Azul Stepping Gingerly, August 1, 2007, photo © 2007 by
ybonesy, all rights reserved.
The girls are bopping around the house these days saying, “Azul’s a better mother than Eagle Eye.” Azul is the slate blue turkey who on Monday hatched a batch of 11 poults. Eagle Eye is the brown turkey who a few weeks ago brought seven baby turkeys into the world, proceeded to step on (and crush to death) one of them, lost two to something that looked like a virus, and let another become “disappeared.”
I hate the labels: good mother, bad mother. Yet, here I am, going along with them. Azul does seem to walk gingerly around her brood. She hasn’t lost any babies yet, and it’s true, she was a mama last year. This was Eagle Eye’s first round at mothering.
Still, it’s a horrible judgment. Good mother. Bad mother. If you’re a mother, you know exactly what I mean. There is no role more scrutinized, criticized, revered and reviled. Who do we adults blame for our neuroses? Our mothers. Who do we make jokes about and love to hate? Our mothers-in-law.
I gave birth to my first child 12 years ago this September. I remember how nervous I was holding my newborn Dee. She weighed seven pounds. She cried and cried in those early days, and we often couldn’t figure out what it was. We ran through the basic stuff — nursing and changing diapers — before ending up fluttering all about her. Is it her ears, her tummy, what is it?? Most nights we just held her, swadled and bright red with fury, all of us miserable, especially me and Jim.
I do have to wonder what it is, if not differences in mothering, that explains Azul’s apparent ease with her babes. She does seem to be sure-footed, literally, with her 11 poults. Azul’s a different breed — lighter in color and weight — from Eagle Eye. Azul’s also older by a year. In turkey years I bet that’s something like a decade.
I was a more relaxed mother the second time around. Jim, too, was a more skillful parent. Em was independent, not so clingy. She stopped nursing at eight months, even though I wanted to at least complete a year. We doted on her plenty, but we didn’t freak out. Dee screamed and cried whenever we went somewhere in the car; she protested the entire drive, near or far. I remember one time pulling over on I-25 and letting my sister take over driving to Santa Fe while I climbed into the back and took Dee out of her carseat to nurse her just so she’d stop screaming. Never mind that I put us both in danger during that little episode. She stopped crying and that was all that mattered.
It’s been a tough lesson having our miniature farm. We’ve lost many animals — chicks and a baby duck, three rabbits, too many turkeys to count. Dee herself buried the last poult that died from Eagle Eye’s brood. We’ve taken extra precautions with Azul. Early on, Eagle Eye’s babies escaped their pen, got exposed to cool nights and hawks. As soon as Azul had her babies, we moved them into the most secure spot in the pen.
I hung out with all the turkeys for a while this evening. I wanted to observe them for myself. I shot a few photos of Azul with her 11 poults all scrambling about her, weaving back and forth between her feet. Eagle Eye seemed pretty easy-going with her remaining three babies. They’re getting big. Soon we’ll have to start finding homes for some of these babies. No way we’re going to get into the business of turkey farming.
I have to admit, Azul struck me as being the wiser of the two. It’s not a judgment against Eagle Eye, though. Azul just has a certain gentleness about her. She always has. She lets you hold her, and she doesn’t fret when you get close to her babies. Eagle Eye was raised under different circumstances. She’s a turkey’s turkey. There were lots of birds in the pen by the time she came around. But that doesn’t make her a bad mother. Nature is nature. No one ever said it was easy.
Eagle Eye on the other side of the fence, July 2007,
photo © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
–posted on red Ravine, August 1, 2007