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Monday, February 15, 2010

Turkey Tom

From the country...

As the days lengthen and there are more daylight hours, my man Turkey Tom is on the prowl...

He was hatched from the incubator last June, a tiny little helpless poult and now has blossomed into a full-blown male turkey. A Tom. He doesn’t like visitors or me taking eggs from under a hen, he pops down from the roost in the evening to chase me outta the coop, and he loathes kids. Other than that he is a great guy, just doing what a Tom does. We used to get along and sometimes still do, but there is the odd time when he sees me as the enemy (unless I have the feed bucket…). I know I shouldn’t let him taunt me but the way he looks at me with those menacing eyes as he sways his multicoloured head back and forth making a shrill call, it’s enough to make me want to run. I don’t though; I stand my ground, putting my barn boot out as he charges. I arm myself. It’s a little thing called the barn broom and with it I have all the power. No rooster or tom dare touch me when I have the barn broom in my hand. A swift sweep and they go flying.

Now let us talk about Tom. He is referred to as a Tom or a Gobbler and is probably one of the more weirdly interesting animals Momma Nature has engineered. He is beautiful in one sense with his interesting plumage of iridescent black feathers with white and brown on the underside. He gracefully dances around the coop from one end to the other; all puffed up like a parade float, making interesting calls and hums. But in another sense he is oddly scary looking with his caruncle (the bumpy growths on his head and neck), his wattle (reddish growth covering his throat and neck), and his snood (long flap of skin that grows from the base of his beak, hanging down over his beak) which makes me question Momma Nature a bit. Was she joking when she made Tom? What are the benefits of having a snood? To me, it just looks like it is in the way.

My Tom is a Narragansett turkey. Historically he was the turkey of New England, the Narragansett Bay area. He is a heritage breed turkey and was the largest of the flock last year. I kept him and some hens (a Bourbon Red girl and Black Spanish girl) for breeding. I will be trying my hand (for the first time…) at breeding this spring. The rest all found a home on someone’s plate.

So in a turkey shell, I am planning on raising heritage turkeys this year from the egg to the table. I am busy contacting other growers and hatcheries to gathering eggs for home hatching. I want to raise many birds and develop some breeding pairs for the following year. Easier said than done. Heritage turkeys are hard to find. For now Turkey Tom will be my little experiment. Hopefully he will court the ladies well and produce some nice fertile eggs.

Just watching the mood change in the barn lets me know that spring is on its way. There is no need to listen to a stinking groundhog when you have a coop full of poultry!


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