Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bye Bye, Birdie: A Tragic Turkey Tale

Back toward the end of September, I did a post about our turkeys ignoring the call of the wild turkeys.

They may not have been very adventurous back then, but earlier this month they got really adventurous--and came to call in the back yard.

So we clipped their wings, Herb put up chicken wire to block the handy cross rail they were landing on, and we put them back in the pasture where they belonged.  Or so we thought . . .

Then last week our contractor, who was putting a railing on the back porch, called me while I was driving home and said, "I'm being attacked by a turkey!"  It turned out he was kidding--about the "attack" part.  But there really was a turkey in the back yard hoping for a handout from his lunch!  I got home, caught the turkey and put him back where he belonged.  And that was that, for a while.

Then just this Monday, the 14th, Herb came in and told me that one of the turkeys was gone.  We concluded that it had gotten over the fence again, this time to join its wild fellows.  We decided we needed to slaughter the other turkey quickly, although it seemed to have settled in with just the sheep for company.  We set today as the sad day.  I knew we would really miss our turkey's cheerful "prrrrit! prrrrit!" but with half our Thanksgiving dinner running wild, we intended to make sure of the half that was left.

Then yesterday morning Herb came into the house with some tragic news.  Turkey Lurkey, as I had christened the "one that didn't get away," had drowned itself in the stock tank.  We simply could not figure out why--with the kiddie pool/duck pond right there full of water--our poor, silly bird had tried to drink out of the tank.  Even though we had intended to dispatch him within 24 hours, it made me sick to think of him dying that way.

Then yesterday afternoon as I was moving cattle, something caught my eye in the Home Pasture.  A closer look led me to the obvious conclusion that "the one that got away" hadn't gotten away at all.  In fact, it had met a fate worse than mere death--it had been killed by a predator, most likely a coyote.  The widespread clumps of feathers with blood here and there indicated that the poor turkey had fought and struggled before succumbing; the absence of bones indicated that it had been carried away.  Suddenly the stock tank drowning made more sense:  maybe the other turkey jumped up on the water tank to escape a return of the predator.

And where was Misty when all this happened?  In the barnyard with the ducks, guarding the chicken coop.  She can't be in two places at the same time, poor girl--and I must confess to being rather thankful that she didn't have to fight off whatever took the turkey.  Her presence might have discouraged the predator from attacking--or she might have been injured fighting it off.

We've learned several things from this tragic tale.  We like turkeys, and we'd like to try again.  But next time we'll follow advice we just got from our friends the Newswangers, who raise a whole flock of turkeys along with their Dexters:  We'll use electrified orange netting.  Predators can't climb it to get in (like they can with a fence), and turkeys can't climb it to get out.

This was a costly lesson for us since I now have to order an expensive organic turkey.  It also cost our poor turkeys because they died lingeringly and in fear, as opposed to quickly and mercifully.  Life on a farm isn't always stunning sunsets and cute calves.  Sometimes it's ugly and cruel, and we have to learn to take the bad with the good.


  1. Ah, poor turkeys. You should put hidden cameras up to catch all the goings on while you're not looking. You can monitor things from your cell phone cell phone these days. :-)

    1. I know, Sandra, it made me sick! I think we'll put up a camera to catch whoever came and slashed our tire--and then we can move it out to the pasture, too. That's a great idea!


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