Turkey Teens

July 17, 2016

Eleanor’s little ones are eight weeks old now, and they are not so little anymore. They have officially entered the teenage turkey phase. We took down the pen that they lived in with Eleanor until they were six weeks old, and the integration with the rest of the flock went remarkably smoothly. Prudence was happy to have her friend Eleanor back, and after a few minutes of Prudence chasing Eleanor around as if to say I’m the dominant turkey now, they resumed their friendship. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well-behaved Prudence has been with the youngsters. She quickly settled into her role as Auntie Prudence, looking after the little ones as if they were her own. Prudence spends most of her days roaming the pasture with Eleanor and the little ones, and occasionally giving chase to one of the chickens when one ventures too close to the happy turkey family. Eleanor is proving herself to be an excellent mother, and she is still looking after the youngsters and sheltering them under her wings at night although by now they are getting a bit too big for that.

With our chickens, when we’ve had teenagers that were integrated into the rest of the flock, the other chickens would chase and peck the chicken teens mercilessly. The mother hen typically grows tired of caring for her offspring by the time they reach six or eight weeks old, and she will begin pecking the teens to drive them away from her when they try to roost under her wings at night. During the day, the mother hen goes back to join her flock-mates, leaving the teens to fend for themselves. At this point, the young chickens are forced to separate from the mother hen and form their own roving gang of teenagers. This has not happened yet with the turkeys, and I’m curious to see how much longer Eleanor and Prudence will continue to look after the youngsters.

I love watching the turkeys throughout the day, but nighttime is my favorite time to watch them. At bedtime, Eleanor patiently allows her youngsters to jockey for position under her wings, even though barely two of them fit under her wings anymore. For a few days after they joined the rest of the flock, Eleanor and the youngsters experimented with sleeping up on the roof of the big coop, but it didn’t look all that comfortable and now they have settled into a new routine. Typically all eight of the turkey teens will get settled in the early evening up on the high roost that Ringo and Prudence sleep on. A bit later in the evening Prudence will fly up to join them, and several of the youngsters will manage to squeeze themselves under Prudence’s wings. Just when everyone has gotten cozy, Ringo will fly up to the roost and peck at everyone, including Prudence, until they all fly back down onto the ground. Eleanor will settle onto a different perching spot with typically five of the youngsters. As it starts to get dark and Ringo seems to be settling in for the night, Prudence will fly up again onto the high perch, and three of the youngsters will fly up to join Prudence for the night. It is truly adorable to see Eleanor and Prudence roosting at night, wings spread, with little turkey heads or tails sticking out from under their wings. I wish the turkeys wouldn’t grow up for a little while longer. Already they are showing signs of who is going to grow up to be a boy and who is going to be a girl, and it looks like five boys and three girls. Before you know it we’ll have a bunch of obnoxious young toms fighting amongst themselves to sort out the hierarchy. But for now I am going to enjoy these next few weeks of adorableness, before the almost certain chaos of turkey toms begins!