Chicken Was So Depressed — Until She Found An Orphaned Turkey
The chick even sings little songs to her new "mom" 😍
When she arrived at the sanctuary, Umber wasn't exactly motherhood material.
In fact, a month after she had been rescued from someone's misguided attempt to raise chickens in their urban home, Umber didn't seem like she wanted anything to do with her new life.
"She was broody," Yan Piebird, who founded Piebird Farm Sanctuary with his wife, Sherry, tells The Dodo. "Eyes glazed. Just sitting on the nest all the time. It's a like a deep hibernation. They just really get into that zone."
So when a tiny orphaned turkey showed up at the refuge in Nipissing, Ontario, no one expected Umber to leap at the chance to play mother.
But there were no mother turkeys handy at the refuge, and for this baby, just 2 days old, even a sad chicken would do.
So Piebird placed the baby turkey in Umber's nesting area.
"With a little baby on the doorstep, there really no other choice," Piebird says. "But the kind of beauty of it is love is always really well timed."
Suddenly, Umber raised herself up just enough to make a little space beneath her.
Merle clambered under those warm feathers.
And in that instant, a tiny refugee from a turkey farm gone wrong and a traumatized chicken, completed each other.
"Umber saw companionship. She saw warmth. She saw mothering," Piebird says.
Within hours, Merl scampered around the nesting area, eager to explore her surroundings. Along the way, the clouds that hung over Umber lifted. She broke from her hopeless huddle to follow the curious turkey around.
"It took a day when the baby was running around and the mom was kind of mothering while still being down and being broody," Piebird says. "And then she awakened.
"You can only lie down for so long when there's a little one running around your feet all the time."
Umber started teaching Merl a few of the basics of being a turkey, at least according to a chicken.
"Chickens and turkeys interact with the world slightly differently," Piebird says. "There's a lot of similarities obviously."
But then there are little differences like how turkeys and chickens scratch for food.
"Umber is teaching Merl how to scratch like a chicken scratches, which is a lot more enthusiastic than how a turkey scratches," Piebird says. "Turkeys will do it, but they'll mostly hunt in the ground for seeds and stuff. And a chicken's like scratch-scratch-scratch."
Over time, those differences will get a little more noticeable. Little Merl will soon grow into a full-sized turkey, a giant compared to the chicken who raised her.
"She's going to have the best of both characteristics," Piebird says. "Chicken attributes and turkey attributes."
They also share the same taste in music.
"Young turkeys have a 'nap song' where they will sing themselves and their peers to sleep," Piebird explains. "It's so sweet. This was their first shared communication. Merl would start singing her nap song and Umber would lead them both back to a safe spot to have a nap."
The thing about this new family is that everywhere is now a safe spot. The birds will spend the rest of their lives at this sanctuary - scratching, squawking and foraging for a future together.