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Rediscovering AnimalsĀ 

Turkeys Get It

I've decided turkeys are not really dumb. They've had a bad rap because they're not like chickens. I've seen them watch a plane fly over town, or watch drops fly from a sprinkler. Chickens never do that, thought they are better escape artists. Turkeys even know a scolding when they get one--like when I holler "Turkey!", they back off from pecking at the geese or trying to steal the dogs' treats. At least Little Bear backs off when I catch her irritating Bobbi goose. The dogs' growls don't phase her, so they've learned to turn their back and swallow fast. Current turkey, Little Bear, even backs off from fluffing up and gargling her territorial threat when she wants me out of "Her Pen"--after I give her the dreaded hug and sweet talk.

Little Bear used to wander around the yard, crying all spring, looking all over our ¾ acre for her flock,. It broke my heart, but I wasn't about to take a chance on raising a gobbler. (Not even the sexing books will describe how to sex a turkey poult. Apparently, it can't be done, until its too late. Gobblers can be very territorial.) At last, when Bobbi gosling came along, Little Bear decided to be a surrogate aunt. Now she hangs out with the two geese. Or the red chickens she adopts. And recently the Khaki Campbell ducks have joined the daily parade in and out and around the open hen house pen. They all seem to hang out together, more or less. Flocking behavior is a powerful force of nature. I wish we could bottle it.

But the most telling thing about turkey intelligence--even the intelligence of the two semi-domestic ones we have raised--is their hunting ability. We raised First Turkey with some chicken chicks and watched fascinated at the difference in their technique. Chicken chicks see a fly on the fence, grab it and run, alerting all the other chicks, who give chase and fight over the prize. Turkey chicks (poults)--see a fly, immediately freeze in a pointing posture that would make any hunting dog proud, then wham-o, down the hatch. No fuss. No squabble. No one else even sees the goody. We should bottle that, too.

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