I apologize for the quality of the photograph, my digital camera has a very limited telephoto lens. Close examination will reveal a mama turkey and her four poults. They have been spending considerable time in our yard. The first time I saw the hen with her babies, she was in the pasture, a few hundred yards from the house, with another hen and that female’s dozen month-old babies. This hen had six little ones, perhaps a week old.
That was about a month ago. Lately, the hen has been bringing her brood right into the yard. I believe she is one of the birds that visited our feeders last winter and is quite comfortable near humans. The presence of my forty free-range chickens may also encourage her. She is down to four babies. One managed to drown itself in the horses’ watering tub. Very sad. The other baby disappeared early. Since she is likely a first-time mother, she is learning about keeping her poults safe. The older hen with the multitude of babies is experienced. I’ve seen her for several years, now, and she doesn’t come so close to the house. That hen may be the younger one’s mother.
One day this week I heard lots of turkey clucking and crying of babies. I investigated and found the hen in our side yard calling her poults who had taken to the trees. Something must have frightened them. The baby turkeys are excellent fliers, traveling well above roof level and flapping strongly. As they get older, weight will limit them mostly to gliding and quick bursts of wing beating to get in trees.
In the photo above, the birds are crossing our raised septic drainage field, about forty feet from the house. I find their feathers all over the yard and would not be surprised to learn they go in the barn trying to get the chicks’ feed. I’ve spotted them in the blueberry patch, an excellent source of nutrition right now. These birds only become wary if they see a human. They have no fear of man-made structures or the farm animals, except the dogs. I worry they will contract blackhead (histomoniasis,a protozoan infection,) from the chickens. This is a fatal turkey disease carried by chickens, who are much less susceptible to the illness. I have never seen evidence of the disease in my chickens so perhaps they are free of it. Hard to say since chickens can carry the protozoa with no symptoms.
The turkeys have ranged in the same space as my chickens for several years without any indication of a turkey die-off. I love to see these huge wild birds and hope they continue to flourish.