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2020 Turkey Chronicles - Part II

6-4 Henny, Penny and the gang

Henny and Penny came by the house this morning. It was early, about 7:30 and they were on their way to the meadow. For some reason I can no longer remember, as they passed in front of my house the poults all started running/flying past. Then they were followed by their moms. I think at that stage, the two hens were still a bit unsure about lingering too close to the part of the house where the human action unpredictably occurs.

Later in the afternoon they stopped by again. This was a more relaxed visit and better photo op. The poults are still quite small at this stage, but must build up stamina walking great distances (for a baby turkey) from their secure sleeping quarters in the woods, out to the meadow to feed. Of course they also feed by my house, and other places, I'm sure, as well.

6-6 This is how it's done

Henny and Penny stopped by again this morning. I keep two water bowls filled at all times, so they have been coming around to drink. However, I have not been tossing seed out for the hens, only the boys. I guess there are still some smaller seeds left behind, though. Mom appears to be showing her teeny brood how to look for poult-size seeds.

If you look closely you'll see that the second poult from the right has a seed in it's mouth. See if you can find all 10 poults.

6-10 Summer heat

It was hot today. Turkeys seem to have three ways to deal with the heat: Pant, hold wings away from the body, and stay in the shade. I guess they were going out to feed, so only panting was appropriate. About 5pm.

Two hours later, as the boys head to the woods for the evening.

Flapping of wings seems to be a ‘let’s go’ signal. Of course, it may have multiple meanings. (Just a note, while I’ve been observing and photographing them, I’m not gathering data in a scientific way. And I generally use a 100-400mm lens on a camera with a crop sensor.)

6-13 Portrait time for Turkey Tim and Turkey Tom

Just a couple more portraits of Tim and one of Tom. Tim’s snood has a very distinctive shape. Not only is it longer, but it’s broader at the base. I am just so intrigued by the appearance of these large, prehistoric looking birds.


Tom's a funny guy. He spends a lot of time looking at me. I wonder what he sees. How good is he at reading my body language? Turkeys are very sound sensitive, but also have quite good vision. Whether it's the boys or hens, I find I am often a subject of their scrutiny.

6-14 Lesson time again

Here Henny is giving a lesson to her youngsters on how to search for seeds. Her pupils are giving her their rapt attention. A couple are feeling brave as they walk onto my patio.

6-15 Turkey parade

This morning was most extraordinary! As I looked out my bedroom window, I saw a parade of turkeys walking up the drive past my house, heading out towards the meadow. It looked like a turkey parade. I tried counting and came up with around 60 birds in all. There were multiple toms and maybe five or more hens, including the three that feed in my meadow, and the two that hang out on the ridge. Of course, their young ones were there, too. Certainly, it was the largest gathering I have ever seen of turkeys on my land.

They got drinks of water, then headed to the large pile of wood chips just before entering the meadow and they all hung out there for a bit. The toms stood at attention looking like Color Guard Captains or Drum Majors. The hens stood at attention, and the poults seemed to understand that something quite important was taking place. Maybe they were getting marching orders, or perhaps it was more like a family gathering. At any rate, it was most impressive.

Of course, some of the youngsters took the opportunity to practice mating skills.

6-18 Henny, Penny and Henrietta

Not easy to get Henny, Penny and Henrietta in the same photo, but on this morning they were feeding fairly close together. But you can see that Henrietta is off on her own. The other two don’t allow her to get too close. Competition for resources and all that.

6-19 View from above

Turkeys seem to enjoy seeing the world from new vantage points. But it’s also safer to groom or rest off the ground. Or maybe they can keep a better eye on their poults. Here Henny or Penny roosts on the middle pasture gate.

6-22 Foggy Morning

Henrietta surveys the landscape with three of her poults. Always good to know what’s up ahead. Takes wings to get up and wings to get down. Turkeys seem to reserve flight for emergencies or specific situations, like getting up into the trees to roost at night. Wandering around, feeding in a fog-wet field gets their feathers quite wet. I would imagine that they are hindered from flying in that condition. Again, not much has been written about turkeys, or at least I haven't found it yet, so lots of conjecture on my part.

6-23 Let's go!

Here’s a look at the classic wing flap. Often this precedes the group moving forward, so I’ve dubbed it the “let’s go” signal. And here they go crossing the driveway.

6-24 Remember being up on the fence?

What goes up must come down. One gets a different view of the world from atop a fence rail. And it’s also a bit safer from ground predators. The turkeys seem fond of grooming while perched on fences or my deck railing. Getting off the fence when you’re a turkey can be an awkward affair.

Here’s another pic of Henny with two of her poults at the intersection of my driveway. Ah, she has a thin redwood limb caught in her feathers. Doesn’t seem to bother her. And, look, one of the little ones is saying 'Let's go!'

One of the boys had something to say. Wish I knew what it was.

6-25 Oh no! Not the garden!

Today, Henny and Penny took their clan inside my garden. I’m guessing the hens flew over the fence, and the little ones got in under the garden gate. But once in, they couldn’t figure out how to get out. Well, they didn’t have any incentive to leave until I arrived and let them know there were limits to my hospitality. I left the garden gate open and tried to herd them out, but without success. In the end, they seemed to prefer to fly out! So quick! Flying seems to usually be a method of last resort. The hens got out easily, and most of the poults did too, though the grasses were damp and their wings wet. But a few decided to go into the orchard, and as I tried to herd them back the other way, one hid in my Cecil Brunner rose bush. Uh oh.

Well, I called my friend and neighbor, Sheryl, to please come down and help. Always easier to herd with two, rather than one. And her little dog helped sniff out the poult, so we knew it was really hidden inside the large, old rosebush. It required cutting down a lot of stinging nettle and old rose canes before Sheryl was able to reach in, nab the poor bedraggled and likely terrified poult, and set it outside the fence where Henny and Penny were waiting patiently. I was too busy doing poult rescue to take photos.

6-26 Grooming

Are these hens or toms? Grooming is a key part of turkey life. No laundromats, so one must keep the feathers in good condition at all times. Besides providing warmth during cold weather, they also shed rain, are used in displays, and of course flight.

Shame on me. I’ve been so busy taking photos, I haven’t taken many notes. Usually my photos serve as notes. But in this case, the adults look like toms to me, so I am a bit confused. It may be that I’m not very observant, or that my memory is rather poor. But also, hens and toms can look a lot alike. I’m going with hens here since there is little to no color on the faces. Hens don’t have spurs or beards. The caruncles are not real large, and I don’t recall seeing toms hanging out grooming with the youngsters. One thing I’m not confused about is that the poults are very well camouflaged.

6-27 Foggy morning

Henny and Penny with their brood feeding next to my horse barn.

6-28 Night, night!

Once the young get large enough and able to fly, the hens take them into the trees for the night. There they are safe from their usual predators – coyotes, foxes, skunks. For several nights they roosted in the oak trees by my house. Wow. The hens would fly up, branch by branch. Then their poults would do the same. Then mom would go higher, encouraging her young ones to follow. Then they all huddled together on a limb for the night.

6-29 On the way to breakfast

Here a gaggle of gangly juveniles head to the meadow for breakfast.

6-30 On the road again

This afternoon when I returned from town, Henny and Penny were out on our lane with their kids. I’m not quite sure how large their territory is, but I do know that it includes at least several of my neighbors parcels and ‘our’ turkeys may actually go as far as the apple orchard, another mile or so down the road, where a large gathering of turkeys can often be seen feeding on a regular basis.

1 Comment

Chere Tamura
Chere Tamura
Jan 11, 2021

I love the Turkey Chronicles! I was so excited to see Part II this morning! Thanks for allowing the pictures to be enlarged so I could count the poults! I learned, laughed and enjoyed the ride! Thanks Jodi!

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