Is my turkey tom being aggressive or just friendly?

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by chickenannie, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our RB turkey tom and hens were raised here since they were day-olds. They're now about 9 months old, and they free-range at my farm and follow us around everywhere. They're curious and will come right up to you, but won't let you touch them. Now all but 3 of the hens are broody. The tom is now constantly puffing up his chest feathers and tail and generally showing off to people. I've typically just ignored the tom but over the past week or two he seems to want to get right up close to people. Today, he walked up to my friend from the side while we were standing talking in the driveway and practically tried to hump her leg with his puffy chest and almost going at it like he does with the hens! There was no danger in it-- no more than when a little dog humps someone's leg, but it wasn't behavior I want to continue obviously.

    I wouldn't call him aggressive in terms of pecking or clawing or anything like that, but wondering if this is behavior that is a precursor to later aggression. People have mentioned that toms get aggressive and can be dangerous, and although mine has been perfectly docile (other than strutting around showing off to people), if there's anything I can do to prevent that behavior, I want to know.

    I'd like to keep him, and keep him free-ranging if I can, rather than pen him up, since he's "useful" with the hatching eggs and all. I read about how you need to be aggressive back to an aggressive roo to show your dominance, but I didn't know if the same technique works with a turkey. I don't want to act aggressive toward him if its going to MAKE him aggressive. HELP!
     
  2. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    anyone?
     
  3. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    Of our three only Boris, the big Slate. is the slightest bit aggressive (but only with Cass [​IMG] ). She just uses a broom or, if he makes the `short charge', she just goes after him and he skedaddles; or the Royal tom - her protector - will high kick Boris away (the Royal is alpha tom).
    Usually, if they are going to spar, they'll start making the challenge trill first. All of ours, when we're sitting on the back steps, will come up and make contact, but won't `push' it (like being surrounded by inordinately vain politicians - or is that oxymoronic?).

    I've read about some toms that are downright dying to be drafted into the oven, but I've not met one yet. They always crowd visitors but they're just being their chuffing, social, selves.

    If they really push and start to trill, let `em know who is alpha tom: Pick `em up and carry `em back to their pen, chase `em, push them with a broom. They seem to me to be a bit like a more deliberate version of our rooster, when they start `shooting the red'. If one of the toms is obviously aggressive don't be squatting down working the strawberry bed if you don't know where he is (these guys can do damage).

    We always leave the toms and rooster in their runs when the grand kids are over just to be on the safe side.

    It never hurts to (often) remind those founts of testosterone who the Boss Bird/Treat Master is. Ours are big easy going fellas for the most part that just like to hang around, show off, and never seem to know enough about what is going on (so they have to stay close to find out...).

    Oh, just to add: Depending on the `delicacy' of your visitor's sensibilities your might want to keep `em penned. Sometimes the excitement is just too much for the boys and they'll start `throwing air ball' without coming into contact with anything or one...[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2008
  4. ams3651

    ams3651 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2008
    NE PA
    We had one when we were kids and I think hes doing it because the hens are occupied. We only had a tom and he used to chase us down the road occasionally and my grandfather said it was because he wanted a mate.
     
  5. hazelton farms

    hazelton farms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our blue slate tom was like that for about a week with my youngest daughter, then next thing you know..he was trying to jump at her with spurs. But in his defense, she did start running from him and screaming rather than standing up to him when the first behaviour started. He's now locked up with a self blue hen that wouldn't stop being broody. I don't know if your tom will get aggressive or not... no help here....
    Stacy
     
  6. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ivan, thanks for the info (and the euphemisms).
    A question... When you say "trill," do you mean that's a fighting call or a mating call? I assume fighting would mean he'd try to be spurring or pecking you which mine doesn't do. It's just the fact that he's now making bodily contact!!
    My tom used to always stay about 3 feet away and just strut back and forth like you said when you hang out on your porch. What changed is that now he wants to walk right ON to you, especially if you're sitting on the porch at his level. Like with my visitor today he was basically standing on his toes on her shoe, pushing on her leg with his chest. When we swatted at him, he jumps away just out of arms reach, but ALWAYS returns, like an annoying fly. It's become pesty for sure, like he just won't go away. It's not really dangerous, but it's sure not appropriate. Luckily my visitor was a farm girl and it didn't "phase her" but next time it could be worse!

    I just wanted to clarify if there's a difference in treatment between fighting behavior and mating behavior. It *sounds* like you're saying for either type of behavior I can and should behave dominantly towards him, and that this won't cause him to become aggressive. I had thought that the more physical contact we have with him - yelling or picking him up or acting threatening, the more aggressively he would respond.

    But perhaps I'm thinking like a human, not a turkey!
     
  7. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    The trilling is the challenge to duel. Neck stretched upward, beak pointing toward the sky, caruncles inflamed (`shooting the red' - old term for tom ready to fight) and snood hanging low, pretty good signs trouble is brewing. If the tom has taken it into his head that a visitor might be a hen worthy of his ardor he'll shove against the person and immediately stop displaying, and will probably just start mating with their leg/shoe. If the tom is that intent, and then given a dose of broom, you'll probably see what I referred to as `missing the basket' then and there.

    The shoving can be a precursor to either. If the shoving is a sign of aggression, usually the tom will come in toward the person with head held low (think bison charge in very slow motion) and will speed up at the last moment. Both wings will usually be half closed and the retrices will be extended toward the rear instead of being held high as when displaying.

    Yes, you are the Alpha tom of the flock. If you don't want the tom too close just push him away with a broom (just enough to back `em off). The main thing is consistency. Turkeys (despite their reputation) are not stupid, but they have more social sense than raw smarts that's for sure. If you use a broom, for instance, to back them off, each and every time, eventually they get the drift - shove with bristles don't swat. Behave assertively but not aggressively (pick them up when you want, put them down when you want, back them off when you need the space, only feed them treats out of your hand - turkeys do dominance and they'll catch on to who has the snood of distinction in the flock. And, most of the time they just like hangin' out with you because they imprinted on you and you are their boss bird.

    There are some folks who like the turks and don't give a darn (then they get to crowd and gawk). The rest get to hear them gobble and watch them strut from the `other' side of the welded wire - safe from one another...
     
  8. southernsibe

    southernsibe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ivan,
    Thank you so much for your post. I wasn't the OP but it was helpful just the same. My RP has been very affectionate lately. He matured quite a bit quicker then the hen, I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it or not. It has gotten to the point that I don't let him out of the pen when my daughter is out. He is in love with her. Absolutely head over spurs in love. He circles her and doesn't want any "new comers" to get close to her. We had company last week and he was out, and he wanted to chase them away from her. When she is playing, she crouches down and is just the right size for him. So clearly, he does not have the same privileges he used to, which is a shame because he was a lot of fun to have around when we were in the yard. I just will not take the chance with her safety.

    Is there a resource that will explain more about about understanding the posturing and what the snood hanging and the red bubbles etc mean?

    thanks
    Rachel
     
  9. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ivan, thank you SO much. this is great info. I wonder if we should post it as a sticky?
     
  10. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    Is there a resource that will explain more about about understanding the posturing and what the snood hanging and the red bubbles etc mean?

    The `red bubbles' on neck are the caruncles and the tail feathers (fanning ones) are retrices.

    I'm sure someone else here will have a resource more exacting in descriptions, but this the following is pretty all encompassing (Wild Eastern - but they're all Meleagris Gallopavo):

    http://www.audubon.org/bird/boa/F30_G1a.html

    Of course wiki is your friend, as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Turkey

    If
    you haven't seen this thread (our neighbor's and our turks having it out) pretty self-descriptive:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=40700

    And, as I like to post pics of our guys: The Alpha tom Screamer and his `posse' Boris, the big Slate, showing off for the camera, as the low tom on the totem pole, Fearless Leader, slinks on by trying to stay out of sight as he plots his comeback...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2008

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