Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Breakfast Club

During the summer I day-range my poultry. That is to say, I let the birds out in the morning, and they wander the yard and woods for the day, and we have trained each other to meet again at the coop around dusk so I can fill the feed dish and shut the door against predators. (This has occasionally been a rather fluid agreement - every year I have to re-train the younger hens to this concept, and back when I had ducks they were downright obstinate about the whole thing.)

Anyway, last spring one morning I let the girls out as usual - and a wild turkey hen walked up behind me, calmly walked into the coop and started helping herself to breakfast. She didn't have much fear of me (and none of the chickens), and had kind of a "Ladies who Lunch" attitude about the whole thing. This went on for several weeks, and she even started spending her nights roosting on top of the coop. We called her Clarice, with the implication that she might be good with Fava Beans and a nice Chianti. I found out she was spending her "off" nights at the coop of my poultry-keeping neighbor down the road, whose children had christened her "Mrs. Turken." But in late spring something called her away - could have been a tom, could have been a truck - and we didn't see her any more. (I think. Wild turkey hens are not what you'd describe as individually distinctive.)

Fast forward to this morning, and who to my wondering eyes should appear but Clarice. She nodded politely to the chickens, but seemed especially interested in following me around to see if I had anything special for her.

I think it was Ben Franklin who advocated for the Wild Turkey to be our national bird, rather than the Bald Eagle (whom Brother Dan refers to as our "National Scavenger"). No question - those wild turkeys are smart.

Oh, and one more thing: here is a photo of the reincarnated southern edge of the septic garden. Up until last year, it would have been full of early-blooming lipstick tulips by now; but my favorite rooster decided last summer to dig a dust bath in there while I was at work. I've done my best to replant it, and hopefully the miniature roses and prickly mulch will discourage the birds from doing it again. Just the same, I thought I'd better have a "before" picture in place. Keep your fingers crossed.

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