Jessie Raymond: Meet my new pet dog…er, turkey
Gobbles is lonely.
That sentence makes grammatical sense once you learn that “Gobbles” is the name previously given to the very large, very tame hen turkey we just acquired. She is a pet.
She was the only turkey at her last home, and she’s the only turkey here, unless you count the four baby turkeys, or poults, currently living in a tub in our dining room. But I’ll get to that.
Her first night was a little tricky; she followed the chickens into the coop around sundown, but she had apparently slept on the ground at her last home; it was clear she had never seen a roost before. Still, she was intrigued by the concept.
Not wanting to look like a rube in front of the chickens, who can be so judgmental, she gamely climbed the set of stairs inside the barn, and we could almost hear her whispering to herself, “Don’t look down. Don’t look down.”
When morning came, only Gobbles remained on the roost, eight feet up. All she could do was make anxious noises, something between “No really, this is fine” and “I’m going to die up here.” We brought her food and water throughout the day, but she would not budge.
Finally, around 5 p.m., Mark mounted a rescue effort, bear hugging her to avoid getting pummeled by her powerful but apparently never-used wings and lowering her to terra firma.
The next day, she got down all by herself, which leads us to believe either she is a quick learner or she was testing us to see how much we would coddle her.
Gobbles was relinquished from her last home because she felt a longing for motherhood but, with no tom on the premises, could not hatch out a clutch of eggs. In desperation, she discovered a mother duck with a nest of ducklings and decided those would do.
The mother duck disagreed, and an ongoing conflict ensued. Gobbles had to go.
After three days with us, she settled in well, although she spent a good deal of her time roaming the property making a “Hey, where are all the other turkeys?” cluck, a sound we recognized when past turkeys had gotten separated from the flock.
We had a great idea: We’d get Gobbles some poults. Sometimes, if you catch a hen in the right mood, she’ll see babies and, her heart filled with joy, adopt them as her own. Then again, sometimes she will look upon them as tiny, peeping marauders and try to peck them to death. It can go either way.
Feeling optimistic, on Saturday we brought home four recently hatched Narragansett turkey poults. We took them out to Gobbles with the hope that she would look upon them with instant maternal affection.
Carefully lowering the open cardboard box before her, we watched for her reaction. Hearing them chirp, she cocked her head, fluffed her feathers and came closer.
After a glance, she checked her watch, began preening herself and then wandered away to peck at a bug.
Was she indifferent, or just hiding her true feelings?
Later, after we’d set up a brooding area in the house, I carried just one fluffy, sparrow-sized poult out to Gobbles to see if she’d reconsider. With caution, I set the baby down on the ground in front of her.
When she finally noticed it, she paid it as much attention as she might a stapler or an old shoe. Giving it a perfunctory peck on the head — at which point I snatched it away to safety — she ambled off to resume her fruitless search for full-size friends.
I respect that Gobbles has chosen to postpone motherhood for the time being in order to focus on her career. True, it means we’re stuck raising four pet turkeys. But once they’re grown, Gobbles will have flock mates.
In the meantime, she calls plaintively for companionship. Whenever we go outside, she sits by our feet and insists that we pet her.
I know what you’re thinking: “Gobbles is just a dumb bird with a walnut-size brain. Why do you always anthropomorphize your farm animals and act like they have real emotions?”
That’s a reasonable question. In fact, I ran it past Gobbles just yesterday.
I don’t know what I was thinking. Now she’s not even speaking to me.
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