Turkey Roost

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Creating a New Turkey Roost page with new photos

Well, a picture of the maple tree before the drought killed it.

The Hurricane Irma page has pictures of what the tree looked like until Hurricane Dorian.

Tree Roost: Turkeys like other fowl have certain requirements to keep them healthy, safe & happy. Before you add the misunderstood turkey to your backyard or small farm it is best to prepare or at the very least be aware of the necessities.

One requirement is a night time perch or roost. People have beds, Turkeys have perches. The roost serves a dual function: bed and nighttime safety position to wait out the dark hours for the sunrise.

Hen leaving her night roost at dawn. Super moon to the west.

Our heritage turkeys use a combination of outdoor roosting & indoor roosting

(mostly of their choice)

Hens at rest on the fence

For the outdoor roost, the hens and young turkeys fly into the high branches of a red maple and an oak tree. The Toms who have grown too heavy to lift themselves to the high branches, stay on the lower braches or the lumber we placed for that purpose.

Oddly enough, as the sun dips below the horizon and the birds scramble to for safety; the Alpha male (or males) are always the last to go into the tree. In the spring this will often lead to a fight as the daylight slowly slips away.

Maple Tree

The very old Toms or hens with poults actually place themselves in the indoor caged perches.

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At dark we close the doors and lock them in. We have a 17 year old wild tom whose preference is to settle down with the chickens in their coop.

Our pens all have several levels of perches and occasionally we will have sick or injured bird that we will lock up for safety in these lower safer pens.

Picture of one of our “inside” secure perches for the young, old or injured

As mentioned, some of our toms, we no longer allow in the tree, & not because they do not have the ability to fly into the tree, but because of how they land when flying down. We had at least one alpha male- half bourbon red, half royal palm break his hip during a daylight landing. “Stripe” as we had named him lived for another 6 years with a serious limp. And as turned out became a wonderful “Father!” Taking in baby turkeys under his wings whenever possible and following the hens and poults out to do dust baths.

Family in oak

Happy chatter: as soon as the young birds get on their perch, inside or outside, they begin their happy chirping. They snuggle against each other or under their mothers wing and let the world know how happy they are. One of the questions I wonder about: do the wild babies twitter away also? The noise must bring predators of all shapes and sizes slipping under the tree hoping to catch a fallen bird. Or an owl from above.

Video clip of turkey babies at night on roost. (mostly sound-I did not turn on the light until towards the 40 second frame)

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Note: we have given birds away to people who were not aware of the roost requirement. I have heard the after action reports of how the turkeys roosted on a four foot high chain-link fence, only to be eventually pulled off by predators.

Second note: Keep in mind, the heavier breed Males-Bourbon Red, Spanish Black and Blue Slates will be excellent flyers until about 8 month old and then will gradually fail to reach the higher roost levels with the hens.

They will either have to be penned up or a ‘lower’ perch constructed.

Rockman on lookout during a night perch inspection

Photo of inside of one of our pens, showing “upper” and “lower” perches. The baby turkeys love to play on the high perch during the day, but at night, all the birds prefer the upper bunk. (instinct?)

Note: When spring arrives and I weed the garden, I pull the weeds up by the roots and transplant the ‘weeds’ into the pen for the hen and babes to feast on.

As soon as the baby turkeys pass the two week period-safely pat the time when rain will kill them; I open the doors and let the hen and poults “free range” all day.

The doors are blocked open and the mini-flock will come in to eat, drink and perch at their leisure. At night we will shut the doors with the poults inside-especially in the spring when the owls seem to be more inclined to raid the maple tree roost.

As the poults grow, the mothers take them on training flights into the perch trees.

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Sometimes in as little as 4 weeks the birds begin perching overnight in the tree

Hens on the Roost and the classic “Owl Puff”

A barred owl has been swooping onto the roost attempting to knock a small bird out of the tree. Resulting in the “owl puff”; the turkey hen’s neck are arched, feathers puffed and the toms sound a distinctive alarm -a cross between a growl and Gobble.

Watch a great horned owl attacking an osprey nest at night.

Dawn: A turkey hen flying from her roost!

Other photos of the birds leaving the roost

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>