How The Hen House Turns: Turkeys Are Not Chickens

Wild turkeys. Courtesy photo
 
How the Hen House Turns
By CAROLYN (CARY) NEEPER Ph.D.
 
Turkeys Are Not Chickens

A turkey growing up with chickens: “I walk slowly through the twittering mob, and though they catch more bugs than I do, I know what part of the broken dandelion is good to eat, therefore I look it up and down and around before I peck at it.

“I stroll across the grass, and I feel it press back at me. I do not snatch; I am snatched from. But I take what I need—carefully aiming at the grasshopper before I swallow it. I also call for reassurance when I need it.

“I doze, and take too many pecks upon my new comb so I move away. I will grow taller one day, larger than these chickens, in every way, more honored, tastier at least, a grander fool at best.”

They’re simply different—turkeys. They are not chickens. I have described how they point and swallow, without attracting the attention of other hungry beaks. Turkey One once watched an airplane sailing overhead, and drops of water from the sprinkler. Chickens don’t do that.

We have seen wild turkeys march across a grassy field near the Valles Caldera. They paced in formation, a few feet apart, in a straight line, while the grasshoppers jumped ahead or sideways, finding no escape. That way, every turkey got some to eat.

Here on the hill above our new home, we stood quietly as six female wild turkeys appeared to our right, walking slowly toward several magnificent males walking toward them from the left. At the bottom of the meadow, they met. The females began to fuss, jumping at each other, while the males moved this way and that, displaying their full spread of dark brown and white feathers.

In just a few moments they all turned around and headed back left, together, where the males had come from—a peaceable flock. I didn’t gobble at them, as I had as a child visiting the turkey farm behind our 40 acres in Hayward, Calif. We stood transfixed, watching the civilized behavior of a proud species.

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