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New students are a couple of turkeys

Presidential pardon rejects find a new home at elementary school where students are already excited to learn about them.

December 15, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • Ira Brister removes one of two male Nicholas turkeys from its holding pen after a journey from Modesto to Huntington Beach.
Ira Brister removes one of two male Nicholas turkeys from… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

A Huntington Beach elementary school is the new home of two turkeys that were groomed to get the coveted presidential pardon on Thanksgiving.

Golden View Elementary School was the recipient Friday afternoon of turkeys that were fifth and sixth in line to be pardoned by President Obama. The turkeys will live on the school's 2.5 -acre farm with its ducks, chickens, geese, bunnies, goats and sheep to be visited and cared for by the students.

The turkeys gathered a crowd of students who peered through the chain-link fence surrounding the farm to check out the school's newest additions on Friday. The turkeys, about 50 pounds each, had their white feathers puffed up, and their heads had turned sky blue — a sign of happiness.

"It's great they're red, white and blue too," Principal Elaine Burney said. "Patriotic turkeys from the White House."

The Nichols' broad-breasted white turkeys were two of 25 raised by Foster Farms as potential pardonable turkeys. Foster Farms was chosen this year to raise the turkeys for the White House. A different company is chosen every year.

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The two Golden View birds were beaten out by their peers Apple and Cider, whom Obama pardoned Nov. 24 at the White House's Rose Garden.

Foster Farms handpicked the 25 contenders out of 20,000 birds, said Ira Brister, the company's manager of live production, turkey division.

Brister delivered the turkeys to Golden View from their home in Modesto.

Staff looked for birds that walked with their heads up, had good feathering, showed attitude and looked proud, Brister said.

The chosen few were moved to a farm in Wellsford Ranch, just outside of Modesto, to what was deemed the "presidential palace," he said.

Their upbringing didn't vary much from Foster Farms commercial turkeys, who get the run of the place to eat and drink as much as they want, but they do go through some special training, like learning to sit on a table, Brister said.

Ultimately, the turkeys are narrowed down to four based on their coloring, feathering and behavior, Brister said. Four turkeys are sent to the White House, although the president only pardons two.

"We try to pick a bird that has good table manners and would behave for the president," he said.

The yet-unnamed turkeys will live in the school's farm, where the students can learn to interact with and care for them, said Marti Lambright, the school's farm facilitator.

The fourth- and fifth-grade students visit the farm regularly with Lambright to feed the animals and take care of the farm, and the younger students can visit with their teachers, she said.

"I think, if nothing else, it teaches them respect and responsibility," Lambright said.

The school is hoping to have Eagle Scouts, who often do service projects on the farm, build the turkeys a place to live, she said.

Golden View is also going to have a competition to name the birds, but some of the students who gathered Friday already had ideas.

"Snowball and Snowy," said Alexandra Kochanowsky, 10.

The names came instantly to the fifth-grader based on their color, she said.

Alexandra came out just to see the turkeys. She was one of the few students who had the chance to touch them and said it was an "amazing" experience.

"They felt so soft and feathery," she said. "And I really want to feel one of their beards."

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