Steamboat Springs Reva Frink refereed a turkey fight recently. "One had a hold of another one's head, and he wasn't wantin' to turn loose," she said, standing outside the pen that held 13 turkeys. One tom, or male, puffed his feathers up for a pair of visitors Thursday.
"Stop struttin,'" Frink told him good-naturedly. She grabbed the turkey, who let out a few chirps of protest. The toms can get ornery, said Frink, who raises and sells turkeys and other birds from her home on Twentymile Road south of Steamboat Springs.
Frink provides birds for 4-H members, sells them for meat, and shows them at fairs and other events. She grew up farming and ranching in Nebraska and has been in Steamboat since 1981.
Frink started raising birds here about eight years ago. She has turkeys, chickens and geese, but she focuses on ducks. Her ducks have had 79 babies this year.
"It's constant work around here," she said.
Frink raises them - the ones that aren't eaten by foxes, red-tailed hawks and magpies or shredded by raccoons - in a line of pens and a coop near the house. She also has pigs, two dogs, two horses and two cats.
The ducks are the easiest to care for, she said.
"I basically stick them in the bathtub in the house, pull the shower curtain shut, and they bathe themselves," Frink said. "It's like a full-on party in there."
Steamboat Springs High School graduate Jasper Gantick said Frink provided his 4-H ducks when he was younger.
"She's really knowledgeable, and not just about birds, but lots of other things," Gantick said. "When I first went to her, I was a really young member in 4-H, and she kind of really was my mentor for the project."
Ashleigh Muhme, who will be a senior at Hayden High School, said she'd gotten chickens and turkeys from Frink. Muhme described Frink as a "really great person who's really passionate about what she does." Frink always is willing to lend a hand to 4-H members, Muhme said.
"I had a rooster at my house, and I couldn't keep him at my house for the winter because the neighbors were kind of getting annoyed at the crowing, and I needed a place for him to stay at for the winter," Muhme said. "And she said, 'Just bring him out to my house, and you can do a little bit of work for me to make up for the rent cost, and we'll call it even.'"
Frink judges bird shows at fairs; she went to Eagle County's this year and was headed to Kremmling on Friday for the Grand County Fair. She's a big help at the Routt County Fair, which started Friday, Routt County 4-H Agent Jay Whaley said.
"She's very knowledgeable about poultry," Whaley said. "She's brought exhibits to the Routt County Fair for years, and she has a lot of knowledge with it, and she's willing to share it with the kids."
Frink is willing to talk, too. She showed off babies of all
ages Thursday morning, walking through pens and speaking over a plug of Copenhagen Long Cut. She explained the differences between the breeds; Frink raises mostly Muscovy ducks because she likes the way they mother their ducklings.
She also has mini appleyard ducks, white Embden geese, Cayuga ducks and Pekin ducks. One of her Cayugas won a particularly high honor in 2006: Champion Waterfowl at the American Poultry Association's Semi-Annual Meet in Pueblo.
Frink also competes at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Last year, she took 10 birds and brought back nine first-place awards and one second-place award. Frink said she was particularly pleased to win top honors at large shows.
"A lot of the bigger shows, like the stock show and stuff, you get people who just go to big shows," she said. They'll buy high-end, expensive birds just to win, Frink said.
Frink tries to breed her birds to be champions, looking closely at their color and characteristics to pick the best.
The Muscovies aren't as good-looking as other breeds, but they do well with the tough Routt County winters, Frink said. Some of the other birds have to winter inside.
"I've only froze up one duck the whole time I've been out here," she said.
She said she's lost about four ducklings this year. The mothers are protective, guarding their young and hissing when they feel threatened.
Even though it's one of Frink's favorite characteristics of the ducks, she's felt the wrath of that mothering.
The Muscovies don't have the best personalities of the bunch.
"I've had mama hens, when I was gathering up mamas and babies to put 'em inside, one of 'em hooked her claw into my little finger," Frink said. "They are not nice at all."