Turkey Neighborhood Watch

I have learned that one rooster giving an alarm call can be anything from a true warning of danger to a ploy to get his hens to stick closer to him.  So I am not too alarmed when I just hear one of them.  But a chorus of alarm calls from roosters, peacocks (they honk), and turkeys (they putt) is a situation to pay attention to.

This morning the several roosters who frequent my porch and the mother peahen all started sounding alarm so I ran outside to see what was going on.  At first all I saw was a blurr of beige and brown feathers as a hawk flew very quickly across our yard not ten feet from the house.  It was very graceful and quickly landed on the tall walnut tree in our yard.  It was a sparrow hawk – not much threat to a full grown chicken or peacock but it could make a meal out of young chicks.

As I was watching the hawk – who seemed unphased by my attention – a whole rafter (herd) of turkeys came running up to the house.  There were about 20 turkeys in the group and they were giving alarm putts, had their tails spread out, and had their wings slightly spread in “attack” posture.  And they were scanning the skies and trees for a predator.  It was obvious they were intent on finding and dispatching whatever the intruder was.  They spotted the sparrow hawk in the tree and immediately moved right below him, milling about while looking up and making threatening putts.  A couple of them jumped on our lawn furniture to get closer and a few moved closer to the peahen with her peachicks and milled around them.  This last move was very interesting to me because the peahen and turkeys don’t like each other.  They don’t fight anymore but they barely tolerate each other’s presence.  However it was obvious the turkeys were closing ranks and using their presence to deter a threat from the peachicks.

Eventually the hawk flew off and the scene turned to one of calm birds pruning and enjoying the early morning sun.  I am not sure what benefit the turkeys get for being the swat team for the farm – maybe it teaches the predators to stay away and that is safer for the turkeys when their own poults are wandering around the farm.  Or maybe they find it fun.  Turkeys do have a great sense of fun and joy – you can tell they enjoy certain activities very much.  But whatever the reason I am grateful because it helps keep my chickens safe and the hawks a welcome part of the farm.

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