How The Hen House Turns: Turkeys, Tame And Wild

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo


Formerly of Los Alamos
Twice, during our 46 years in Los Alamos, we adopted a turkey chick. Luckily, they were female. (Books on identifying baby chicks don’t even try to provide instructions for sexing turkeys.)
One turkey imprinted on us, and we enjoyed her as a beloved pet. The second was not imprinted, being raised by a loving hen. She tolerated me in the Hen House yard but let me know with raised tail and feathers that I was not welcome.
Turkeys here in California are wild, but they are used to seeing us pass by as we hike up the hill toward the Peninsula’s Open Space Reserve. This morning a large male posed nicely for my camera. His dark feathers sparkled in the morning sun as he held them in full display, turning slowly for a smaller female to pass by with a slow graceful stride.
Another two males stood by in the tall grass, watching. Then they turned away and wandered past the horse trailer parked nearby. The four turkeys had been there two mornings earlier–hanging out with little fanfare, aware of my human intrusion but unconcerned.
I’m careful to keep my distance and not cross their obvious paths. The three males were interested in the female, but she calmly walked away from them all. Where the other turkeys are I couldn’t tell. Our neighbor once counted nearly 100 of them on his hills behind the large meadow and small vineyard next door to The Sequoias.
They come and go to our picnic hill and are often seen on campus in the four small gardens between apartment buildings. I believe they know its safe here. One memorable day on the hill, I was taking pictures of the 12 turkeys grazing in the meadow when I heard gobbling far off in the west. Then another gobbling sounded from the north, and both were answered by our visiting turkeys. Apparently the 100 keep track of each other.
One morning I followed the unusually persistent gobbling sound behind Sausal Pond and watched a small group of turkeys approach the neighbor’s metal fence, following the larger herd up a the distant hill. Each turkey gobbled as he faced the fence, hopped to the top, gobbled again and flew down onto the road on the other side.
One day last year our Reservoir Hill picnic area was crowded with male turkeys all displaying to each other. I decided that the males were more interested in out-displaying each other, than impressing the females. Sound familiar? We humans are not so different, I suppose.
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