RUSSELL - It appears birds of a feather don't always flock together. Sometimes a mom of another species steps in, as Morgan Smith found out last week. Smith, 16, has been watching as her two turkey hens care for a pair of ducklings at her family's home in rural Russell.
Morgan, the daughter of Lance and Brenda Smith, has been raising and showing poultry for about seven years. She currently has meat chickens, a few laying hens, ducks and turkeys. During the winter, the birds shared a fenced-in section of the chicken pen.
"That way, I only had to scoop snow out of one side," Smith said. But when the ducks were moved into their own pen in the spring, they left a couple of eggs behind.
Photo by Deb Gau
When Morgan Smith, 16, of rural Russell moved her black ducks from one pen to another this spring, a pair of eggs was lost in the shuffle. Morgan’s turkeys hatched out the eggs instead, and are now taking care of the ducklings.
Instinct must have taken over for the turkeys, because they started sitting on the orphaned eggs. Late last week, the baby black ducks hatched.
"I wasn't ready for it," Smith said. While her ducks had laid other eggs this spring, none of them hatched. "I was kind of freaking out because I didn't know there were going to be babies."
Smith didn't have to worry, however, because the turkeys proved to be protective surrogate mothers. She said she tried putting the ducklings back with the mother ducks, but it didn't go well.
"When I tried to put them in the duck house, they started freaking out, and the moms were freaking out," she said. So, for now the ducklings will stay in the turkey pen.
The ducklings don't seem to prefer one hen over the other, and the turkeys don't seem to care either. "They have a choice of which mom they want to sit under," Smith said. So far the ducklings look like they're growing normally and getting less shy, she said.
The situation has also been the source of a little humor in Smith's family. "I was talking to my grandma about it, and she asked, 'When did you find out that ducks and turkeys could breed?'" Smith said, laughing.
The surprises that go with hatching eggs are all part of the fun of raising birds, Smith said. Although she buys some of her poultry as chicks, she said, "I think it's more fun hatching them here than buying chicks at Runnings, because then you get to be there right when they're born."