Monday, February 16, 2009

Showdown at the Homestead

It's been awhile since our rafter of wild turkeys came through. Since we before we got the chickens at least. I've seen their tracks out in the woods, but since November, they've left the horses, the pasture, and the copious manure alone.

So when the horses went rigid with alert and looked off into the woods, I reached for two things: a big stick and my camera. From the safety of my house, I watched one of the strangest displays of animal interaction.

Once the horses realized the turkeys were back, they resumed munching on their lunch hay at the top of the ridge. The chickens, my ten little pullets, were congregating in the pasture near the water trough, picking through the morning's manure. I watched as the 12 or so turkeys slowly made their way down the hill, past the horses, getting closer and closer to my chickens.

Now, if you've never met a chicken, you might be surprised to know that they are omnivores, meaning they eat everything. Even another chicken if it's sick or dying. They are ferocious little velociraptors which lay delicious eggs. But pity anything small that crosses their path: mice, snakes, smaller birds, etc. They will kill and eat anything they can swallow.

I had always assumed turkeys are the same way. So it was a firm grip on my big stick that I watched the turkeys, ready to sprint out and save my hens if they happened to look like a turkey snack.

As the horses looked on, a turkey hen and one of my big Rhode Island Reds finally squared off. They stared at each other, immobile. Everything was on high alert. The horses paused with mouths full of hay. My ten pullets stood perfectly immobile. The turkeys paused, assessing the "newcomers" on their land.

After about 30 seconds, the birds (chickens and turkeys) started moving again, warily circling each other. My lone dominant hen was being circled by turkeys as the other 9 pullets crowded together in a tight ball. It seems they would not attack on sight, but there was still some maneuvering going on. Bored, Brego went back to eating his hay.

But the strangest thing happened. Hobby, the old TB mare, came down the hill and started circling around to get between the turkeys and the chickens. Then she slowly moved the turkeys back up the hill and out of the pasture. Now, I don't think Hobby even likes the chickens, but perhaps she likes the turkeys less. Regardless, the chickens brooded under Hobby as she moved the turkeys off, until they were out of sight, and then resumed their little chicken activities.

Hobby went back to the hay and peace settled across the land.

The turkeys came through twice more that day, but they stayed out of the pasture, walking right along the fence line. Hobby had won the day.

Pictures (terrible quality, but interesting)

Lone dominant pullet (center), surrounded by turkeys. The other pullets are clustered on the right behind the tree.

Turkeys circling.

Beginning of encounter, the pullets have not grouped together yet.


Funder said...

That is an awesomely strange story. Hobby saved the day! Wow.

sylvia said...

very cool!