Jackie Savage and Rick Rhoades love turkeys. They raise them from eggs, incubating them in their dining room and feeding the chicks with an eye dropper if needed.
Rhoades even fashioned flippers with medical gauze tape and made a hobble from a pipe cleaner for one chick, Seymore Hobbles, whose feet and legs needed extra support after being born. [See the April 18, 2012, DCI issue for that story.]
“Not too many people give much thought to the character of turkeys,” Savage said. “In fact most people say they don’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain. This is true, we have seen them sit out in a downpour when they have a nice dry coop to sit in. But we think they have outstanding character.”
This summer the couple witnessed the bravery of their turkeys during a bear attack. The bear mauled his way into their fenced enclosure. Sadly, most were killed. But Savage and Rhoades don’t want to focus on that. They want to tell the story of those who survived. These turkeys stood their ground and managed to outsmart the bear.
“Big Boy is a Broad Breasted turkey. During the bear attack Big Boy put himself in front of his hens to protect them. Of course he has a lot of broken and missing feathers. This might not be so remarkable considering they were trapped in a coop without a lot of room to run to safety. But this is the second time he has done this. In the dead of last winter, he put himself between his hens and a bobcat. They were out in a very large pen. He could have run to safety at any time, but he didn’t. By the way, even though he looks a mess, he is out there strutting and fanning like he is the hottest tom around,” Savage said.
“Posey is also a Broad Breasted turkey. During the bear attack she remained very still in the corner of the coop and never left her egg. Even though Rick fired three shots into the coop and the bear swatted her. She was left with damage to her wing. Posey was a gift to us when her human family realized she was not meant to be without other turkeys. She has blended well with her turkey family that we hatched and raised.
“Pearl is our oldest Royal Palm turkey. The mother of Seymore. She took a blow to her back and her leg is badly damaged from the bear. I did not expect her to survive, but she is still with us and doing quite well considering her age and injuries.”
(Sadly, Savage reported that Pearl died Monday afternoon, Aug. 25.)
“Pretty Girl is a Bourbon turkey. She herded her sibling out of the coop to safety. A brave move because turkeys do not have great sight at night. Both she and her sibling have no damage, but it did take us an hour to find them in their hiding spot,” Savage said.
So hooray for these survivors. The next time someone says, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” set the record straight and let them know what the true character of a turkey is.