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Pecking Order

Thanksgiving may be over, but at the farm, we’re still talking turkey. Tom, our resident male turkey, has a friend. For the second time this year, he’s “called” in a wild turkey - a tom. While we hoped that he’d call in a hen so they could make babies, it has yet to happen.

All of my life I’ve heard the term “pecking order” without considering its origin. On the farm, however, I see the term played out every day.

Until recently the two geese were the dominant fowl on our property. While they rarely prevented the ducks and chickens from joining in on the food sprinkled out twice daily, they could assert their dominance any time they wanted. (All of our birds are pasture raised - meaning that they have full run of our pastures and property all day.) And Tom? We’ve looked at him as a peacemaker of sorts. He certainly never tried to intimidate any of the other birds.

That all changed when Wild Tom showed up on our farm. Now, every time we feed the animals, the toms team up and bully the geese. (While most of our animals have free range of our 21 acres, we like for them to recognize the animal pens as home base, so we feed them there twice a day.) They don’t seem concerned with keeping the ducks and chickens away - just the geese.

It begins like this: The geese honk and come up to the outside of the fence where we’ve tossed some feed. Then here come the turkeys, running, gobbling and chirping. They flap their wings, and in general, intimidate the geese, sending them running/flying to the nearby livestock pond. Every once in a while, the geese will turn around and chase the turkeys, but it’s rare.

Another old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is born out every day on the farm. When they’re not eating, the two toms wander around the farm together. Before Wild Tom showed up, our Tom spent his days walking around on his stork-like legs, often talking to his reflection on our cars. He could do it for hours. Since Wild Tom’s arrival, though, I haven’t seen him exhibit this behavior.

Our Tom didn’t often display his plumage either. But now that he has another turkey around, we see the two of them puffed out regularly. They’re stunning, especially our domesticated bird. If a turkey hen ever DOES show up, she’d better watch out. She’ll be swept off her feet by one of these handsome fellas.

This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the December 10, 2022 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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