After posting on Facebook that I had taken the babies away from their mother, several people asked me why I had.
“Isn’t it natural for them to stay together?”
And it dawned on me that the sources I’d taken advice from are breeding them for Thanksgiving. I mean, who in their right mind keeps turkeys as pets?
So, yes, yes, of course it is natural to be together. But now it was three days later, would it be okay to reunite them? They seemed very happy in their little box. Maybe it would cause more harm that good to join them up again.
And mom seemed quite happy with the two I’d left with her. I’d never had any intention of taking those two away. Firstly, I couldn’t bear to hear her wailing again. And why not hedge my bets and leave some with her? Fewer chicks equals less chance of squashing. I even thought about putting three back in with her and seeing what happened. An experiment: five raised by her and five raised by me!
Again, I was confused! I just wanted to do what was best for them. I don’t want to wake up one morning and find a couple of them crushed underneath her… But I don’t want them to freeze when it gets too cold in the night because they are not under their mommy’s wings.
I was also very conflicted (i.e. selfish), as I have been loving hanging out with them all day in the hammock, where I have based myself for the first few days of lockdown. And I have to admit, lurking around in the back of my mind were visions of baby turkeys following me everywhere because they thought I was their mother. 🙈
And then yesterday, my mother sent me this article. Now I felt like the evil stepmother, forcing the babies from their true mother.
So what to do about it? How to bring them back together?
I decided on that favourite plan of mine: to “think about it later.”
In the meantime, it was time to clean Catherine’s cage. It was full of eggshells and poop and hadn’t been cleaned since she before she started laying eggs six weeks ago. 🙄 And I wanted to check yesterday’s arrival. She (he?) looked every so slightly damaged… I couldn’t get to her without getting past Catherine, and that wasn’t happening while she was still in her box.
Catherine understandably wasn’t at all happy about this new turn of events. And neither was I, it wasn’t easy to do. Though probably more difficult mentally than physically for me as she was crying out, flapping around, obviously distressed. I’m not sure if she was looking for her home or for her other babies. They were happily (at least I think happily) cheeping in their open box not far away, and she could probably hear them.
But once she found her two chicks, she quietened down, and settled in a spot with her babies underneath.
I left her to it, and after the cage was sorted, went on to something a lot more fun: letting the other eight chicks out for the first time!
Again, this was a bit of a trick and I had to think about it. I have a big garden, and I’ve no idea how they will behave… Well I can guess how they will behave. They will run around all over the place and I will never be able to catch them ever again.
What I really need is a pen. Trouble is, it just so happens that for the first time in history, all the hardware stores are shut 🙄
Then I had a “brainwave”. I decided to be resourceful and use basically anything I could find to build an enclosure. I started with some landmarks. Then an old bath from the shed. I hauled over all my potted plants. A few other bits and pieces and voila! Not perfect, but it would do. If any of them escaped through the holes, I would be able to catch them, as surely all eight wouldn’t get out at once? I actually quite liked the idea of seeing them squeeze through the holes and running after them. Seemed like a fun way to spend the afternoon.
So here it was! I was feeling quite proud of myself!!!
I let them out, two by two. They were tentative at first, but then got into the swing, running around in a little group.
So now they were out and running free. Now what?
There was only one thing for it.
It was time.
After the usual chase, I grabbed her and carried her in one arm, and with my other started the video rolling – I hope you can see it okay, apologies for the wonkiness.
I put her down, and she instantly started looking for and calling out for her two chicks, completely ignoring the eight chicks already there. The two were calling back, desperate to find their mother. The gamboled over to find her, struggling, but determined to fight through the flowerbed to reach her. Nature never ceases to amaze me.
Meanwhile, the other eight chicks still didn’t seem fussed to see her, and she didn’t seem fussed to see them.
“Oh no!” I thought. “I’ve destroyed the mother-baby bond!” I was beside myself; I was Mrs Coulter in “His Dark Materials”, when she cut away the dæmons from the children…
But once she had her two chicks back, she calmed down and rested, and the others made their way over to her. They melted together as if they had never been apart. 😍😍😍
I did it.
I got the band back together. ❤️