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Think before you gobble, gobble
Caroline County farmer has spent a lot of time with turkeys in recent months, and said they don't deserve their simpleminded reputation

 Mike Broaddus wanted guinea fowl--socializing here with one of his turkeys--but now prefers the turkeys.
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Date published: 11/22/2012


Mike Broaddus wasn't at all interested in owning turkeys, but when they came as a package deal with other birds, he took them back to his farm.

There, amid the lush green pastures of Caroline County, Broaddus discovered that turkeys aren't as stupid as they're made out to be.

Don't act shocked. We've all heard that the birds don't have sense enough to come out of the rain. They could stare up at the sky, mouths open, until they drown.

Broaddus came to realize that wasn't the case at all, at least not with his two juvenile females, called jennies.

They're bronze turkeys, a heritage breed that hasn't been genetically engineered to pack on pounds at the pace the white-feathered commercial breeds do.

No doubt the bronzes score a little higher on the intelligence scale, too.

When Broaddus comes home from work, the turkeys run to his silver Dodge Ram, then follow him around the farm like puppies.

He laughs at the way they lumber along, shuffling like old men when they try to keep up with the hyperactive guinea fowl they hang with.

Those are the birds Broaddus originally wanted, because they're great watchdogs.

Fact is, the five guineas keep up such a ruckus of clucks and calls--with heads bobbing frantically to and fro--predators probably can't stand to be around them.

They're just plain silly, Broaddus said, not capable of the serious thoughts turkeys have.

He swears that at times, when the turkeys cock their heads and look at him a certain way, it's because they want to say: "Hey, what are we doing today?" or "What's up?" or "Whatta you got to eat?"

Don't worry, Broaddus isn't suffering from avian flu. But he has been exposed to turkeys enough to believe they don't deserve their simpleminded reputation.

"To be a called a turkey shouldn't be an insult," said Broaddus. "They're very intelligent."

Broaddus, 50, is no city slicker who's fallen in love with the first animal he's raised. He's a fifth-generation Caroline County farmer whose family has toiled the same Sparta soil since the Civil War.

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