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Wild Turkeys in My Garden: Combat!

Updated on November 19, 2011

Gardening on the High Plains

I am a country gardener. I live several miles from town on the high plains, in an area where there's no such thing as a fenced yard. Sixty-foot ponderosa pines grow thickly on and around my property. Wildlife abounds--black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, rabbits. Oh, and turkeys. Wild turkeys.

Somehow I'd never thought about turkeys. Once I began to plant my garden, I quickly learned that protecting my flowers and shrubs from deer and rabbits would be a full-time occupation, but I didn't perceive turkeys as a threat, and they weren't, initially. I moved here from the lush tidewater area of Virginia during a wet season, and didn't realize wet seasons are the exception here, not the norm. The first few years were rich with rain, and I only saw the turkeys from a distance, moving with self-absorbed dignity through the trees and across the small meadows, as many as 25 in a flock. They delighted me, and I loved pointing them out to my family and friends.

Then the rains began to diminish, and my state began to endure the worst drought in its recorded history. Soon my gardens were the only moist soil around, and the insects and worms congregated there. And that attracted the turkeys.


Arrival of the Turkeys

I noticed a couple of hens walking through the trees beyond my property one morning, and could see that one had been injured. Her lower left leg was bent at about a 30-degree angle, and she limped heavily. Oh, the poor thing, I thought, and went outside to see if I could approach her. She was easily able to keep away from me, and I didn't see any open wound or bleeding, so I decided to leave her alone and let nature take its course.

I started watching for her every day, and usually saw her and the other hen. They stayed outside my property, so I still didn't suspect that a problem was brewing--or, rather, hatching. Then one day I saw the hens and they had a total of 11 poults (babies) with them. The poults were adorable: little balls of light brown fluff with tiny claws, like a canary's. I didn't worry that they were now on my property, pecking at one of the outer flower beds. They were just too cute, trying to scratch at the deep mulch with their itty-bitty claws.

Wild Turkey Caught in the Act
Wild Turkey Caught in the Act

The Turkeys Attack

After that first sighting, the turkeys disappeared for a while and I forgot about them, busy with my usual outdoor summer effort to get enough water onto my flowerbeds. After a few weeks, I began to notice an occasional disturbance in the beds, mulch moved off some of the the soaker hoses and scattered onto the lawn or the flagstone walkways. Rabbits, I thought, or deer, and moved it back onto the beds.

Then one morning I glanced out the kitchen window and saw them. The poults were no longer tiny; they were nearly as large as the hens. They had turned into Turkosaurs, 13 large, wild turkeys with big beaks and powerful claws that they were using to wreak destruction on my flowerbeds. Mulch was flying everywhere, as well as fronds and branches and roots of plants, savagely torn up and scattered around. Soaker hoses had been pulled up through the mulch and lay exposed every few feet. The previously smooth surfaces of the beds were now undulated, with curving piles of mulch surrounded by areas scraped down to the soil. It was truly devastation.

I bolted from the house and ran at the nearest bunch, shouting and waving my arms. They ran off, and were joined by the ones in the other flowerbeds. I stopped, and so did they. I walked toward them, shouting, "Get out!" and they moved away until they were off my property. I flung a few rocks at them to make my point, made sure they were still going, and went back to look at my ruined flowerbeds.

Cursing and trying to estimate how much labor and money it was going to take to repair the damage and replant, I heard a noise and turned around. The mini T-Rexes were back, headed into the far beds. I ran at them again and they trotted away, keeping about 20 feet in front of me. I stopped, they stopped. I went forward, they walked away, just fast enough to keep out of range. My flowerbeds were full of fat, luscious bugs, and the turkeys weren't leaving until they'd had their fill. Even the limping hen was there, and I made a run at her, my feelings of sympathy transformed into the desire to trample her into the ground. But even she could keep ahead of me, and didn't seem the least bit worried.


Over the next four weeks I tried various tactics and products to discourage my new enemies. I called the Department of Wildlife and learned that wild turkeys are a protected species, so siccing the neighbor's dogs on them was out. So were hand grenades, and an impromptu turkey shoot. In addition, they're not considered a threat, so the Department of Wildlife wouldn't come and take them away. It was up to me.

I tried a repellant spray that was actually designed for deer and rabbits, but I thought it was worth a shot. The smell nearly knocked me down--it's made of rotten egg solids. The turkeys didn't mind it a bit; it turns out they have a very poor sense of smell. I went online and checked out various bird repellants. One, a strobe light, can't be used outdoors. Sirens and recordings of barking dogs and birds in distress seemed like something the birds would get used to and ignore. The propane cannon just sounded a bit too ambitious, besides being out of my price range.

In the meantime, the turkeys were staging raids whenever they thought I wouldn't notice, sometimes twice a day. They kept tearing up the yard and I kept replacing everything, getting madder all the time. One day while gathering firewood, I was pleased to see that they weren't around. Maybe they're gone, I thought. Maybe they've moved on. As I bent down to pick up a piece of wood, I heard an odd sound from above. Straightening up, I looked up and saw a turkey about 30 feet up in the pine tree. All 13 of them were there, scattered among the trees, silently watching me from above. It hadn't occurred to me that wild turkeys could fly. I suddenly knew how Tippi Hedren felt in Hitchcock's "The Birds." I went back inside.

Vengence is Mine

I was finally rescued by another thing I knew nothing about: turkey hunting season! For five glorious weeks, Colorado's hunters were up in the mountains and out on the plains, hunting my feathered nemeses and bringing them down. I don't know how many of the 13 Turkosaurs made it through the season, but they stopped coming around. And when I sink my fork into a juicy turkey on Thanksgiving Day, it doesn't matter to me that it's a domestic bird and can't possibly have been one of the monsters that ran amok in my garden. I feel a gleeful, vengeful satisfaction. Take THAT, you feathered menace! The only good Turkosaur is a dead Turkosaur! With gravy.


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    • profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 3 years ago

      A friend suggested decorative fencing for my flower beds--those sections of wire fence, about 30" tall and 24" wide, that you can just push down into the dirt and they form a very effective barrier against turkeys. The birds could easily hop over it, but to them it looks like a trap, so they avoid those areas. Made all the difference, and only cost me about $600 for several areas. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Mcganty 3 years ago

      I just put in a 20,000 dollar yard I live in town and was very happy!!!! Until I awoke the turkeys tore everything up ! So now it's on I want to kill kill kill those big beasts they come back every night I tried to stay up but just can't catch them

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Monica, you have my sympathy! I have the same restriction, but I think your idea of a slingshot is genius--I could get one, use rocks, and aim for the body. That wouldn't kill them, but would definitely hurt enough to make my yard less appealing. Thank you for such a great idea!

    • profile image

      Monica De Castro 6 years ago

      I enjoyed so much reading your post. We are suffering from the Turkosaurus attack right now --a flock of 14 who are after my newly planted vegetable garden. I just found out (sadly) that we cannot legally kill the turkeys in our property our of hunting season. I found that out after "investing" in a slingshot and ammo.... Can't wait for hunting season, though.

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Grandmapearl, don't you wish you could get back all the money you've spent on solutions that didn't work??? I know I do--I could hire a guard to keep the animals away!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Leah,

      I have used this rotten egg stuff, which does repel the deer, but not the racoons, woodchucks, chipmunks or squirrels. They seem to love it!! Alas, yes it is a battle. My solution last year was to put up picket fences. Didn't help!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      You have my sympathy, grandmapearl! It is a battle, isn't it? One thing I've found that actually helps is Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellant, but I don't know if it will work on rodents. It's a rotten-egg solution and the smell nearly knocked me down the first time I used it, but it did work!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Leah, Okay, now I see your turkey dilemma and why you don't want to call them in. I had no idea you went through such a nightmare! It was a hilarious Hub, but I shouldn't laugh too long. You see I can relate. Only my nemeses are not turkeys but squirrels, chipmunks (yes those adorable little things), and woodchucks. They pull up my newly-planted flowers and veggies despite fences and aluminum pie pans and anything else I can think of as deterrents. By the time I find my poor little flowerlings, the roots are all dried up. I dutifully replant them and water them, but they are usually too fried to recover.

      So I feel your pain!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks, Louise! I've just published a hub titled "How to Find the Right Cat for You," which you might enjoy if you're a cat person. Thanks for reading about my turkey war!

    • profile image

      Louise Quinn 6 years ago

      I enjoyed your account of the close encounters with the wild turkeys. Move stories, please!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      I didn't know there were wild turkeys in Hawaii! They must have been imported, perhaps by the missionaries? And as a fellow sufferer, hush4444, you have my sympathy. I'm glad the hub made you laugh!

    • hush4444 profile image

      hush4444 6 years ago from Hawaii

      What a great hub! I have the same problem, and I live in Hawaii. We have a flock of seventeen turkeys that patrol our yard every day and I've given up trying to have a flower garden. Thanks for the laugh!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      I'm glad you liked it, 13crocuslane! My attitude toward wildlife has certainly changed since I started living among them.

      teenthree, thank you for the kind words!

    • profile image

      teenthree 6 years ago

      A very funny article. Good you have a hobby! Look forward to more of your garden/animal experiences.

    • profile image

      13crocuslane 6 years ago

      what a great story! The babies looked so cute then I read on and burst out laughing when I saw the roasted turkey picture. What a great sense of humor you have. Please keep writing.

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      NerdyGardener, that's so interesting about Australian turkeys! How do you get rid of them? Are you allowed to shoot them, or let your dogs chase them off, or do you just have to put up with them?

      ripplemaker, I see you're from the Philippines, which explains why you've never eaten turkey! I don't imagine there are many of them there (haha!). I like what you wrote in your profile about being a healer--I'm sure you do a lot of good. And thanks for the congrats; I have to go see what this hubnuggets nomination is about.

      rebeccamealey, thanks for the kind words! Wow, you grown tomatoes and pecans? I'm impressed. Good luck keeping the squirrels out of them.

      The Reminder, I'm glad you liked my hub! And thanks--I'm going to go check out this hubnuggets thing.

      rebecca mealey, thanks for the kind words. I'm impressed that you grow tomatoes and pecans! Yes, squirrels can be a real pest.

      The Reminder, I'm glad you liked the hub! I did enjoy eating turkey on Thanksgiving this year. And thanks for your congratulations; I'm going to go check out this hubnuggets thing.

    • The Reminder profile image

      The Reminder 6 years ago from Canada

      Beware of the Turkosaurs!!! Haha your hub is a good laugh and it's very good. Congrats on the hubnugget nomination!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Enjoyed your story.Well written! Reminds me of chasing squirrels from my tomatoes and pecans. If only I liked stewed squirrel.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Somebody just asked me in facebook if I could prepare some turkey for thanksgiving and I said I have never tasted turkey in my entire life! This story made me smile...and maybe if you invite me over, I could sit and eat some turkey Heheheh

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To vote for the hubnuggets click here: details of your nomination are found in your be sure to check that out as well!

    • TheNerdyGardener profile image

      TheNerdyGardener 6 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

      We have a type of native turkey (Alectura lathami) here in Australia that likes to make huge piles out of mulch it scrapes up to lay it's egg into. Apparently as the mulch piles start to compost they incubate the eggs at just the right temperature. Needless to say, the turkeys don't mind tearing up any young plants while they are trying to rake up your garden mulch and likewise they have become the nemesis of many a gardener over here too.

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks, Om. I appreciate your taking the time to read it.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 6 years ago

      Hi, Leah. This was such a fun read. Glad you and your garden were rescued at the end. Hope the Turkosaurs won't come back!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Pantry moths! I don't think I'm familiar with the genus. Is your hub still accessible? I'd like to read it. And thanks for your kind comments on mine. If the problem recurs next summer, I may reconsider the propane cannon...

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

      This was so much fun to read! I laughed out loud at the Turkosaur commentary and I totally identify. My battle was not with turkeys but with pantry moths and it inspired me to learn about the little beasts and write a hub about how to kill them forever. Mothasauruses?

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks, Christy214, for reading my hub! Yes, I truly felt under seige, constantly looking out the windows to see if the turkeys were approaching, and then checking the damage every morning.

      And thank you as well, sgbrown, for voting me up! I'm not quite sure what that means, being quite new here, but I'm sure it's good. As for a dog, I agree with you, but unfortunately I'm a cat person. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Excellent hub! We have turkey here in Oklahoma also. My husband counted 30 yesterday as he was deer hunting. I haven't had a problem with them in my garden, but I do have a yellow lab that loves to chase them. Perhaps a good dog would help you next year. Voted up!

    • profile image

      christyc214 6 years ago

      I don't think this article could be written at a more perfect time! I was cracking up at the turkeys growing up and invading your property...they weren't so cute anymore!! Thank goodness for Colorado Turkey Hunting Season!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks, Eric90230! I'm glad it tickled your funny bone. It's lively here today: I've seen three deer and a lynx (or bobcat; I'm not sure which). I hope the cat was hunting turkeys!

    • profile image

      eric90230 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      "Turkosaur"!!! LOLOLOL . . . This was good writing!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thank you for reading it, HeyJoles! I'm glad you liked it.

    • profile image

      HeyJoles 6 years ago

      *Loved* this Hub! *So* funny and well written, as always; Turkosaurs got a great laugh out of me, and when I read the words "propane cannon" I nearly died. I always love hearing your stories of the goings-on around the house and garden, so reading this was yet another joy! Great story.

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks, moonlake! Yes, I think having dogs is probably the best way to keep the turkeys out. I'm glad they're not doing any damage in your garden.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      We have wild turkeys here but I didn't realize they would mess up my garden but why not the garden is always full of bugs. They don't come into the yard much here maybe the dogs keep them out.

      Enjoyed your hub.


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