Last night while I was at work, my girlfriend heard a noise. There was a fluttering and clatter, and Tom began squawking in a way you wouldn’t expect a turkey to be able to. She was outside in probably under five seconds. Diane was gone.
Tom was by the gate pacing furiously, bright red. Then a noise off in the bushes. Turn the light and catch a huge raccoon sneaking off into a tree about two hundred feet away.
Looking for Diane, she found what no poultry farmer wants to see. Under the tree where they roost was a small bunch of wing feathers that looked like they’d been yanked. And no other sign of Diane.
In the hour and a half that it took for me to finish work and get home, she searched the woods nearby for any signs. And Tom stood vigil on top of the gate, scanning the bushes and trees. We spent another hour looking after I got home. And unfortunately found another small bunch of feathers under the tree. But no Diane.
But this was not a magic raccoon. It did not haul off a bird as big as itself in seconds leaving no blood or trail. Assuming the worst, we went to bed finally, fully expecting to find whatever was left of her when the sun came up. It was a very emotional night. And Tom stayed on that gate all night long.
At about eight in the morning, the girlfriend woke me up. Tom was making noises. A lot. Maybe he was just upset at losing his girl, but she thought she heard his calls being answered from beyond the yard.
Tom was gobbling and chirping up a storm. So much that the chickens were scared back into the coop. And I heard it. Mer mer mer mer mer! There, across the street by the closest neighbor’s fence, was our Diane, calling for her Tom.
We picked her up (she really didn’t like that) and brought her back to the yard. You’ve never seen a turkey look so happy as when we came around the corner carrying her. Tom was strutting and changing colors, and the chickens almost instantly knew it was safe.
Near as we can tell, that raccoon got up there and that woke up the birds. Diane spread her wings to escape and the varmint grabbed a few feathers. She flew one way and Tom chased that bastard out of the yard and watched to make sure it stayed gone. I have never seen such dedication in a bird.
There has been a lot of discussion between us, and between our families and friends, about our birds. These are heritage or specialty breeds, and more expensive. That’s been a point of discussion. We let the turkeys roost in a tree like wild birds. That’s been criticized. We don’t clip their wings and lock them up at night. We don’t have an eagle net over the yard. But this isn’t all a result of accident or naïveté. These breeds are chosen for specific traits. These turkeys are half wild. Had these been a domestic breed or worse, broad breasted meat birds, they’d be dead. That raccoon would have killed them both. Instead, Diane was able to fly away and Tom had the aggression to scare it off.
We feel more confident than ever that we’ve got some very special birds. And that Tom is really something else!
Also, a guardian dog has moved up the priority list to “right freaking now” so we don’t have to go through this again.