Frankie and Johnny started off life under Boston’s warm, feathery belly in the old chicken coop; however, they ended up in a cage in our kitchen, under a warm desk lamp. I’m not quite sure why Boston is not a better mother. Maybe this has something to do with her own young life beginning in the same cage, in the same kitchen, under the same lamp, almost three years ago.
Frankie and Johnny, aka Tuxedo (I will explain later), are about a week apart in age, but both were rescued from their hardened shells. It’s a tricky thing to extract a chick from a shell. It’s interceding in the natural course of things, but hard not to do when the peeping inside the shell begins to weaken. Our daugher, Annie, and I had sat on our hands for three or four chicks that never made it and there was a pattern emerging. It seemed a waste to grow a chick to term only to have it fail to emerge. And, Boston wasn’t helping.
Frankie turned out to be a yellow chick who uncurled his scrunched up legs, once free of his shell, and attempted to toddle around within hours. His feathers turned downy, his large knees grew stronger, and soon he was cuddling towards the warmth of the house lamp. A week later we introduced a small, black chick with white on his breast (ergo, Tuxedo), broken from his shell in a similar fashion, smaller, more frail, but free. We placed a piece of cardboard in the cage to keep him safe from Frankie until he could stand on his own and get out of the way if necessary.
Around this same time, we brought in four Heritage Bronze turkey chicks, the only survivors of an incubator malfunction at a local hatchery. Maybe the turkey business wasn’t such a bad idea. Of course, one of the four immediately keeled over for no apparent reason. Of course, it keeled over while friends were watching our place for a night. We had a sad note about the bird’s disposal. They had buried it in the back yard. I informed them I usually just throw the dead birds in the trash or out in the woods for the scavengers. We save the back yard for pets. Does this seem callous? I don’t know, turkeys aren’t that cute as poults, so there are no real endearing qualities until they develop some personality as teenagers.
Our daughter was home on a college break. This meant Frankie and Johnny had someone to play with. Annie would make sure the birds were handled by placing them on her lap, on top of a paper towel since Frankie had the bad habit of pooping within the first minute. She also saw to it they were taken for walks on the lawn. She informed us they would follow in a haphazard formation as she strolled through the soft, spring grass, chirping for her to slow down, chirping to keep up, chirping if something looked hazardous. It seemed a bit like the pied piper or something out of Gulliver’s Travels, at least from the chicks’ persepectives, I’m sure.
Soon enough, Annie was headed back to school and the responsibility of the chicks fell to me. As with previous kitchen-raised chicks, Frankie and Johnny were not that particular whose legs they were following around as long as it meant a belly rub at the end and some soft cooing to encourage them. The turkey poults were not a part of this process. They were too old to bond when we got them. Instead, everytime I went to change the water and the food in their box, they screamed as if they were about to be eaten. Do they have an inkling?
And then one day it was time to kick the chicks and the poults out of the kitchen. One day the place smelled fine; the next morning the strong smell of 6 week-old chicks was overpowering. If it was overpowering for us, I wonder what our friends thought even two weeks earlier! We secured a small section of the coop for the youngsters and held our breathe through the first few nights. Would it be too cold? Apparently not. Nor did they have to be taught to roost. I guess that part is hardwired in. Within a day, both chicks and poults had figured out how to jump and fly up to the rather high and large roost over their heads.
Just this week, Frankie, Johnny, and the turkeys were set free into the general population of the chicken yard. They hid when necessary from the fat, yellow hens; Peeps seems to have adopted the chicks as his own outcasts, although he is gaining quite a following these days; Rudy II could care less. Every morning when I open up the gates, Frankie will come running out to be picked up and stroked for a bit. Johnny is not quite so eager to be held, but he/she still streaks over. And, that’s the next big question: hens or roosters? It is still too soon to tell.
This week we also had small children at the farm who were enthralled we could actually pick up one of the chicks. The oldest, Megan, held Frankie until he had had enough. Megan and her sister were as excited to find the eggs in the nests around the chicken yard. It seemed like Easter and took the pressure off Frankie and Johnny, who probably needed some child downtime. Too much of a small thing can become alarming.
I think I may need to find the book we grew up with called Play with Me and keep it in the cabin for families to read. It is about a small girl who runs towards the animals in the wild and cannot figure out why they run away. Finally, when she sits quietly, all the animals approach her and sit down beside her. It is a good story for the farm. It’s actually a good lesson for all of us. Being quiet and calm can often get us closer to what we desire than chasing after something and never attaining it at all.
Top photo: Frankie is on the left; Johnny is on the right. Both were wiggling in Karen’s hands and pecking at her rings. Bottom photo: So, I guess this turkey poult is a Tom!
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007 Scottie Jones