Posted on Nov 21, 2023
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
As you might know, we just had a baby turkey hatch at The Gentle Barn. Romeo is the proud father. Six years ago, Romeo came to The Gentle Barn Missouri along with 10 other turkeys. They were running around the middle of a very busy road and neighbors begged us to help. We pulled up in front of the group with our trailer, opened the trailer door, and they all jumped inside as if they had called an Uber. We offloaded them into our warm barn just as the temperature dropped to single digits and it started to snow. And they say turkeys are dumb!
After an extensive search, they were never claimed, and we officially adopted them. Male turkeys cannot live together once they reach sexual maturity, as they are a patriarchal society with one dominant male who cares for his females and babies. We already had a male turkey of our own in Missouri, so we kept the females and found homes for the males. Romeo was the last male left. We had no male turkey in our California location at that time, so when a wonderful volunteer offered to drive him from St. Louis to Los Angeles, we were grateful.
Romeo had been named “Grandpa” by our Missouri staff. When he arrived in Los Angeles, we took one look at his glorious, feathered display, his flirtatious ways, and his larger-than-life personality and renamed him “Romeo.” I blame that name change for Brave’s fertile egg and a baby hatching at The Gentle Barn for the first time in our 24-year history.
While Brave was sitting on her nest, Romeo was very involved. He paraded around her protectively and each day gave her a break to walk around the barnyard, stretch her legs, drink water, and have lunch while he sat on the egg! I had no idea that male turkeys did that! Each afternoon, like clockwork, he went inside the bird room, and when Brave saw him, she ran gratefully outside for a break while he made himself comfortable on the nest. Romeo sat on the nest until Brave returned and they swapped places. What a smart, wonderful dad and partner!
Now that the egg has hatched and our little poult has arrived, Romeo is still protective and attentive but is giving Brave and the baby space in the nursery to bond. In about a month, our chick will transform from fluff to feathers and will most likely want to spend warm afternoons out of the nursery to explore and play. I am positive that Romeo will be right there to strut beside them and make sure that they are safe and sound.
Even though this birth was unplanned, we are thankfully enjoying the chick’s dynamic personality, Brave’s maternal nurturing, and Romeo’s role as dad, husband, and gallant protector. Most farm animals do not get to fall in love and remain with their partners, let alone raise their children. This little turkey family will hold the hope that maybe one day when we all awaken to love, all animals can have the relationships, freedoms, and dignities that we as humans take for granted!