We had a disturbance in Hilltop chicken coop a few months ago. One of our old dames (former Matriarch) was found with a lot of damage to her comb and wattles, with feathers plucked from her backside. She's of Australorp descent, and just like her father, she's used to standing tall. It's not pride, its a trait I have noticed from all the Australorps I have raised.
Anyway, standing tall makes you fair game in the hen-house *wink* if you're being ousted from top billing. Which is why she sustained so much damage. If she could cower, she would, and then the rest of the hens would be happy to leave her alone. So it became a management issue, I had to deal with, while David was away at Army Camp.
I wasn't going to kill her, but decided instead, to let her take her chances out in nature. It would also show those bossy hens, old Matriach, was still in MY favour. She loved it and looked forward to being released from confinement every morning. I put her in again at night, because we get foxes.
Frolicking in the grass
So it was to my surprise, when I discovered a little friend with her. A shadow. But its not another chicken. It's a baby brush turkey. This is her, defending them. I had to sneak around the back of the coop with the camera, as the baby brush turkey usually runs at the sight of me. To my surprise, it met me half way. But old Matriarch heard me, and came bolting around the corner, wattle flushed red, and posturing to confront me.
Then she realised it WAS me, and they both went about their business, doing whatever they do, during the day. I snapped away, remaining as still as possible. This was the only decent picture of them both, I could get.
Baby brush turkey, or BBT
Having eaten some of the feed I had put out earlier for my hen, baby brush turkey returned to the bush. I have been noticing this little fella, for a few weeks now. I thought it was a snake at first, because I would hear this rustling in the grass. Followed by little shrills, which told me it wasn't a snake. One day, I saw it hanging around with our hen though, and this morning, I even saw it hiding under the passionfruit vine, waiting for me to drop the feed.
So it has adopted us, for the time being. We've seen its parent, drinking from our top pond when it was full, but it disappeared before this little guy showed up. That's because baby brush turkeys have to fend for themselves, once they hatch. Read more about it (and brush turkeys) here.
So I turned an old hen, out into nature, to survive, and nature turned a baby turkey into her world. While she isn't raising it, neither does it depend on her, they do seem to like each other's company. This is (in permaculture speak) nature adopting the fringes of our endeavours, and valuing the marginals. Old domestic hen, meets, baby brush turkey.
Their relationship has actually helped me, too, because meat ants were starting to become attracted to the feed I was leaving out. Old dame, thought she would leave it for later. But then BBT saw an opportunity to exploit. Suddenly her food became more attractive to her, if it meant someone else would gobble it up. I still only put the same amount of food out, but now I don't have to worry about meat ants, outside the coop. Because they polish it off, between them.
I view brush turkeys in our environment, as a good thing. As they help aerate vegetation, which can become compacted. This in turn, improves conditions for plants to grow. We need all the help we can get, managing our degraded soils. So they are most welcome.