Male turkey flocks to motherhood

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2004

AMARILLO, Texas You hear about it every day: kids abandoned by their parents.

Imagine growing up in the midst of your kinfolk and not knowing who your parents are. What's worse, they won't own up to you being their child.

You end up spending your whole life feeling like a turkey and you're not; you're a peacock.

Apparently, Mr. Tom, a 10-year-old male turkey belonging to Joe and Effie Dovalina, decided he wanted kids late in life. His wife of several years had died and left him childless.

This saga started a little more than two months ago. Since Mr. Tom doesn't have a partner to mate with, fix his dinner or clean his pen, he took it upon himself to get in touch with his feminine side and adopt a couple of chicks as his own. Call it surrogate motherhood in the barnyard.

After all, he ain't no spring chicken anymore, and a man needs someone to look after him in his old age.

Nobody wants to die alone.

Hence, two new chicks in the house peacock chicks.

Some irresponsible peahen laid the eggs and abandoned them, Joe Dovalina said. She probably had her own problems.

"One of them laid those eggs and wouldn't do nothing with them," he said.

There they were - two eggs just lying in the pen with everyone walking around them like they weren't there. Ignore them and maybe they'll go away? What an embarrassment. What will the neighbors say?

Enter Mr. Tom.

"I went in the house and told Joe I thought Mr. Tom was dying," Effie Dovalina said. "He was over in the corner, and he wouldn't get up. We finally figured out he had moved those two eggs and was sitting on them. He must have sat on them for 25 or 30 days."

When the eggs hatched, the Dovalinas took the chicks in the house to protect them from a pair of barn cats that roam their spread north of town. Mr. Tom went into postpartum depression.

"We finally decided that old turkey sat on those eggs all that time," Effie said. "He deserves them."

You ought to see the proud papa with his new family. But you might want to view them from a distance. Mr. Tom is protective. He's been known to attack dogs and people if they come too close.

"He goes crazy if we pick up those chicks," Effie said.

Mr. Tom also is a caring parent.

"The other day it was raining, and he spread his wings, and those chicks scurried under them to get out of the rain," Effie said.

The turkey and his in-laws get along fine. There are no visitation squabbles or child support battles to deal with. It's just one big happy family. Only thing is, one of those peahens is carrying around a secret. Wonder how she lives with herself?

But the chicks are in good hands, er, wings, as long as Mr. Tom is around.

"This has probably happened before," Effie said. "We've just never seen it."

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