I know that I can't keep every bird that hatches on my property, but that doesn't mean I don't feel a little sad for when it's time for the babies to go to their new homes.
For their wild counterparts, fall brings the time of year that turkeys will form their own flocks - typically consisting of female turkeys with young offspring, while the males separate into their own bachelor flocks until the arrival of spring and breeding season. In the absence of females the males typically coexist without too much drama, but will still establish their dominance through occasional sparring. In the wild of course birds are free to spread out, choose their own companions, and their numbers are managed through the natural processes of the elements and predation which keep genetics and hierarchies from becoming stale.
In the confines of a coop and small property, the ability to establish natural pecking orders, separate flocks, and spread of genetic diversity are limited. When caring for these birds, we have to be diligent and aware of any problems within the flock, and make the decisions on which birds are compatible with each other. As winter approaches - carefully planning flock compatibility ensures healthy, happy birds who will not suffer from the stress of confinement when opportunities for free-ranging and foraging are limited.
As I prep the coops for the cold winter ahead, I look at which birds I have that are ready to go. Our little turkey poults are big enough and independent enough that they now no longer squeeze their way underneath mom to stay warm, or rely on dad to them to find the best treats in the yard. The two boys have even begun strutting and trying to hash out their place in the pecking order - much to the stress and annoyance of the adult birds. The young females have started catching the attention of the adult male - but they are far too young to safely engage in courtship yet. Accepting that they are "ready" is tough, but ensuring their happiness and opportunity to move on to their own homes is important for their well-being.
I do look forward to raising more of these adorable birds next year.