As you may have noticed by now, I am endlessly fascinated with our turkeys, especially the variety of sounds they make while communicating with each other. If you do an internet search of wild turkey sounds and listen to the hen calls, I’m sure you will be fascinated too. When we got our two turkey hens, Eleanor and Prudence, their only pasture-mates were our turkey Ringo, Ramon the rooster, and his three ladies, Henny, Penny and Little Miss. The chickens had been living in the pasture on their own for several months before we introduced the turkeys, and Ramon’s ladies had definitely taken ownership over the pasture. When we added Eleanor and Prudence to the pasture, Ramon’s ladies let them know in no uncertain terms that the chickens were the rulers of the pasture, and that the chickens got first dibs at treat time. Eleanor and Prudence were a bit skittish when we got them, and I was trying to train them to come when called and to eat treats out of my hand. Every time Eleanor and Prudence would gradually approach me for treats, one of Ramon’s girls would peck or chase them away. As I watched the interactions of the turkey hens and the chickens from a distance, I saw that Prudence routinely would turn around and run the other way when one of Ramon’s ladies approached her. Eleanor, the bolder turkey, would sometimes chase after Ramon’s ladies when they went after Prudence. This went on for several months, until one day I noticed that instead of Prudence running away from Ramon’s ladies, Prudence was actually seeking out their company.
Before I got the turkeys and I was doing my research, I read that it was fine to keep turkeys and chickens together, but that they would typically hang out within their own species groups. I’ve found that more often than not, Eleanor and Prudence can be found hanging out with the chickens, in particular Ramon’s girls (the black ones). The chickens sleep inside their coops at night, and they don’t come out of their coops in the morning until the automatic chicken coop doors open. The automatic doors have a light sensor, so they open at varying times after sunrise, depending upon how bright the morning is. On these gray rainy mornings, the automatic chicken coop doors don’t open as early as they would on a sunny morning. When the turkeys fly down from their outdoor perch in the morning, they look around for their chicken friends, and if the automatic coop chicken doors have not yet opened, Eleanor and Prudence begin calling for the chickens. The turkeys stand right outside the door of Ramon’s coop, yelping their mournful turkey calls until the chicken door opens and they are reunited with their favorite companions, and all is again peaceful in the pasture. On rainy or windy days, the chickens will take shelter from the weather and hunker down inside or under their coops, while the turkeys tend to be a bit more tolerant of the nasty weather and will continue to stay out in the open. As they do in the mornings, Eleanor and Prudence will start calling for the chickens when they notice that they are alone in the pasture. Eleanor and Prudence will then go in search of the chickens, and the sad turkey calls will cease only when the turkeys have located their chicken friends. I’m not sure if Eleanor and Prudence think that the chickens are turkeys, or if they have just been granted honorary turkey status, but either way the chickens appear to be part of the turkey tribe.