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It’s been almost three weeks since we brought our young turkeys to live here.  Just in that short time, we’ve seen some significant growth in these birds.

At 8 weeks old, the turkeys are losing the feathers around their heads

On arrival, the turkeys spent the first week in the brooder.  They probably didn’t need to at five weeks, as they were already acclimated to outdoors.  However, they were a little older than we anticipated, and we needed a few extra days to finish building the turkey pen.

The pen is just shy of 200 square feet, which is quite sizable for four birds.  Eventually we will pasture these birds, during the day, and the pen will be primarily for security from predators at night.

Rather than build something from scratch, we re-purposed an old fenced in section of garden

In the interest of reusing materials, rather than building the pen from scratch, we modified the previous owner’s fenced-in flower garden area to accommodate the turkeys.  The structure itself was still sturdy.  Old buried irrigation pipes were removed, miles of split old soaker hoses, and rusted metal staples, along with a lot of buried poultry wire, no doubt to keep the gophers at bay, that had since rusted and disintegrated.  We installed a wire roof, and a solid section of roofing over the roosts to help provide shade, and give the birds protection from our persistently unpredictable rainy weather.   If we make turkeys a permanent feature on the farm, we’ll no doubt construct something more aesthetically pleasing in the near future, but for now, this pen is working out well.

With that done, the turkeys were turned out in the pen, and very happy to be outside full-time.  The following is a short video we took as the turkeys explored their new home for the first time.

It became clear once the turkeys were out in the pen though, that they seemed to be imprinted…not on humans…but on chickens!  They apparently were raised near lots of chickens as babies, and it shows!

When it gets hot outside (and it’s been marvelously warm this week) our chickens run for the cool shady sandpit underneath the coop.  From the outside of the coop, this area is covered, only open on the side facing the run, so when the chicks are relishing the cool shade under the coop…guess what?  The turkeys can’t see them…and the turkeys don’t like that.  Really…hear it for yourself!

I never knew four young poults could make such a racket!  If I bribe our young chickens out from under the coop, with some tasty greens, the second one pops its head out…the turkeys go quiet again.  It’s a bit like having a remote control, and the most bizarre thing we’ve seen in a while.  Good thing we have chickens, or our turkeys might never be quiet!

We have noticed a problem with one of our Royal Palm/Bourbon Red poults over the past few weeks.  We had noticed something odd with this turkey shortly after we brought it home, and it began to manifest itself more severely once out in the pen, especially at dusk.  This bird tends to circle a lot, always spinning in the same direction.

Royal Palm/Bourbon Red Cross

Once out in the pen, we had a couple of encounters where we clearly startled this turkey, and we realized this bird might have limited or absent vision on one side.  Further examination showed that this turkey appears to be completely blind in one eye, but is sighted in the other.  This could be congenital, or possibly secondary to an early trauma, we’ll likely never know, but otherwise this turkey seems completely normal…well, normal for a turkey.

Just like young chickens, young turkeys nap...a LOT!

The first few evenings the turkeys were out in the pen, the birds were trained to use the roost, which we set at 30 inches in height.  Once the sun was completely set, we’d enter the pen, and usually find the brood in a pile on the pen floor.  One by one, they were carefully placed on the roost, where they seemed only too happy to settle in for the night.  All except one that is.  After falling off the roost, repeatedly, we elected to simply leave our half-blind turkey to figure out its own favorite place to sleep at night.  Clearly this bird prefers to sleep on the floor near his pen-mates, though thankfully, not right underneath them.

 

ZzzzZZzz...Yes, this is normal! Sometimes turkeys sleep with their heads upside down!

Due to this visual impairment, we need to be more aware when approaching the flock of making our presence known.  On at least one occasion, we startled this bird so badly that in a mad panic, it flew directly into the pen fencing, and fell to the ground, landing on his back, almost stunned.  Overall though, it seems to manage very well, especially during daylight.  Turkeys don’t see well at night as it is, but with one bad eye, the world becomes a very confusing and disorienting place for this bird.

Our only concern is that this turkey will be more prone to accidentally injuring itself, and will be more at risk with the predators that wander through the farm.  It clearly can’t judge distances well when attempting to fly across the pen, or toward the roost, and is prone to falling from perches, but we’ll watch this one closely for now.

Standard Bronze/Bourbon Red cross

In our next turkey-centric Fowl Friday post, we’ll discuss some of the more unique anatomic terminology that applies to turkeys, once some of their more turkey-like features develop further, and should have a better idea as to our ratio of males (Jakes) to females (Jennys) at that time.

In the meantime, we leave you with a little “turkey salad”.  We’re revamping our lettuce beds with new transplants today, so the turkeys had an extra lunch-time treat.  Apparently they really enjoy organic oakleaf lettuce!