Just in time to restore our faith that Spring is indeed coming, the turkeys started laying eggs. Tyler and I were observing our resident Tom, TÃ³mas, when Tyler noticed one of the hens was standing quite awkwardly and concentrating intensely at nothing in particular. Moments later, she knelt down and dropped an egg nonchalantly in the grass behind her, glancing at us briefly and then wandering away to eat more grass.
Since then, the hens have laid at least an egg a day, and there is now a pile of 8 eggs in a single nest in the turkey coop. One of the turkeys seems to have figured out that she is supposed to lay her eggs in the nest, but one is still laying eggs in the grass outside. Soon, at least one of the hens should become broody and decide to nest on her eggs.
Breeding turkeys is difficult business, mostly because the advent of commercial breeds (like the supermarket giant Broad Breasted White) and mechanized poultry farms aim to discourage broodiness in turkeys. During their broody period, turkeys park on their nest and may not leave to eat or drink, leading to weight loss and decreased production. In a factory situation, the eggs are incubated.
As an aside, commercialized breeds like the Broad Breasted White have traits that render them incapable of breeding (shorter legs, larger breast muscles) and require human assistance – our flock has proven plenty able to reproduce on their own, all while munching on nutritious organic pasture and stretching their legs and wings.
We keep heritage breeds here at the farm, because they have retained their breeding, brooding, and mothering instincts, and they are just better at being turkeys than we are.