Vote: The most aggravating farm animal

“By mid-summer, just about the time my mother was given to standing around the barnyard admiring her handsome new flock and making remarks like, ‘There’s nothing to raising turkeys,’ the birds turned on her, determined to prove her wrong.”

- by Carrie Young, Nothing to Do But Stay


If you could cast your vote for the most aggravating farm animal, just which box would you check?

I remember my own father saying that while some people had better luck than he did, he considered a flock of sheep to be the most challenging critters he had ever seen.

Those old sheep. We still laugh when we think of our father re-telling the story of the four “free” sheep his father-in-law gave to him, one for each of dad’s four young daughters.

He said those four free sheep cost him dearly. Two died right off the bat, one needed lots of medication, and the fourth? The day it was shipped off to market, finally, it died on the way to the auction barn. Dad was presented with a due bill for shipping of a dead animal.

Lucky for us, our father was much more successful when it came to the raising of just about every other farm animal you could name.

Diversified. When he and my mother started up farming in the early 1950s, they had a very diversified farm, as most people did at that time. They even added a dairy goat when their third-born daughter proved to be allergic to cow’s milk.

I remember feeling scared to death of the mama sows, their grunting and aggressive movement always making me want to bolt.

We weren’t given that choice – there was work to be done, and we had to rise above our fears. We each received our fair share of cow kicks and bruised feet from a huge milk cow deciding to stand squarely on top of one of us.

By the time I came along, there were no longer baby chicks, but my sisters remember the small pens set up for these fast-growing creatures.

Dad used to say, “Yeah, they would place a close second for the dumbest animal contest.”

Without a clue. Author Carrie Young tells that her parents were determined to survive the challenges of farming in the dry west. The North Dakota plains required steely resolve and sharp management skills.

When her mother took delivery of eight fertile turkey eggs, taking them home to her best roosting hen. One by one, she would sneak a turkey egg into the nest of that Plymouth Rock hen.

“After a few days the chicken was sitting, all unknowing, on completely foreign goods,” she writes.

It was a long four weeks for that poor chicken, when finally the large, dark-gray turkey poults broke out of their shells. Six of the eight hatched, the most fragile and wobbly creatures they had ever seen.

The rest of the hundred or so chickens objected loudly to their presence, and in the end only four out of the six poults survived. When the turkeys were grown, they showed an affinity for wishing to run away from home.

Carrie and her sister Fran, armed with brooms, were given the job of keeping the turkeys at home.

Young writes:

“We soon learned that turkeys are congenitally indisposed to the principle of herding. Neither are they compatible with chasing, shooing or rounding up.

“All of our other farm animals had the homing instinct. Our horses could find their way home blindfolded in a snowstorm. Our cows could break out and wander miles from home, but as soon as they saw our car they would lift up their heads and run unerringly in the direction of home.

“Our chickens had the good sense never to leave home in the first place. But once turkeys have left home, they have never heard of it; when approached on foreign soil they will panic, break rank, and skitter in every direction except homeward.”

I have a feeling I know just which box Carrie Young would check on that farm survey. How about you?

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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