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Pets Large & Small


Dr. Kimberly Brokaw, DVM

(2/2015) Most people who have lived on farms can tell you a horror story about a rooster. Countless children and adults have been terrorized by roosters. It's quite amazing how much fear a little 5 pound bird can instill in people. However, if you think a 5 pound rooster is bad, just imagine a 20-30 pound turkey.

I have a few clients who have had turkeys. Three of the three farms that had turkeys, had to get rid of them due to aggression. One of the farms had a small flock of turkeys with a male gobbler that was very aggressive. The flock would circle around you and then the ringleader would attack. A couple of boarders laughed and said they couldn't believe they were afraid of a stupid bird, but he was mean and when he attacked it hurt. The UPS man, feed and shavings delivery guy were even less amused by the turkey's antics. In fact, they hated going to that farm.

The first time I went to Mrs. Hill's farm, I was greeted by a flock of turkeys as I pulled into the driveway. Mrs. Hill came out with a broom and proceeded to drive the turkeys away from my car. I got out and she warned me "not to turn your back on the turkeys". She told me to be extremely careful of Tyson (named after the boxer, not the chicken company) and handed me a broom to use and keep with me as I walked from the horse barn to my work truck. Mrs. Hill told me that her daughter-in-law wouldn't even come to the farm as Tyson had scared her too much and that Tyson had left a scar on someone's nose from an attack.

I've been around a lot of turkeys. In fact I've been at other barns where they have warned me about the rooster, turkey, duck, etc and and so far the birds haven't gone after me (except for my parents' duck, but he attacks everyone). I've found that birds analyze you during the first few minutes of your encounter. Their initial assessment determines whether you will be constantly having to look over your back for a ferocious ball of feathers or whether you will be able to walk about at will. Birds also seem to remember people. If the rooster has chased you once, you will forever be a target. Even if you don't go back to the farm for a year, it doesn't matter. He will remember you and that you are something he can bite and spur. Thus far, I have been very fortunate in that birds seem to think I am someone not to be messed with.

Tyson was a beast of a bird. He was an extremely large turkey. A velociraptor of turkeys with huge claws and a sharp beak. He also had a few splotches of yellow paint on him. Mrs. Hill explained that he liked to go to the neighbors house and terrorize them too. The paint was from their paintball gun which she explained wasn't all that good of a deterrent. Tyson had taken to attacking the neighbor's pick-up truck. While the paintball gun did little to deter Tyson, at least the neighbors were amused as they shot at him rather than angry about their truck. Luckily it was an old farm truck in that Tyson had scratched the paint, torn off one of the side mirrors, and partially destroyed the windshield wiper on the truck. The truck also had splotches of paint on it from the neighbors shooting at Tyson with the paintball gun. Tyson frequently came home with different colors of paint on his feathers.

As I was gathering supplies out of my truck in order to examine Mrs. Hill's horse, I could feel Tyson watching and sizing me up. As I was reaching for syringes, he came closer and was looking at the stuff in my truck. I decided that I'd just continue working and let Tyson watch. At the moment he wasn't hurting anything and if he became aggressive I could always hit him with the broom. He never got aggressive. He followed me back and forth from the car, gobbled as I opened and closed drawers, but never tried to attack. I went to the farm several times and Tyson and I seemed to have an understanding. I didn't even carry the broom. He would come up and look in the truck and I would gobble at him and lean over and try and pet his tail feathers. It seemed that he was pleased with this form of attention and didn't need to go on the chase. Which was good as he was a fast bird.

One of the other farms I visit had a turkey who was very similar to Tyson. He was big, beautiful and obnoxious. It wasn't too long ago that the UPS man asked me if I'd been to that farm recently. He informed me that Tyson's look alike, Evander, was dead. I couldn't help but notice as he tried to hide a smile as he told me about Evander's death. He told me that he wasn't sorry to hear about his death. Evander, like Tyson, had chased him for years. It had gotten to the point where he wouldn't even get out of the truck but would just open the door and drop the package in the drive ways. Well, apparently Evander attacked an off duty police officer and his brand new truck. The officer, thinking the bird had rabies, shot him multiple times in the chest (note: birds don't get rabies.) Evander was buried on the farm property with the epitaph: "Evander. He lived like a bird but he died like a gangster."

Note: To protect the identity of my clients, I have, as usual changed names and other small details.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw