Anatomy of a Turkey Dinner

Since we last talked, things have shifted in the Narragansett breeding program here.
Let’s preface this entire discussion with this…

Tom turkeys are whores.
The best ratio for tom to hen starts at 5 hens to 1 tom.
10 hens is better, because toms are whores.
And if there’s not enough hens for the toms, the hens suffer.

So, here’s where we’re at…

I have 4 toms.
Oscar, my main breeding tom, who is a lovely auburn color.
He’s an asshole. He and I have had several “come to Jesus” meetings, wherein I made it known that *I* an the dominant tom in the yard and I will not put up with shitty behaviour towards the humans.
He has always been respectful of the hens.
Dingus, my second breeding tom, who is the traditional Narragansett colouring.
He’s a good boy with humans, was a good boy on his dates with T.D., and has been good with the hens overall.
Another auburn tom, who is for the dinner table once he fills out.
And Wayne…Wayne is a table bird, but he’s a nice bird with greying in the traditional Narragansett colouring. While he’s pretty, he’s not breeder quality. So Freezer Camp is his destiny.

I had 5 hens.
Yeah.
So ratio is off, but they’ve been in a much bigger space and free ranging for the past few months and all has been well.
Until yesterday.
And that’s where our next turkey dinner was discovered…

So we go off at sundown to put the birds to bed in their coops, and I find StupidShit (a nasty, mean assed hen who will fight anyone, everyone, and their sister/brother) dead in the door way of the main chicken coop.
And Dingus is fighting Wayne and the other auburn, forcing them out of the coop…
We separated the auburn, Wayne and Oscar for the night in another shelter, so we can discuss and figure out what to do with this development.
Toms fighting amongst themselves is understandable.
Killing hens?
That’s a Red Queen offense.
And because of that, we need to be 100% sure of our decision before acting on it.

Over a glass of wine, we rehashed our winter, where we were finding dead turkeys and ducks in the turkey yard…at first we had thought that the weather was getting to them…then we figured out there were issues between Oscar and Dingus (because Dingus went over to the chicken coop and the deaths stopped.)
We assumed it was Oscar killing the other birds due to jealousy, because Oscar is the dominant tom.
But then, Oscar and the rest of the flock ended up in the garage…and we had thought that he was the only tom.
But we discovered that there were 2 others in with him….Wayne and the other auburn.
*We* didn’t know they were toms, but *Oscar* would have.
Huh.
We didn’t think anything of it, we had no deaths of hens, and all did great until we moved them to their outdoor quarters…and they all had access to Dingus again.
And then, last night…
A dead hen, and Dingus aggressively fighting Wayne and the other auburn.
Hmmmm…
So separation ’til this morning.
Once the hutch where the 3 toms was opened, they hopped over back to their chicken yard, where Dingus immediately went at them.
So Dingus was moved to the other yard…and that lasted about a minute before he went back over and started shit…while hens cowered in a corner of the yard.
Uh. Huh.

And so, now Dingus is in bird jail in the garage, and there seems to be calm in the turkey/chicken yard.
Hens are pecking and scratching and eating, Oscar is strutting (he *always* struts), Wayne is in the other yard (by choice it seems, no one put him there and he knows how to get out) and the other auburn is wandering about singing.
It is clear that Dingus is the problem.
And Oscar never was.

Y’all know what that means…

I have to Red Queen Dingus.
He’ll get to stay in jail in the garage until the current heat wave breaks next week, and then off to the freezer he’ll go. I don’t really have room, but I’ll find a way to make him fit.
There’s no room in my yard(s) for a shitty male bird.
Roosters, drakes, toms.
Shitty boys go to the freezer.
It’s a shame I hadn’t figured out *he* was the shitty one sooner…

BullsEye!

Our young Sweetgrass turkey hen has been adamant lately that she needs to have turkey time with Dingus, our 2nd breeding tom.
I said to her “No dating ’til you lay eggs”.
So last week she started laying eggs.

First day was supervised.
We moved Dingus into the duck yard where T.D lives.
Caramilk, one of the muscovy drakes took an instant disliking to Dingus and tried to beat him up.
Kinda funny to watch, but not helpful in getting T.D’s eggs fertilized.
So Caramilk got to spend some time in a big dog crate…food, water and a show while he was in (what we call) bird jail.

It takes forever for a successful turkey mating to happen.
The hen has to lay down and accept the tom.
Unlike chickens, where the rooster can ambush a hen and get ‘er done before she’s fully aware of what hit her. 😂😂😂

We watched Dingus dance and drum and tell T.D what an amazing, handsome, wonderful mate he would be for her…we watched her sit and get ready until the last second when he went to climb on, then she’d jump up and run away…then finally, after a good 45 minutes of “the dance”, she sat, he got on, he danced on her, she looked like he was killing her (totally normal), and then they got the deed done.
Like chickens, turkeys mate with a cloacal kiss that, once they get together, takes seconds.
Unlike ducks, who have corkscrew penises and mating takes a fair bit longer.

With 1 clearly sucessful mating done, Caramilk still in bird jail (and clearly outraged that this interloper was chasing *his girlfriend* around…which is something we’ll have to keep an eye on, to make sure Caramilk doesn’t try to mate T.D), we wandered off to do some garden work.
Over the day, there was at least 1 more mating, and T.D laid her egg for the day.
Which meant I could check Sunday’s egg for evidence of fertilization.

Saturday night we put Dingus back with the chicken hens.
And moved him again Sunday for, hopefully, a few more rounds with T.D.
Then we could leave Dingus back at the chicken coop and collect fertile eggs from T.D for a week to incubate.
Hens will hold the tom’s sperm in their oviducts for roughly 3 weeks…so we could hatch out for that long if we wanted. Since I’m not aiming to run a whole bunch of hatches, I’ll only collect 7 eggs (after 7 days of collecting the first ones collected will drop in possibility of hatching).
Next year I’ll collect more, if I like this crossing.

So Sunday I collected T.D’s egg and made sure to mark it as hers.
Yesterday, I cracked it open, hopeful…
Lo and behold!

It’s hard to see in the picture, but *it is there*.
A bullseye around the white dot in the egg.
That means T.D’s egg is fertilized.
YAY!
And now I’m collecting her eggs (stinker didn’t lay one yesterday) so that this weekend coming up, I’ll get them into the incubator and see what our Sweetgrass/Narragansett cross makes in poults.
Fingers crossed for hardy af, super cute, well growing, not overly huge, birbs!!
I’ll keep y’all updated…
😉

Turkeys in the Garage

So my turkey coop disappeared this past weekend.
Not even joking.
It has been taken by the snow.
The 1st blizzard hit us Thursday evening.
Brought us 10 cm blowing in at 70 km from the north.
Then, that settled down, and the blizzard warning ended.
Oh, but Mother Nature wasn’t done.
Friday She decided to toss another blizzard at us…with *another* 10 cms blowing in from the south.
😂😂😂
And Saturday, just for good measure, She gave us another 5cm…blowing, but not at blizzard wind speeds.
So all told, we’ve gotten 25ish cm of snow via blizzards in 3 days.
That’s about 10 inches of snow.
Plus the however many inches that blew in overland.
(I swear, I’m planting as many trees as I can, every single damn place that I can!)
On top of the multiple feet we already have.
😂😂😂

So in between blizzards, we go out to take care of the animals (because that has to happen no matter the weather) and discover the turkey coop is gone.
Hubby gets in there and digs out the first opening he can find, because y’all….my birds were in there and we sure couldn’t leave them!
Then, in he climbs so that he can pass out these stupid birds to us (me and The Kid).
Listen, turkeys is stupid. There’s no sugar coating it.
They are my idiot children.
Fucking Oscar is going to fight Hubby about being passed out this hole…the 40lbs of dominant tom bird trying to fight to *stay in* his coop.
Stupid, stupid, bird.
But we get them, and the ducks in with them, out.
Sadly, we lost The Kid’s one drake, Oreo.
Oreo was a good duck, who was going to make beautiful bebes come spring time with my HomerJ…but alas, Mother Nature said “Nope.”

So now we have the ducks in the duck coop with the rest of the ducks, and fresh straw, with tons of food and water…and a heat light.
They’re good.
But we have to get the stupid birds from one side of the yard to the other, into the garage, as the blizzard like weather is ramping back up. Over drifts here, there, and fucking everywhere.

Now, in better weather, I can shake a pail of feed and my idiot children will follow me everywhere.
But they won’t do that in crazy winds, or when they’re already in trauma mode (because some guy shoved them out a hole they didn’t want to go out of)…we had to carry the damn fools.
So the hens were fairly easy.
Upside down them and carry ’em by their feet.
They don’t like it, and you can’t do it for long because their weight will dislocate legs, but a quick dash (as fast as my little legs would take me over hill and dale) can be done.

Oh but my Oscar Meyer Wiener (because one day, when he’s done making turkey bebes, he’s gonna be a hot dog 😂😂😂)…I had to carry that asshole all cuddled up while he shrieked his turkey rage at being relocated.
He hasn’t gotten over Dingus being taken away and is convinced that we ate Dingus.
We didn’t.
Dingus has 1 turkey hen in the chicken coop with him, because Oscar hates him as much as he loves him.
Simply, Oscar refuses to share hens and beat the crap out of Dingus, so they can’t be in the same pen/coop.

So now, we got the 7 hens and Oscar in the garage in a cage that was supposed to be for bottle lambs next month. I might have to bring bottle lambs inside….sheep don’t smell as bad as birds.
But then, Hubby might make me live outside.
😂😂😂

All I can say now is…
C’mon spring!

Oscar is the auburn tom in the back.

13

In the beginning of July, I purchased 24 turkey hatching eggs.
With a whole lot of hope, I brought them home and set them into the incubator. 27 days later, we started to hear the tell tale chirps and scrabbling around of hatching poults.
We were very excited!!

Then on the 29th day, we opened the incubator to find 13 poults.
Oh, but one had it’s tiny wing somehow caught between the plastic grating and the edge of the incubator!
With a whole lot of patience, I managed to free that little wing.
But that wee poult was having trouble standing.
We think in it’s attempt to free it’s wing, it may have wrenched a leg.
So I picked up this little poult and cuddled it close to me, while the other 12 were whisked off to the brooder and placed under a heat lamp with food and water.

I held this little one for a while, whilst using The Google to see if there was a way we could fix the legs.
It’s wing tip seemed fine, once they were able to get it back against their body.

What I found was that most birds can do okay if you can keep their legs together.
Okay then…I found a small twist tie and made a hobble of sorts…with help from The Kid, because that poor turkey poult panicked everytime I moved them onto their back!
And then, we found a small dish for food and water and a box to put them in, then tucked them in under the light in the brooder with the other 12.

It really was a hail Mary sorta thing, because I didn’t know if they were ever going to be able to use that leg, but I felt like I had to try to help out.
Even being raised as a potential food animal, they deserved the chance at a good life.
Being that they were the 13th poult, they were given the name 13.
And y’know, once you name them…
lol
The urge to make the birb all better was heckin’ strong once a name was bestowed.

It became clear, fast, that this wee twist tie was precisely what 13 needed!
Within a day, there was weight bearing on the leg.
By the end of the 2nd, 13 was full on hopping from one side of the box to the other.
And singing.
Oh turkey songs are the sweetest of the birb songs!
I love having them around just for their songs.

Then came the day I took off the twist tie and set 13 down to see what happened…
Up came those little wings, that fluttered so hard and out of the box leapt 13 to join their 12 hatchmates!

And this is our lovely 13 now…

13 the Turkey

I had told The Other 2 that no matter what, 13 stayed.
If they were a tom, but not breeder potential, we’d have to build a separate pen.
If they were a hen, hopefully she’d be breeding potential, but if not, she’d get to have her own space and we’d have turkey eggs to eat.

Well, as it turns out, 13 is a hen, and she’s a lovely hen who is absolutely (IMO) a good foundation breeding hen.
She’s tough, having survived her early days after hatching.
She’s pretty…I mean, just look at her!
She’s friendly. Because she was handled so much after hatch, she likes to be handled, and does like to cuddle (on her terms of course…;) )
She take no guff from the boys. Which is a good thing. Boys must behave or else. 😉

And poor Oscar…he’s so smitten and she just isn’t interested.
lol!
Probably because right now Oscar isn’t “husband” material.
He’s just a horny teenager tom who wants to get it on with any hen.
Even those duck hens.

13 is more interested in Dingus, the other tom we kept for breeding.
Dingus isn’t quite the horny boy Oscar is, so they’re taking things slow. 😉
We’re looking forward to spring courtings between them though…I do believe they will make for some lovely poults of their own.
🙂