Sheep-proofing the fencing of the Suffolks’ field has had an unforeseen bonus. It’s now also turkey proof so we finally have someone to keep our wandering turkeys safely ensconced. To be fair, they’d been very good on the whole, only occasionally going into Yann’s field next door, or appearing in the garden or along the drive. But they had started going walkabout more often than previously a week or so back. It was looking like they’d be heading for the freezer sooner rather than later. We do not intend to lose any of our seven fine, fat turkeys to a fox at this late stage. But, they’ve had a reprieve since we now have a very large turkey run for them.
Getting them there and back isn’t easy, though. We have to negotiate three gates. Turkeys aren’t good with gates. They don’t the thing about going through the open space that suddenly appears. They prefer to batter themselves against the wiring on either side, or try and squeeze through the very narrow gaps in the metalwork of the gate itself.
It takes two of us to get them from stable to field, and back again, each day. I walk ahead with a tub of grain saying “chook chook” while Chris opens the gates and assists the turkeys through, which takes the patience of a saint.
Are turkeys really dumb though? I’ve read or heard somewhere that they’re thought to be the stupidest animal on the planet. There are tales that when it rains, they look up and drown. Our turkeys have never done that, and we’ve had some truly moronic ones. It’s true that turkeys have a primitive brain with a limited capacity to learn new things. Like go through a gate. They get by thanks to instinct and to a very strong natural curiosity. This is why if you stand still near a turkey long enough, it will start to peck at your toes, or your laces, or your shorts, or your fingers, or pretty much any part of you, just to check it hasn’t suddenly turned into something nice to eat.
Chris’s brother-in-law Paul used to farm turkeys. He had to use round pens to raise them in because otherwise they would happily crush each other to death in corners. And one year some escaped out into the snow but were too silly to go back inside when they got cold and so, unfortunately, they froze to death.
We have three types of turkey this year – whites, bronzes and blacks, and it is definitely the latter that are the least intellectual. The black male is the worst for repeatedly pecking you while the female is almost too stupid to live. She is by far the most access-point-challenged.
So, they’re not the sharpest knives in the animal kingdom drawer. But I like my turkeys. They’re better natured than chickens and there’s something endearing in their blundering stupidity. And they taste so darned good!
Note: while taking the photos for this blog, one of the white ones started to run off with my camera case and the black male predictably tried to eat my finger!