Monday, February 2, 2009

Turkey question from email

Tom asks in email "do your tom turkeys fight with each other? I only have two and they fight and I'm afraid that I'll lose one of them"

The picture is of a bunch of my tom turkeys out foraging. They get along pretty well, but that's mostly because they come from the same flock and know each other. When I've purchased birds from other farmers as amazing as it seems, the entire turkey flock recognizes the new turkey as foreign, alien, and the new turkey can have a very rough time of it.

The bourbon red tom (at the left in the picture) is a bird that I purchased from a breeder up in Stanwood. He's a really handsome tom. To introduce him to the flock I put him in a carrier out where the flock hangs out during the day. The rest of the turkeys spent the day trying to beat him up (and he responded by trying to beat them up) but all of that energy was spent on the pet carrier, so no one got hurt. When I opened the pen the next day I spread a couple of buckets of their favorite feed so they'd have something else to focus on, and then watched carefully for the next couple of hours. The new turkey has to establish its position in the flock, and does that by challenging the other turkeys. They are very clear who the top turkey is, and what rank each bird holds in the list.

if your turkeys are new to one another, this could be the normal pecking order being established. Make sure that there is a place a bird can retreat to when it loses -- the loser bird needs to get out of sight of the winning bird. A small turkey pen won't allow that, and the winning bird may kill the losing bird. If the loser can run away the attack will stop.

Now and then I'll get a bird who is very aggressive about his hens. The only solution I've found during mating season (Feb-June) is to pen them separately.

Penning birds means that, when you do put them back together, the birds will again establish the pecking order and there will be some wrestling related to that. both hens and toms have a pecking order, and some of the hens will be above the lower ranked toms.

These toms are interested in food right now, but later in the day they'll go someplace and spend the rest of the day displaying for each other. Practicing for the hens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm envious of your space and access to all those different turkeys! They are spectacular looking. I loved my BBB. I might just have to try holding them over all winter this year.

Also, I too incubated chickens in my ensuite and then raised them in the garage for the first three years here...I finally bit the bullet, said no to an addition on the house, and built the barn--I love it. Second fiddle to the animals' needs as usual though, would be nice to get a wood stove in the house! Next winter, (she said hopefully).

PS. I put your blog on my blogroll today under sustainable farming.