest from intruders, and then inexplicably killed Jenny’s two chicks that hatched.
We pride ourselves on trying to provide the best possible care for our animals here, but we couldn’t help but feel that we’d completely failed Jenny this spring.
Not sure if we were done for the season, all we could do was watch and wait…and occasionally scowl at our Tom, Jake, in disbelief.
However, about two weeks after the loss of Junior, and removing the last of the failed eggs, Jenny started to lay another clutch!
We are thrilled that Jenny has a second chance at nesting this spring, but knew that if Jenny’s eggs had a hope of successfully hatching this time we’d have to make some changes.
We could pull Jenny’s new eggs, and put them in an incubator, but Jenny has already proven herself to be a good mother, she’s not the problem. She has excellent instincts, providing Jake isn’t repeatedly running her off the nest, and we’d like to give her a second chance to raise her own.
As of this morning, Jenny now has 10 beautiful new eggs in her nest, and is starting to show signs of early incubation. She’s not sitting on them full time yet, mostly at night, and for short spells during the day, but it does seem this second clutch may almost be complete. The first spring clutch is usually the largest, and she laid 19 eggs then, so we’d expect there to be a few less in this second clutch.
So this week we cobbled together a somewhat inelegant, but functional, solution to Jake reaching the nest.
We have plans to make a more permanent partition in the turkey pen, but for now, we’ve simply divided the pen using some wire garden fence between the posts. We did overlay some special narrow-width fencing on the bottom section of the wire fence using the hog-ringer we’d used join sections of our deer fencing.
Our intent is to ensure that when the chicks hatch, as they’re so small, they can’t inadvertently scrabble into Jake’s side of the pen. We already know how that will turn out.
It’s not an ideal or permanent solution, but should hopefully improve the odds of keeping the poults safe when they first hatch, without completely jeopardizing Jake’s safety. Chasing a pack of coyotes away from a sure-fire-turkey-dinner, sans dressing, in broad daylight ONCE is enough for anyone. I’m NOT doing that again, and our coyotes here are lean, hungry, and tenacious.
Jake’s not a bad Tom, he’s just…well, a Tom. Not the brightest spark, and only interested in one thing, but 80% of the time he does have the right idea, and good intentions, and Jenny seems to like him. He seems slightly frustrated that he can’t reach Jenny at the moment, especially when one of us enters the pen and he wants to see us off, but overall they both seem very content with the new arrangement. Not much has changed, they can still see each other, and Jenny seems to like to reach in and steal the water on Jake’s side of the fence.
We have no intentions of getting rid of Jake, not even once the chicks hatch. For one, despite his occasionally misguided ways, we’re actually quite attached. Also, from those we’ve spoken to, more experienced than ourselves, having a mature Tom on the farm, once the poults are older, can actually help decrease sibling rivalry. We had quite a lot of bluffing, and fighting among the young Jakes last year, but a mature Tom can supposedly help to prevent that. After last year we welcome that idea.
As Jenny is showing signs that this second clutch is almost complete, we’d expect to have poults hatching around the first week of July. We’re crossing our fingers that this time she can successfully hatch, and raise, her own brood. It makes management overall much easier, and honestly she’d probably do a better job than us anyway. If necessary though, we will intervene and house the poults in a brooder as they hatch, but only if conditions (weather/predators etc.) at the time warrant it. Otherwise, we’ll leave them be.
Think good thoughts for Jenny, especially while she hunkers down for this weekend’s late-season storms, and in a month, if all goes well, we’ll have a thoroughly adorable Fowl Friday follow-up!