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It's just about Turkey Day, so I thought you should know a little about the amazing and extremely dumb turkey.

You may have never considered having a turkey for a pet, but you might change your mind.

I mention that they are really dumb, but that is mostly when they are first hatched. Yes, remember, turkeys are not born but are hatched.

Turkey babies don't know enough to feed themselves. I bought 15 turkeys and couldn't figure out why half of them died so quickly. Finally, I could see that they weren't eating much of their food.

I would show it to them but their little brains just didn't seem to comprehend.

I then put some of my day-old chicks in with them, and their example of never getting their little beaks out of the food made the turkeys catch on. I ended up with six turkeys, white, bronze and brown.

They do have personalities and some brains as they grow older.

My favorite turkey story was told to me by Audrey Stanislawek, a longtime and great client of mine.

When she was a little girl, she lived a block or so south of Central Avenue. She had to walk the block or so to catch the school bus each day. Her turkeys would accompany her to the bus each morning.

In the afternoon, they would perch on top of their garage and watch for the bus. When they saw it coming, they would swoop down off the garage and run to meet Audrey at the bus.

I don't think they ever held her hand or carried her books for her, but she had company for the walk home each day.

Turkeys have a few problems, medically. They don't do real well in the cold weather and often have frozen face parts. All that extra red skin can freeze in the winter, turn an ugly black and then fall off. The end result does not really improve their looks much.

They are really prone to infections in their feet.

A giant swelling where all the toes meet is called bumblefoot. Birds produce caseous pus, which is a lot like cottage cheese. Even when the infection is gone, there is usually a large mass left that won't go away. Many of them end up walking on this big ball for the rest of their lives.

Toes also seem to get broken and deformed easily. They can have some pretty ugly looking feet after bumblefoot and broken toes, but they manage pretty well to get around.

Wild turkeys fare much better in the more natural setting. Of course, they don't live nearly as long to get some of the old-age problems.

I always enjoy seeing the wild turkey flock that lives in the Blue Creek area south of Billings. There are as many as 30 of them in one spot at times.

You usually raise turkeys for the dinner table at Thanksgiving, and that is why I bought my turkeys. But somehow they have become pets and barn ornaments rather than dinner.

There is something about their gobbling, chirping, and thumping that I would really miss.

Besides that, the feed-store man is sending his kids to college on the feed I purchase all the time, and he would miss them, too, if I ate them next week.

I think they are safe for another year.

Have questions about pets? Write to: PetVet; c/o The Billings Gazette; P.O. Box 36300; Billings, Mont. 59107-6300. Questions of general interest may become topics of future columns.

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