Friday, February 12, 2010

Trying to Teach the Turkeys


Is it possible to train totally 'wild' wildlife?  I guess so, for my deer anyways...they have learned to come to the corn yard certain times of the day.  They also know if they show up in the morning, I will faithfully scatter their corn in several piles then go on and do my chores.  Maybe they have trained me! Certain deer, mostly the smart ones which is usually Bossy's crew, will even wait until after dark, hide near the barn and watch for me hoping for a late night snack.  Last week, Buttons touched his nose to my outstretched fingers for a split second!  That was a surprising first since his mother Brownie who has known me for three years won't even do that though she has gotten close.  Don't worry, when other humans are around, they all scatter. The only other deer I have touched was Nub, Brownie's two year old boy though that was not by choice.  Click on this link if you want to read Defying Death.  Getting back to the turkeys...it is a tough winter for these amazing birds.
We saw the turkeys close to the house a month or so ago much to our delight as for years they seemed to have vacated the farm due to our dogs roaming at will.  The electronic collars have worked wonders for the past few years but the turkeys continued to stay away, until last December. 
They are extremely difficult for me to figure out.  They do not behave in a consistant manner.  They do not arrive on a daily basis nor scratch for leftover corn at a certain time of day.  They know the good husband and I are the source of the corn as they must watch while I feed the deer or else how would they know to come so close to the house...
I have learned to just be honest with them... sounds silly, but it works. At first, I thought sneaking behind the barn to avoid them seeing me might be the answer since they used to run like crazy when a human approached.  I would walk up the hill with two full buckets of corn and the turkeys would be out of sight.  Now, I walk in my usual pace down the to the barn and this time, I talk to them.  I know, crazy farm lady talking to turkeys, but their reaction changed!  They didn't scatter.  Granted, they cautiously walked back up the hill but several of them turned around to watch me.  I always say the same words.  The deer know the word 'corn' and many know their names, so at least the turkeys can learn 'corn'.  One can only hope.
The first time when they didn't scatter in fear, they were headed toward the pond.  But, when they heard my voice they turned to look and some lingered, while others walked slowly back in the direction of the corn yard but still on the other side of the road staying close to the brush for safety.  They watched me scatter corn.  I immediately left and went back to the barn hoping (to no avail) that they would come back down and eat.
The second time was just a few days ago.  Did the same thing.  This time they were a bit closer to the house but still going back up towards some brush. I kept talking and they kept looking.  They very slowly made their way up the hill following their leader with a great view of the corn yard dotted with yellow piles of goodies.  Still nothing.  I left, this time walking back towards the house thinking my barn noises might disturb them.  Nope, nada, nothing. 
The third time, the good husband was in the car.  They don't seem as afraid of his quiet engine so he backed towards the house, got me, drove to the barn to get the corn, and while they were only a half way up the hill, I scattered the corn from the car.  Still didn't work. 
I guess it took years for the deer to trust me, so I must be patient for the poor turkeys.  I just don't understand why they won't follow the lead of the deer and save themselves from hunger.  I know there is an alpha female who heads the flock and I think there is another alpha female who is last in line as the others in between seem younger and slightly different in color.  Their behaviors in many ways mirror the deer with  several competing for the corn.   I've read about turkeys following the deer during Winter feedings so maybe with time, these shy birds will do the same.  It is very frustrating trying to teach these turkeys! ;~)

6 comments:

AJ-OAKS said...

Before you know it those turkeys will be waiting for you knowing that you have that yummy food. it must be wonderful to be that interactive with the wildlife. Love that last pic.

Autumn Mist said...

Wow, this is fantastic. One of my chickens knows her name and comes when I call her (from anywhere round the farm) but turkeys...

Dog Trot Farm said...

I guess we'll refer to you as the turkey whisperer! My what a large flock that is. I happen to be fond of turkeys and find them to be very attractive. Great post keep us updated on your progress.

Flat Creek Farm said...

This is amazing! They truly are interesting, aren't they? I know you'll have those turkeys 'trained' in no time at all. I just love that you do this, and yes, I would be one of "those" crazy farm ladies - talking to the wild critters! Thanks for sharing - made me smile :) -Tammy

Misty Dawn said...

I have read your sidebar stories about your fur-family-members. It was immediately obvious to me that I need to follow your blog. We are very, very much alike.

Tam@BloggingBradleys said...

Nice pictures and story. I just may need to grab a glass of wine and settle in for some reading. See you next week. Tam http://bloggingbradleys.blogspot.com/