Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA

Turkeys Behaving Badly

If you've been to the farm recently, you've probably seen our flock of (very) free-range turkeys.  Most of them are Bourbon Reds, but we also have a few black-and-white Royal Palms too.   There is even a big white Broad Breasted turkey, due to a mix-up when we got the poults. (he was supposed to be a Palm, oops!)  While we've tried to pen them up, they jump and fly to roost in the pine trees above the run each night and unfailingly jump down on the free-range side of the fence each morning.  When I walk across the yard to get the paper or the mail each morning, I have a trail of turkeys crossing the road with me.  They were content to just roam the front yard until recently.  Now, I can't go outside without being swarmed by them.  They make friendly little turkey noises and strut in front of me, hoping to impress me enough for and extra helping of food.  I can deal with that, but we're about to clip wings 'cause my birdie buddies are spending too much time near the road.  I don't want any harm to come to them, and they simply don't herd well.  Not to mention I look like a fool, waving my arms, yelling "turkeys get away from the road!"

The other place they love to be is my front porch.  They actually jump up on to the back of the porch swing.  They will raise and lower their turkey tails in order to balance as the swing rocks, which has the unique result of actually pumping the swing, just as you did with your legs when you were a kid.  It would be a neat trick I would encourage but a) everywhere is an OK place to do your business if you're a bird (ewww!) and b) company does not like to be startled by a 15 lb bird jumping up behind them when you're trying to visit. So as you can imagine, I have lots of daily interactions with the turkeys.  I'm so glad that we'll be keeping some as a breeding flock, I would truly miss them if they all were processed for Thanksgiving dinners.  Bourbons & Palms are both considered endangered breeds of livestock, brought to the brink of extinction by the dominance of the Broad Breasted White and the consolidation of turkey raising, which now occurs almost exclusively in factory-farm conditions.  

Last week, I was taking a short break from the oppressive heat of the canning kitchen, relaxing on the cooler front porch with a nice glass of ice water.  Of course, a few of the turkey came up to see what I was doing.  As I was shooing one back to the yard (he was looking at my painted toenails as if it were a bull's-eye begging to be pecked), that really hit me.  These are ENDANGERED, and I have the good fortune to care for them.  Many, many people never get closer to an endangered creature than the glass enclosure of the zoo, yet here I am doing a small part to make sure that these lovely birds don't disappear from the earth forever.  It was a pretty cool moment.   But I still made the birds get back into the yard...endangered or not, I still am not a fan of poop on my porch!

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