Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of ‘let’s put the turkeys to bed’? These chumps had put themselves to bed out on the goat fence. By the time I found them it was pitch dark and herding was impossible. One by one I had to catch them, carry them off, and tuck them in. Because, you know, I have nothing better to do with my evenings.
Every evening shortly before dusk I steel myself for a series of humiliations at the hands (talons?) of my turkeys. I know I am supposed to be smarter than they are, but if this is the case, how is it possible that the score is so lopsided when it comes to me trying to put them to bed and the turkeys figuring out ways to stay up just a little longer?
They are just like unruly kids who pull out all the anti-bedtime stops with an unsuspecting babysitter! The turkey kids pretend like they are heading in the right direction only to be distracted by some very important blade of grass. One will pluck said piece of grass and, leaving enough dangling from its beak so the others can see, will sprint off across the field. The other turkeys, convinced this particular blade of grass must be the tastiest in all the land, thunder after the trouble-maker who is, no doubt, chuckling under his snood because he knows very well the human caretaker can’t possibly keep up no matter how fast she sprints.
Occasionally, the turkeys are calm and cooperative and I’m able to herd them into their overnight huts with relatively little trouble, using two long bamboo sticks to help guide them in the right direction. Even on nights like these, though, several will decide they need to scale the shelters to roost on top rather than inside. As I am persuading these birds to jump back to the ground, they protest and scrabble around on the top of the shelters, which upsets the birds already inside. The inside birds sprint out looking very indignant just as I’m rounding the corner trying to herd in their wayward companions. Do you think the roof-hoppers quietly sit inside the shelters while I retrieve the sprinters? Of course not! There’s often a series of one goes in, two come out exchanges before, finally, everyone is wrangled into place.
The worst game they play is ring around the turkey hut. In this variation of the bedtime-avoidance game, one or two wily birds will sneak around behind the hut and hide. They are experts at matching their speed to mine, always keeping just out of sight on the other side of the hut. I try to sneak after them using tricky human maneuvers like changing direction when they least expect it. Except, usually they have already changed direction so I come around the corner saying stupid things like, “Hah! Fooled you!” except, there’s no turkey there because, hah! they fooled me and have sneaked up behind me. When I turn around, there they will be staring up at me with their beady reptilian eyes as if to say, “Are you looking for someone?” When two or three birds gang up on me to play a team version of this lame game it sometimes results in me sinking to my knees and pleading with them to, “Just go to bed, already!!!” This plea is often followed by some rude words that include references to Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Sometimes the birds pretend like they have never been herded anywhere ever before and each bird will head in a different compass direction when they see me coming. At times like this they are completely oblivious to my efforts to keep them all together. The exception to this general state of chaos will be a couple of goody-two-shoes birds that head straight for the shelters when they see me. Only when I have finally gathered the rest of the flock and we are almost at the shelters do the early-to-bedders decide they have had enough of being good and sprint back out of the shelters heading for the turkey waterers because, you know, they are dying of thirst and just need to get one more drink before they can settle down for the night.
The worst part of all this is that the main turkey field is overlooked by neighbours on three sides. I see them in their windows watching the Nikki vs the Turkeys Comedy Show each evening.
Yesterday when I went down to the field ready for a lengthy battle I was greeted by a completely empty field. Not a single turkey was anywhere to be seen. I felt sick. Raccoons. Stray dogs. Eagles. A cougar. Some irresponsible jokester neighbourhood kid let them all out. A foody thief stole them all. How would I report the theft to the police? How did I know they had been stolen and not eaten? How did I know they hadn’t got a bit confused and tried to fly off with the Canada geese? I figured I’d better have my evidence in order before I called 911, so I entered the field, steeling myself in case I had to pick up turkey bits and sweep up piles of feathers. Which is when I heard the distinctive soft chatter of turkeys settling in for the night. Every last bird had put itself to bed. They had evenly distributed themselves between the three shelters. They were all on perches and, eyes half closed, were talking quietly among themselves, no doubt wondering what was taking the human so long to close and lock their doors. Or, more likely, plotting what devious trick they were going to play on me next time.
Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture
Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!