Heathcliff, our resident male turkey, lives with Chief, our white tail deer, because he doesn't get along with staff or visitors too well. Well, Heathcliff went missing back in August. We looked all over and not a trace; we thought maybe he didn't like rooming with Chief and jumped the fence to go looking for greener pastures.
Then in early September we needed to sedate Chief to remove his antlers as the rutting season for whitetail bucks was coming soon and it was hard enough going in to feed and clean in his pen. We darted Chief and while and we were removing his antlers, some of the staff started cleaning up his pen.
It was right about then that Heathcliff came strolling out of Chief's barn! He wasn’t all that happy to see us but it was good to know he was okay. Just as soon as he appeared, he went missing again.
A few days later he emerged but to everyone’s surprise, this time he appeared with 3 newly hatched chicks! And these were chicken chicks not turkey hatchlings, and they followed him around like he was their mom.
It turns out that one of the staff who was cleaning while we were working on Chief’s antlers said that just before Heathcliff came out of the barn that day he was lying down in a corner. Well, in that corner we found the shells of the three eggs the chicks hatched out from. Heathcliff had hijacked a chicken’s nest and sat on it. He was so proud as he strutted around with his little babies, and they would come running when he called them over to eat the cracked corn he had just found, just like a mom hen would do. And don't dare go near his babies!!
If he was bad with us before, he was even worse now. He even scared off the geese and other animals in Chief’s pen when they came too close to his brood. Day after day he cared for them, finding the corn and pellets we threw over the fence, the water bowl, calling the chicks over and underneath him when it rained or got too cold.
This was just amazing, really amazing actually, a male turkey sitting on chicken eggs until they hatched and then becoming “Mr. Mom” for his three little ones. Never have we seen something like this. Nature ... we can all learn something from her.
Popcorn Park is home to many miracles - large and small. Won't you please support our efforts and make a donation? You might also consider joining the Zoological Society or texting your donation to Humane Help to 41444.