Every now and again we're amazed by one of our animals. This time it was one of the Bourbon Red Turkey hens. She appeared with two chicks beneath her last week. These aren't turkey chicks, they're chicken's chicks. Apparently she found a nest of chicken eggs in the back of the hayloft and she's been sitting on them. A very distinct peeping sound was coming from underneath her. Among the broken eggs were two newly hatched chicks and a few who didn't survive. This is unusual for two reasons: 1. We don't keep roosters. 2. We were wrong about reason number 1.
During the summer months our chickens follow the cattle and sheep through the pasture. They eat plants, seeds and insects. Among this group of hens was a Barred Rock rooster who we separated and moved into the timber. Later in the summer we were given a Buff Orpington rooster who was also moved into the timber. Late in the fall we brought the Buff Orpington rooster to the barn but he's been kept separate from the hens. We couldn't find the Barred Rock rooster, figuring that he'd become prey to an owl, eagle, or coyote, we dismissed his absence. When we were cutting wood a couple weeks ago we spotted him scratching up grain along the side of the road. He'd survived predators, freezing temperatures and a blizzard. One of our neighbors spotted him and tried to catch him. It was impossible and she declared him, 'Too independent for capture". A few days later Keith discovered him in the barnyard, strutting and crowing. When our son was on his daily run the rooster followed him but then turned into the timber. A few days later he was back in the barnyard again. This back and forth must have been ongoing. He's been making regular visits, or at least regular enough to court our hens. The turkey, acting as a surrogate, seemed very surprised herself.
There's something about getting up at 5 a.m., feeding the stock and chickens, and milking a couple of cows before breakfast that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of butter and eggs. - Bill Vaughan
There's one major problem with a turkey hatching chicken's eggs; she's too big for the chicks. They need to be able to free themselves from their shell and be kept warm without suffocating. A turkey hen is too heavy. She's designed to hatch her own eggs which are larger. Her poults are heavier. Also, the hayloft isn't the best environment for new chicks. They need food, water, and safety from falling out of the loft. The turkey is mad that we stole "her" chicks (but they're safe now). The turkey bonded with these chicks even before they hatched. While still in the egg the chick peeps through the shell and talks with the hen. When they hatch the chick recognizes the hen as it's mother. These conversations go on for about three days before hatching. If you ever have the opportunity to hatch chicks you'll be overjoyed to hear the soft chirps and peeps coming from the egg. It's a beautiful sound.