On one of my regular drives into Sirsi town, I came across a chap on a Bajaj M80 (a cross between a scooter and a moped - from the 80s - old timers may remember) that was stopped by the side of the road with a big cane basket tied to the back of the bike and a huge Turkey sitting on it. I pulled up behind him and he came up and asked me for directions to some local places. I asked him what bird that was and he said it was a turkey. I asked him what was inside the basket and he said he had turkey chicks for sale. I went over and took a peek and sure enough, there were a few hundred 2-3 day old chicks in the basket. They were very unlike any other chick I had seen - they were all bald and didn't have a single feather on their head. He said that that's how turkey chicks are. He said that the chicks would become adults in about 6-8 months and would weigh about 10Kg. He said he was selling them for Rs.50 for 4 chicks and he said he'd give me 5. Not one to turn down a good deal, I bought 5 chicks from him. We had been losing chicks to eagles and wild cats and other predators. I thought that it would take an eagle of exceptional size and courage to try to carry off one of these massive turkeys. A similar line of thinking had once made me contemplate buying a road roller for transport. No one was going to be able to steal it and if someone was foolish enough to do so, they wouldn't get very far in it before you caught up with them by following the tracks. Also, nobody would try to mess around with you on the road. They'd give you enough space and respect. Needless to say, I didn't carry that plan to execution. I digress from my story about the turkeys.... so let me get back.  By now, a lot of people had gathered to see this big, strange (in these parts) bird perched on the basket. Seeing me buy them, many others too willingly parted with their hard earned money and went home with 5 chicks each (hey, everyone was getting the 'special deal' that I thought he was giving only me!). They must've thought that I seemed like a sensible guy and wise-in-the-ways-of-the-world and if I thought it was a good idea to invest in the turkey chicks, then they must not miss the opportunity. I took the chicks with me to my office in town where I spent the day in engaged in boring labour for my pay. The chicks were running around in the room, under my table, crapping all over and making a racket. When I had a conference call with my manager and other team mates that evening, I had to put them under a plastic bucket to muffle the sound. They still made a racket and I had to bang the top of the bucket to quieten them down sometimes, when the noise got too loud. I was hoping they wouldn't pick the time when I was talking, to create their infernal racket. The rest of the time, I put the phone on mute.

Their arrival at home created quite a scene since nobody around there had seen chicks with bald heads. We didn't tell them that they were turkey chicks. We thought we'd keep them puzzled when the chicks grew up into big, strange looking birds. Once they were a few months old, we made an outdoor enclosure with chicken mesh and I draped fishing net over the top to keep predators out. But the stupid birds would roost on top of the small gate into the enclosure, sitting against the edge of the fishing net. One morning, when we went to let the birds out, there were only 3 left and there were feathers lying all around. The fishing net was torn where the birds were sitting and some animal had feasted on two chicks. A few days later, we lost two more and we were then left with one. The story has a happy & sad ending - the surviving bird is still alive and has grown into a magnificent adult. Unfortunately, it wasn't a turkey, it was just a chicken! And the 'turkey' seller has not been seen in these parts since then.

Spot the turkey :)

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In a burst of enthusiasm last weekend, I was clearing our overgrown front yard and ended up with a big pile of leguminous creeper. I thought our cows would enjoy the treat and piled it up for their evening snack. One particular cow cornered most of the feed and feasted on it. Lady went for the evening round of milking and one cow couldn't get up. Her suffering was obvious and breathing was laboured. Quick reference to our animal care book by Sushie told us that she was suffering from 'Bloat' (or 'gas') caused by overeating leguminous plants. The gas that is produced very rapidly cannot escape from inside and the pressure starts building up until the cow explodes and you have to wipe off bits of cow from all around the cowshed. I made up that last part.... they die because of the extreme distress. Happens very quickly before help can be reached. Sometimes, vets have to puncture the side of the cow to release the gas before it kills them. Couldn't get any vet on a Saturday night, to trudge out 16Km from town. After some hectic phone consultation with one, we force fed her Oil of Turpentine and some Baking soda and vigorously massaged her swollen abdomen. At one point, her eyes were glazing over and she put her head on the floor. Seemed like she was slipping away, since death sometimes happens very quickly. After a while, she seemed a little better and was able to stagger to her feet with a lot of coaxing and prodding from all of us. The good book also told us to try and keep her on her feet and walk her around, to ease the distress. So we led her out of the cowshed and tried to walk her around. She staggered around for a while very reluctantly and we let the calf drink all the milk (unmilked cows can also be in some distress because of the pressure in the udders). Got her back into the cowshed and she seemed in slightly better shape. She survived the ordeal and is still alive, though a bit weak and off-colour.

Lesson learnt: Overfeeding a cow with a leguminous plant is a sure way to kill them ;)
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