So many times I think to myself how interesting life on our little hobby farm is and how I ought to get back to writing about all the odd and fascinating happenings, but busyness kept me from it and then it seemed awkward just to start writing again.
But there is nothing like the thrill of new eggs to get me excited and wanting to tell the story…
In June, we received a shipment of 15 Midget White turkey poults, five of whom died within 48 hours before I figured out they must have arrived carrying coccidiosis. One of the girls and I fairly flew to Tractor Supply for a package of Corvid, and the other ten poults lived and thrived.
Then December came and five of the surplus toms flew off to freezer camp, and I have to say they were emotionally the hardest of all the poultry to slaughter because turkeys are as friendly as dogs and will follow you around the property while you do your chores, chirping, whistling, and “barking” little comments to you as you work.
But we got over it because oh my goodness are Midget Whites tasty!
And so we were left with our flock tom, Vernon, and his four ladies, a nice breeding quintet:
The winter has progressed along through some bitterly cold and dark days. Vernon and the ladies come out to scratch around in the snow or go visit the neighbors, who are gracious enough to call me at work to let me know that my turkeys were just spotted walking down the dirt road to visit and provide entertainment to a small private group home for developmentally disabled adults, or just to hang around and poop on our porch (much to the delight of our dogs, who seem to find no delicacy as fine as frozen turkey poopsicles 💩). But the five of them always stick close together, a cohesive flock under Vernon’s watchful, protective eye.
Until this past Friday evening, when Phil went to put them all way in the turkey house only to find that one of the females, whom we call Miss Fortune, was nowhere to be found. We sadly realized she must have been gotten by a late-afternoon predator; the coyotes have been active and brazen as of late.
We searched all around the dark woods with our flashlights and the dogs, who are usually quick to find any remains, but we found nothing. You know that cold, heavy, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you lose something of value and know that you won’t likely find it? Yeah, that feeling. It sticks with you, too.
The next morning at dawn I headed out to take the dogs for their morning romp, but a little voice told me to keep Ruby, our ferocious Shiba Inu small-game huntress, on her leash. As I walked, I prayed, as it is my custom to do on my morning hikes, praying for the health and safety of friends, family, coworkers, and even my livestock, asking God in His mercy to show us what had become of our lost turkey so we could try to avoid losing any more.
It turns out that it was a good thing that I heeded that little voice to keep Ruby leashed, because as we circled around the pond and approached the locked gate to the turkey yard, guess who I saw standing there shivering with her head pulled down and her feathers fluffed up for insulation? Miss Fortune – I literally couldn’t believe it! God doesn’t usually answers my prayers within minutes, but I’ll gladly take it when He does!
She had survived a freezing cold windy night out among the roaming predators. I immediately put the dogs inside and brought her a huge scoop of mealworms for an infusion of high-protein calories then released the rest of the flock, whom she joined as if nothing out of the ordinary had even happened. The grey day suddenly seemed outrageously joy-filled as I tramped around in the cold, my breath forming vapor clouds as I quoted Luke 15:8-10 while filling feed pans and water buckets:
8 “…what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I went inside, kicked off my slushy boots, poured myself a steaming hot cup of coffee and sat down in my rocking chair to ponder this miraculous but mysterious occurrence. Where could she have been? How and why had she gotten separated from the flock, something she had never done before? Using freeze dried grubs and meal worms, I had trained the turkeys to come when I call, yet she had not come the previous night as I searched and called for her. Turkeys, like chickens, go to roost when it gets dark, so it was hard to imagine her wandering home after dark, yet she had somehow managed to do so. But why?
As I sat rocking and drinking my coffee and thinking about what motivates a turkey in life, I suddenly realized the days are starting to lengthen just a bit. And when the days start to lengthen, even if it is still cold and wintery, females start to prepare for spring, which means… babies!
“I know where she was!” I called to my husband. And I told him the following theory:
She must have built a nest in the woods in a brushy, secluded spot and laid her first egg. That initial surge of hormones must have made her want to stay on the nest, but when darkness came and her hormones settled down, she suddenly realized she was separated from her flock and made her way home.
This was all conjecture, as we had not yet found any eggs in the turkey house even on days when the weather was too bad for them to come out of their house. But it was the only explanation that could account for her strange behavior.
And so for the past two days we have kept the flock contained in their run during the day instead of letting them out to free range. Phil spent today building nesting boxes to put in the turkey house using the Iron Oak Farm turkey nesting box template. And lo and behold, when he went to install the boxes in the turkey house this afternoon, look what he found!
The prettiest pale beige egg with the faintest blush of pink, beautifully festooned with maroon-colored speckles! Miss Fortune truly has come into lay! And I am rejoicing over my lost-and-found turkey hen and looking forward to a spring filled with fuzzy yellow poults.