I knew something was afoot this morning when I went to the poultry coop to do chores and found the turkeys - wearing red headbands and carrying torches and clubs - leading an insurrection. A quick check of the calendar revealed my worst fears: it was Bastille Day!
Since I had been threatening to throw open the gate to their big outdoor cage anyway, I decided this would be as good a day as any - and better than some. (It had rained early this morning, and their beloved clover was wet and shiny and looking luscious.
All of the birds were a little standoffish at first, eying the open gate with a fair degree of skepticism and suspicion. One of the turkeys looked at me cockeyed, mouth agape, and gobbled out the turkey equivalent of "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" But as I went about the business of feeding and watering, a few brave souls began exploring their freedom.
A gobbler and hen were first out of the gate, earning them the appellations Jean Valjean and Cossette. Next the other two turkeys, Spartacus and Harriett Tubman, followed into the fresh and plentiful clover patches. Before I finished the chores, one rooster, El Che, and two hens, Gertie and Alice B., had also slipped the surly bonds of captivity.
An hour later several more chickens had made their way to freedom, but many remained in the safety and comfort of their known world. Jean Valjean proved to be the most worrisome of the freed poultry. He found the shed where I keep my new riding mower and was looking at it as a future roost. The first time I go out and find the Husqvarna covered in turkey poop, he and I will have a serious discussion about the Thanksgiving menu!
After completing several morning errands, I returned to the farm to find the turkeys and all but two little hens back in their pen and peacefully napping or scratching for bugs in the shade. Being free does not appear to be an easy skill for poultry to master.
Soon I will free the guineas, and from experience I know that they will not be nearly as reticent as their larger cousins. The guineas will take the yard like the Allies took Normandy, and they will lay claim to all of the tallest trees. They will teach the turkeys and chickens a thing or two about life beyond the cage!
(Happy 93rd, Mom. I miss you!)