Hard Lessons to Learn

We went and got hay from the lady that grows lovely hay and came back to the barn to store it before the rain came and to freshen up the barn with a bale, just putz around with the flock. We noticed that two of the turkeys were in the barn playing around in the hay and such. But three of them were missing.

This morning when I let everyone out and fed and watered everyone, the three in question were playing and being little boys. I’m so sure they were toms because they were playing king of the haybale and just playing so rough and tumble with each other. The two slightly smaller ones were just scratching and eating, catching bugs and just being, well, a little more demure and delicate. I didn’t think too much about it, just delighted in their differences so quickly.

But it was getting later in the evening and they weren’t back to the barn. After dinner, Luna and I went for a stroll and I hoped that I would find the little turkey muskateers and herd them back to the roost. We walked out along the windchime tree and back in the far pasture where they had been the night before. Nothing. The raspberries are just starting to turn red and soon, we’ll need to be out there picking the good ones before everyone else gets them. We walked out to the far corner and the little cemetary, nothing. So we started back on the diagonal path that we have been mowing back to the barn and then I found them. All dead.

They had been murdered very clearly by a hawk. They were beheaded and gruesome gashes to their chests, feathers all about. All laying together in a little area together. About 50 feet from the barn, 50 feet from cover. The hens never go out in the open field, they know better. And it just didn’t occur to me that the little babies wouldn’t know that, and know to stay in the thickets and near cover. I know turkeys have a bad rap for not being the brightest bulbs in the box, but still, I thought our turkeys would be exceptions to that rule, and just be somehow, smarter, wiser. Alive!

Luna sat there with me, looking quite puzzled. I’m sure that it wasn’t a cat or a dog, it just so clearly looked like a bird of prey. I felt so angry at myself for letting this happen. I should have kept them secure in the barn longer. I should have known better. I read lots on the internet and such, but no one warned about letting them free range too early. I thought they would heed the call of Bucka, and stay close to the flock. Learn from them. But they didn’t, and I failed them.

I laid their little pale cold bodies in a hay nest in an old basket and brought them into the pig barn so that hopefully no critters will bother them until morning when I can dig them a proper little grave. I went and caught the two little survivors and I locked them up secure in the feed room. I put all my chickens to roost and told them all to be careful and to stay out of the pasture.

Came in the house and told the girls. We were all very saddened by this, our first livestock loss. I knew it would happen. Everyone that has livestock, must learn to deal with deadstock. It’s a cruel fact of farming, even small scale farming. Here on the cusp of hatching perhaps our first little babies to the farm, we loose 3 little babies in our care, so easily! It is such a hard lesson to have to learn!

I read many people’s blogs about going rural, about learning to farm. I hope that I learn from them all, their success and their failures, because I don’t have this built in network of my farm family siblings or parents to teach me since I was 5 how to do all this. And it is why, tonight, I must hang my head in shame and share this hard lesson that we have learned. You must be big enough to free range. You need to be old enough and wise enough. 2 month old feathered poults, even though they seem like they have it going on, are still little goof ball teenagers at best and they just don’t have the experience that a year old hen has.

So tomorrow, we are going to start and rehab the little coop. It’s a perfectly good little structure, just needs some TLC, some weeding and a good layer of chicken wire. Our little survivors will have a safer, more protective area for their new home. This was a very hard lesson learned, and I’m sure we will have others, but I just hope they are not at the cost of innocent little lives that we have taken on to protect and nurture.

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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of BuckeyeBluegrass.com as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


Hard Lessons to Learn — 8 Comments

  1. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry that happened. Yes, it is a rough lesson but you learn from it and move forward and try to do better. I with you the best with your two little girls.

    • Thank you! They are doing well, settling in and all. I hope we can go next weekend and get them a few more new siblings!


  2. This is a very sad story..its something I think you just had to learn. Its no ones fault..I would not have known..and all the research you do..still doesn’t prepare you. And..yes I have also been told turkeys aren’t very smart.

    Brings back memories, of when I had 2 house cats..beautiful..that I got from the Human Society, and after trying to potty break them for 6 mths I tried, I decided they was going to be outdoor cats. I lived in town, a small town. One once not very old..maybe 9 mths old, and I got a call at work from my two daughters, that just saw a neighbors big dog (by the way the town had a leash law..all dogs on leashes or penned up..but no one did). My daughters were witness to this large dog coming in our yard, grabbing the small cat by the neck, shook it and broke its neck, leaving it behind for my young girls to see and pick up til I got home. Its something they should have not seen. I felt guilty for leaving them outside, and I was upset that apparently its alright to leave your cat killing dogs run lose. It was a lesson learned, but..to this day I feel badly. Its part of life dear Sherri, unfortunately.

    • Oh! I’m so sorry about that, and that your daughters had to deal with it all. It’s so hard, we want to shelter our kids and all, but life is life and sometimes things don’t go as we planned!! I was so upset when Maggie’s first real pet, her little hamster Rainbow Star got out and killed… I just felt so terrible… but we just can’t be all place at all time nor perfect… just have to try and do the very best we can! Thanks for writing….


  3. Hello again, I’m sorry about the babies. You are bound to lose some when they stroll like that, and it always sucks.
    I think the way you described the bodies makes me think it is a cat attack, rather than a hawk. Namely, hawks usually take their prey away, and if they do leave them behind, the injury is to the back. They strike from above, and the back of the victim is wide open to their vision. The attack you describe sounds like a cat. At least I think so. The feral cats here anyway eat the head first, then the breast.
    Turkeys are not very bright. Pretty, and good eating, but real lunkheads. I wonder if the cat caught one, the others probably scattered, then strolled back to see what was up, and the cat struck again. Not bright at all.
    Again, I am so sorry about what happened. I can’t count the feathered friends I have lost to predators. You do the best you can do and even then something can happen in spite of it all.
    Tomorrow I am letting my month old Black Australorp babies out for a stroll for the first time. I too will be watching for cats and hawks and weasels and dogs and raccoons and…well, you get the idea.


    • Oh thanks for writing! I really appreciate it. I can’t believe how many other critters are lined up waiting to dine on our little poultry friends!!!! It’s just terrible! You may be right, it could have been a cat, but I hope it was not our kitties… but I suspect it might have been one of the two feral toms that are on our place. They are big boys and I would guess hungry. And yes, I just can’t believe all three got killed… but after thinking about it and all, I think you’re probably right… they just aren’t the brightest bulbs at all! I just was hoping that my little poults might have been just a wee bit smarter? Maybe?

      Well, we have taken steps and more steps are coming to make a much more secure turkey haven for our little survivors. And I am considered live trapping the two toms and perhaps finding a NEW home for them, at a shelter or a kitty rehab center. They are being a little rough on my butterball Jack and I don’t need them killing livestock either… We’ll have to see how things go.

      But again, thanks for writing and I hope your Australorps are doing well!!!


  4. I am so sorry too Sherri. It is really hard to go through that. I had a sweet little goose once that we hatched from an incubator. He was a Chinese brown and his name was Dex. He was the only one who hatched. I loved him. I would carry him around and hold him and he would wrap his long neck around mine, kind of like a goose hug. One morning just before work (about 6 a.m. or so with a 1-hour drive ahead) my hubby told me that Dex had died. A skunk had got him. I was so sad but couldn’t grieve properly as I had to go to work and act normal. It was heartbreaking. I have disliked skunks ever since though that’s just nature I guess. If you do keep the turkeys as pets, I’ve heard they can make really great pets. Maybe I should not have told you that :) Take care.

    • Oh…. I’m sorry about your goose! From what I am hearing from so many people… loss of our little farm friends is just one of the bridges you have to cross on this adventure. Sometimes it’s from predators, sometimes just illness or injury and even from mistakes, it’s always hard and just part of the whole adventure. I’m thankful for everyone that has written… it means a lot to me! I hope that others will learn too, from these hard lessons we all share.