Let’s Talk Turkey Part 2: Free Bird

September 9, 2013
English: Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), f...

English: Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), female with juveniles, Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, Jocelyn, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that some of you may be wondering what happened to the little turkey poults we’d rescued in Let’s Talk Turkey Part 1. The story is bittersweet.

While staying in little indoor pen the 2 little poults grew quickly. As they grew the wilder they became. It seemed that being fed by humans didn’t seemed to affect their wild nature. It wasn’t long until they began to loose their down and get their feathers. They were about three weeks to a month old. When they began to get their wing feathers, they could fly a little.

At this time we could somewhat determine sex. One poult was about twice the size of the other, and it began to sprout that little tassel of skin that would hang down. The larger poult was a tom, gobbler, or jake, whichever you prefer. The other was a hen. They were still too young to be turned loose on their own, but they needed to be outdoors.

My inlaws had a guinea condo built without the guineas. The attempts at trying to hatch out some guinea fowl with eggs given to them didn’t pan out so well. That being said, it would become a turkey condo for a time. Here they will stay about another month. During this time the hen dies suddenly. We have no idea what caused her death. A couple ratsnakes had gotten into the pen, but they couldn’t be the cause since the turkeys were too large for the snakes to ingest, and they are not venomous. There were no signs of any other animals or venomous snakes, so it remains a mystery. Luckily, pit vipers like copperheads and rattlesnakes are poor climbers and the condo is about 4 feet off the ground.

He hadn’t lost his head fuzz yet, but he looked much like a juvenile turkey should!

We decide to take our little tom back to the farm where we found him as an egg from the abandoned nest. We also know there is a large congregation of other wild turkeys around, so he should be able to locate them. Turkeys are very social and vocal animals, and he should be old enough to find the group and survive on his own. Instinct should do the rest like knowing how to call to the others and foraging for food.

So after 8 to 10 weeks after hatching, we take the tom to where we we have seen the other turkeys: namely hens and their poults traveling together and release him in the general vicinity. He starts clucking and flies away and disappears into the woods just like that.

A lot of things may depend on individuals when considering releasing a wild turkey back into the wild. Probably limiting human interaction would be one. Another is to allow them to be old enough for him to be vocal and not “peeping” like a baby and it have all of its body feathers and able to fly away from predators. If it imprints on you and depends on you too much, it may not be a good idea. Limiting human interaction would be key.

We drive around looking to see if we see our little jake when we visit the farm, but all we see is a group of turkeys. We can only guess he made it and is where he belongs. It’s too difficult to tell any one young jake from another in a group.

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AK Taylor

About the Author

AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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