Feeding the wild turkeys

Sixteen wild turkeys appeared early last week. I’d seen them once before this winter but not in the yard. They ate all of the bird seed they could scratch up from the snow. A few were brave enough to come to the back porch, a bold move for a nervous turkey. I don’t normally like to have them here because of the damage and droppings but this year we’re feeding wild turkeys. We have 45″ of snow on the ground. I didn’t have the heart to chase them away when they came back Tuesday morning. They ate all the seed, left and came back. They left and came back.

Bird seed is expensive so I added chicken layer pellets to the bird seed. The turkeys puffed up, stretched up as though an extra inch or two of height would change their view of the pellets, and eventually seemed to decide it might be okay if they ate the seed as long as they didn’t touch the weird pellets.

One of the small turkeys isn’t acting quite right. It stands on the snowbank alone and has a funny gait.

They were back Thursday morning, scratching through the fresh snow to get to the quart of bird seed and gallon of layer pellets. They ate the pellets without hesitation.

Steve bought one hundred pounds of cracked corn. They didn’t approve. Turkeys don’t like change. They don’t like it when the tractor isn’t parked in the same place two days in a row. They puffed up Friday morning, stretched up as though an extra inch or two of height would change their view of the weird an scary cracked corn, and eventually decided it might be okay if they pecked at it.

There are a few There are several smaller jakes in the rafter. Second are the mature hens, two of them. The others are last year’s poults. They’re small enough to make me think they are the survivors of a very late hatch.

wild turkeysTurkeys get hangry. They peck at each other and spurs fly. The scuffle doesn’t last long.
hen in treeThe rafter roosted in the pine trees across the road Friday night. I hadn’t noticed them until they started to wake up and move.

We were busy outdoors on Saturday and Sunday. Turkeys are nervous birds and spent little time here. There were 16 in the rafter early in the week but they were down to 15 by week’s end. I suspect the not-quite-right poult has died, either on its own or perhaps taken by the bobcat.
turkeys flyingjake over snowbankjake struttingThere were 13 turkeys down the road when I left to run an errand Monday morning but they didn’t come here. It’s Tuesday afternoon and I haven’t seen them today. Maybe the commotion around here over the weekend was too much for them. Or the bobcat’s presence might have kept them away. They haven’t walked up and down the road in front of the house. I kind of miss them.

Note: We aren’t feeding the turkeys so that we can hunt them in the spring. The largest birds are jakes. Not that we won’t shoot jakes, they taste good and it’s meat on the table, but I’ll be looking for a mature tom. We’re feeding them to help them through a rough winter. I’m too soft hearted to let them go hungry if I can help them. I’ll tell you soon what we’re doing to help a bobcat.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.