Why I love my back yard Jurassic Park

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Despite Gamford’s ongoing battle with Cilla the turkey, who tries to slip into the chicken coop like an uninvited party guest and has to be bounced out daily, we are rather fond of turkeys here.

Even Cilla is a real character, determined to break into the coop and ram herself into a nestbox even though she knows it just isn’t the right thing to do – like a teenager with a bad sunbed habit.

If you fancy raising your very own Christmas dinner, now is the time to buy in young turkey poults.

But they are not what you’d call attractive birds. I have to admit when we got our first Christmas lot I wondered if I could ever love them.

Mind you, I felt the same when we first got chooks – I found them, well, a bit beady-eyed and beaky.

But I was soon hooked.

When the first lot of turkey poults arrived, I took a deep breath and prepared to embrace them.

But it was difficult. With their fuzzy heads, wrinkly necks and tendency to give everything they encountered a good, hard peck to see if it was edible, they weren’t easy to love.

As they (quickly) grew, and settled in, we found them cheeky, charming and weird in equal measure.

They would follow you around, watching everything you did, creeping up behind you when you weren’t looking and then popping up at your elbow when you least expected it, lunging in for a peck at that staple you were just about to hammer into the fence.


They also make good guard dogs.

I had heard this about geese, but not turkeys. I mulled over getting some geese, but they just seemed a little bit too big and threatening for my liking. Plus, they seem to cover any ground they are on into green, sticky gunk. Not good.

The turkeys are just as vocal, marching up and down honking to each other when anyone strange comes up the drive.

And no green gunk. Result.

They will become very tame, just like chickens, because they are greedy (just like chickens), so their affections are easily bought.

Sometimes though, they just want to be above fraternising with lowly poultry, and seem to crave human contact.

They will shuffle up and stand right beside you, waiting to be stroked.

But always keep them in sight.

I was once in the run, bending down to fill up a feeder, when I was suddenly pecked right next to my eye by wee Sally. Ouch.

I didn’t even see it coming. Stalked by a turkey.

A few days later, with a big bruise in several shades of purple, I felt slightly awkward telling people just how it had happened.

I’m sure that some of them thought it was my version of “walked into a cupboard door”.

There is a potentially lethal disease, blackhead, which can be passed from chickens to turkeys, but worming both regularly has meant this has never been a problem for us.

And watching turkeys shuffle majestically amongst the (much smaller) chickens is like a scene in Jurassic Park where ginormous dinosaurs walk amongst teeny, weeny, scuttling ones.

But unlike the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, turkeys can’t kill you.

Well, not if they’re thoroughly cooked at Christmas.