A Slice of Farm Life

Tom Turkey

A little slice of farm life: we have two royal palm male turkeys that are at least five years old. They are semi-feral, venturing far afield and foraging for themselves but always returning to their roost on our back yard fence each night. They are brothers and they act like it: some days, they spend the whole day fighting. Other days, they just hang out: resting, eating, gobbling at sirens together.

One recent morning, however, we only found one turkey wandering around and a whole lot of turkey feathers strewn across the driveway. Something, it seemed, had taken our turkey. His buddy gobbled for him all that day but we never heard an answer. Night came and the lone boy roosted in the usual spot. I felt sorry for him: they do like companionship so I contacted a local friend to see if someone might be interested in adopting. He would be happy just hanging out with a  flock of chickens.

The afternoon of the next day my husband got a call from our neighbor Charlie. Think country neighbor here: they live across the cotton field from us, probably a quarter of a mile or more by road. Right now, we can’t see their house at all because the cotton is so high.

Low and behold, our turkey was hanging out in his back yard. My husband took a drive over but wasn’t able to catch him. “He didn’t want to be caught,” he reported. He did confirm that the bird seemed fine, missing some feathers, but walking and gobbling and eating. Charlie said he thought he had heard the brother calling, but it would have been a long way for this guy to get back through the cotton. I think they both had just given up and were resigned to their lives as lone birds.

We went back at dusk to see where he was roosting. He had chosen a trailer in the back yard but jumped down the minute we approached and wandered towards the woods. We really didn’t want him to roost in a tree so we backed off, returning after dark. He was back on the trailer, and we were able to grab him and get him into the back of the pickup truck. Once home, it took some coaxing to get him out of the truck but once out, he quickly found his way to the roost. They have been back to their usual behavior for the past two days.

We have a bit of a mystery as to what might have attacked him and scared him enough to run that far. (They really don’t fly for any distance but maybe in a panic, he was able to lift himself in the air.) Sussex County does have coyotes, but we have seen no evidence like scat.  Our security cameras did not seem to pick up any unusual activity. It is a reminder about how close we live to the natural world here on the farm, with patches of actual wilderness, or at least what passes for it here in the suburban southeast Virginia corridor.

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