Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And A Turkey Shall Lead Them

As promised, I picked up a box of ducks and geese from the feed store in early May. “How many ducks come in a box?” quipped a friend. The answer is, like chocolates, it depends on the size of the box. In our case, the number kept growing and growing, because the hatchery kept re-shipping parts of the order to replace birds that had not survived the ill-fated first shipment. They kept shipping and shipping until I had four Toulouse geese, 3 Pomeranian geese, 7 assorted bantam chickens (including the one I bought on purpose and six more to keep him company after his original companion succumbed), a white turkey and five Blue Swedish ducks. When they shipped the absolutely-never-to-be-available-again-this-year half dozen Cuckoo Maran hen chicks and five more Blue Swedish ducklings, I had to cry uncle.
            The white turkey started off about the size of the leg of the original Toulouse gosling, Miranda, who was already two weeks old when we got her. But the turkey has an adventurous spirit. After a couple weeks stinking up the kitchen porch, slinging water everywhere and attracting a lot of flying insects, the goxen—as my son helpfully named the duck-goose-turkey community—moved to the sheep room of the barn, where they have their own calf hutch and fence so that they can run around the back of the barn during the day and get locked into the hutch at night as protection against marauding raccoons and possums. When I open up the hutch gate in the mornings, the ducks and geese, growing quickly and already getting pretty big, hang back, beeping in alarm. The turkey, who barely scrapes the top of Miranda’s shank at present, comes charging out to hop into the feed tray and commence breaking her fast. Because she will boldly go where none have gone before, I called her Enterprise. And, thus inspired, the flock comes beeping after her.
            I can’t seem to take a picture of the goxen in which Enterprise does not turn out to be posed dramatically at the center of the group, under a blinding down-spot of heavenly glory. And by this photograph you may also see what a dozen goxen can do to a fresh pen in 12 short hours. There is a reason these creatures are not typically kept in the house. But the sight and sound of them slapping their bills sociably in the waterer and nibbling each other’s down is about the most fun you can have without breaking the law.