The Great Escape

Our turkey pen is made exclusively of materials designed to contain other kinds of animals. The main structure is made of cattle panels, which are 16-foot sections of galvanized, heavy-gauge fencing. Since cows don’t fit through turkey-sized holes, we had to line the bottom couple of feet with chicken wire. If it can keep in a chicken, it can keep in a turkey.

Unless, of course, it doesn’t go high enough. Turkeys – the kind we have – are much better flyers than chickens, and a four-foot fence is no obstacle. That’s where the clam netting comes in. We used it to extend the pen walls to about ten feet, too high for the turkeys to get over. Unless, of course, they first go on the roof of their treehouse, and fly over from there. So there’s a roof, of sorts, also of clam netting.

The advantages to using clam netting in a turkey pen are clear. The nets are easy to put up and big enough to do the job. And, if you’re in the shellfish business, you’re likely to have a few of them sitting around behind the garage.

The disadvantage is that they’re fragile. They’re made to be spread on the sea floor, secured by big staples or sandbags, to protect the clams beneath from predators. When you hang them vertically, and subject them to wind, rain, and snow, they’re likely to tear.

Today, one of them tore at a spot strategically designed to maximize the chance of escape – just at the end of their roost bar. All the birds had to do was walk over and hop down, and all six of them chose to do just that.

At dawn, or when you’re trying to have a conversation with dinner guests, or when your neighbor’s baby is sleeping, the fact that birds make noise is very inconvenient. When there’s any kind of trouble, though, it’s a plus. Our first hint that there’s a hawk in the vicinity is usually a ba-gawk of alarm. If a bird gets trapped or separated from her flock, we hear about it. And when all six turkeys escape from the pen, they just can’t keep quiet about it.

Kevin heard their soft gobble-gobble (it surprised us to learn that turkeys do actually gobble) coming from the wrong direction, and he looked out the window to find our six turkeys ambling casually down to the pond.

Turkey wrangling is a strange art. Turkeys won’t reliably run either away from you or toward you. If you walk toward their pen, they might follow you, but they might not. They might find a puddle that’s vastly more interesting than whatever it is they think you’re up to, and it’s as though you don’t exist. If you try and get behind them and herd them toward the pen, that’s when they decide you’re pretty interesting after all, and just stand there giving you that beady-eyed stare.

The one thing working in your favor is that they stick together, more or less. Once you get one or two headed in the right direction, the rest are likely to follow. It didn’t take more than about ten minutes to get them back in again. Kevin fixed their net, and we hope they’re now in for the duration.

As escapes go, it wasn’t very exciting, but we have to take our drama where we find it.

5 people are having a conversation about “The Great Escape

  1. Take some solace from the fact that Thanksgiving is coming, and crispy roasted turkey skin is delicious. Of course, if the turkeys ever become aware of this, then the real problems will begin. I keep telling my chickens that they need to behave because cool weather is coming and I make a mean pot of chicken soup, but so far they do not seem to have made the connection.

  2. You guys have to be more careful. Turkeys are strange and very powerful spirits. They can disappear. They can allow their bodies to dematerialize long enough for shot patterns to pass then re-materiallize at a full gallop into the brush. Oh wait, I am talking about wild turkeys. You have yard birds that sometimes need a chicken to help them learn to eat. Eating is how I would wrangle them back to the pen. It’s amazing what a little extra feed can do to motivate birds! If that failed, I would simply decide to be a little early with Thanksgiving and turkey noodle casseroles.

  3. No, i think you should take solace in the fact that they can’t forge identity papers and ride stolen motorcycles, because then there’s no telling how far they would have gotten.

  4. Why are escapes always so ding dong exciting? I never run, but all Lee has to say is, “Robin a chicken escaped” and I’m galumphing along with the drama of chicken herding about to ensue. Not that the drama is very dramatic. I mean when was the last time a chicken had a tommy gun or something. Though…a few days ago Lee watched one of our chickens pop under the fence and start chasing a squirrel. That was pretty exciting stuff. 🙂

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