I’ve been worried about Big Tom, our Black Spanish male turkey. Through the years I’ve become quite attached to Big Tom. He’s a large, impressive bird. The heavy folds of skin above his eye give him a foreboding look and he can be quite intimidating. But really, he’s a puppy at heart.
Tom follows us everywhere. He comes when he’s called and will tolerate a hug or two.
Tom takes great pride in protecting his hens. They follow him blindly and he always lets them eat first, drink first and he stands guard, all puffed up until they’ve finished.
For a while, Tom wasn’t himself. He wasn’t eating, his head seemed pale compared to his usual vibrant blue or red and he wasn’t interested in strutting with full display, which isn’t like him at all.
He would wander around the yard, as if he was lost, meandering through the tall weeds. I was really starting to worry that he might be sick.
Meanwhile, in the big barn…
We have two outbuildings on our property; the coop with a wing, that houses our chickens, turkeys, ducks, guineas and geese, and the big barn where our dairy and fiber goats live, where we stack the hay harvest and park the tractors.
Many times our broody hens will make their nests in the scattered hay of the big barn. I can see why this is an inviting spot. It’s a lot quieter and there’s less commotion than in the coop. There are many nooks and crannies to hide a nest of eggs…it’s been appealing to more than one broody mamma over the years.
One morning, I went out to check the goats and forgot to close the big sliding barn door behind me. When I went back out to close it, Big Tom was in the barn, feathers on full display pacing in front of a turkey hen sitting on eggs in a corner of the barn.
I was pleased to see that he seemed to be a bit more perky this morning, but I soon realized that this hen was NOT happy to see him.
She puffed up all her feathers and made a threatening dragon noise at him. He paced a bit too close and she stood and charged him. Once he ran away, she clucked and strutted back to her nest…obviously annoyed at the disruption.
Tom lowered his feathers and retreated from the cover of the barn. He hovered near the door as if trying to get a look at his girl inside without upsetting her.
I realized that this turkey hen was the last of all our turkeys to set up shop in the barn. All four of our hens had left the coop and were now broody and Big Tom was forgotten by his ladies.
“You’re lonely!” I realized, as Tom approached me outside the barn.
For the rest of the day I left the big barn door open. Tom spent the whole day pacing in front of the open door. Not daring to go inside, but stayed close enough to keep an eye on his girls.
I decided that maybe Tom needed some extra attention so I went out and sat with him for a while. I hand fed him some treats and stroked his soft black feathers.
Each day of the brood I tried to make a point to spend some time with Tom. I would call him to the garden while I weeded and hand fed him. It seemed to be helping quite a bit. His color was coming back and he seemed less lost.
One day I had Oliver, our golden retriever out with me in the garden. Tom came wandering over and the funniest thing happened.
He puffed up all his feathers and began strutting in front of me. He wouldn’t let Oliver get near me. In fact, Oliver got too close and he chased him out of the garden gate!
That night I met Zach outside when he came home from work. I gave him a hug like I always do and Tom came strutting over. I stepped a few feet away from Zach and Tom placed himself in-between us, eyeing Zach and edging Zach away from me.
“I think I might have a new boyfriend.” I joked with Zach.
“Yeah, I see that.” He laughed. “Should I be worried?”
Tom carried on like this for the next couple weeks. “Protecting” me, following me everywhere, even sitting outside the front door after I went inside.
Then one day one of the hens emerged from the barn toting with her 5 little poults.
Tom was beside himself with pride. He wouldn’t leave her side and I don’t think he relaxed his feathers all day.
I was forgotten.
He returned to his first love.
It will be hard, but I’ll find the strength to move on.
Now Tom is a doting father and turkey mate. He protects his new turkey family and has returned to his normal, vibrant self.
Because of this experience, I can now say that I have some understanding of what it’s like to date a turkey. I can’t doubt that he’s a handsome fellow, but who am I kidding, it never would have worked out between us. Really…, he’s not my type; kinda controlling and doesn’t like dogs…yeah, it’s all for the best that we go our separate ways.
We’ve agreed to remain friends.