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…

Catching Up

Garden, garden, garden.
Birds, birds, birds.
Work, work, work.
Yard clean up again.
Forage, forage, forage.
More garden, garden, garden…

And started the incubator with the last 6 eggs I’m having hatch out this year…

That’s from our lone surviving Sweetgrass turkey hen, crossed with our big Narragansett boy Dingus.

I’m hoping for super hardy poults…there were many times through the winter from hell that we thought T.D wouldn’t be alive the next day…and yet, that tough little turkey-who-thinks-she’s-a-duck pulled through every. single. time.

So we’re hoping that tenacity breeds true…while Dingus is an amazingly sweet boy, for a tom turkey, and is easy to handle…we hope his temperament breeds true as well.

And tho T.D is a smaller turkey, we’re okay with a smaller than a regular Narragansett bird, because we often get requests for smaller turkeys for people’s freezers.

*I* like a monster bird, but not everyone does.

So I’m hopeful this heritage crossing becomes the foundation for the Midnight Calico turkey.

We shall see…

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…
😉

Leetle Birbs

The first of the turkeys have hatched.
Out of 24 eggs set in the incubator, we have 10 poults.
But, considering we lost power 3 times in the incubation cycle, I’m happy to have had *anything* hatch.

We did have a few that were well formed but quit in the later stages of incubation.
Sad, but that happens sometimes.
Again, power outages don’t help.

But the 10 that did pop out on their own are hopping and bopping around the brooder, having a grand time being happy little birds…

I set 14 more eggs a while back that are due to hatch after June 6th.
Just because I’m hoping to add more hens to the flock so our boy Dingus can have his own harem.
Then I’ll have 2 Narragansett breeding groups.
That’s the plan, anyways.
We’ll see how that goes.
😂😂😂

First Hatching

This morning I took the turner out of the incubator.
A day later, as usual.
Good thing I got it done first thing this morning, because 2 eggs had already pipped, and now?
This:

First little turkey has emerged!
Pretty excited fr this year’s hatchings.
I have 24 turkey eggs in here, with 13 guinea fowl eggs.
The other incubator has 14 turkeys that I started 2 weeks later.
And that’s the whole of our hatching for this year.
Tho, I still have a ton of birds coming from the hatchery on the 31st….so it’s not like there won’t be a bunch of bebes around.
Still waiting on the ducks to lay, but at least they’re back in their yard, not in my garden.
🙂

Not Much Goin’ On

Got through another blizzard.
Rain/snow comin’ this weekend.
Feelin’ like the winter that never wants to end.
Donkey horse did this to herself:

I’m sure she had one helluva headache after that.
She sure was grumpy with me when I poked and prodded it.
lol
Someone had to poke at it and see how bad it was.
😉
Good thing it’s not fly season or sunburn season, otherwise she’d be even unhappier with me.

This week I’m firing up the incubators.
No chickens this year.
Got no roos left.
Sadly, in the hellacious winter of 21/22, I lost all my roos to shitty weather and a respiratory infection that blew through my coops like crazy.
So only turkeys.
And a few cross bred ducks…and guinea fowl…both of those I’m picking up from a FB friend who asked if anyone was interested in some to hatch out.
Um, yeah!
Haven’t managed to have ducks hatch in the incubator (came close with a couple muscovies but they quit a week or so before they were due) and never had guinea fowl, so, for free eggs?
I’m willing to give it a try.
Now we let our duck hens do the work, because muscovies love, love, love to hatch bebes.
And aside from late season nests, I’m happy to let them.

I’m currently up to 15 turkey eggs to hatch.
Today we discovered, much to my chagrin, that one hen we thought was a hen turned out to be a tom.
So Oscar (my main tom) has only 6 girls instead of 7.
I’m just hoping that the newly discovered tom stays subservient long enough that we can get him to a better size for the freezer.
2 breeding toms is plenty and I don’t have enough hens to give Dingus any right now, so keeping a 3rd tom is just not gonna work.
Plus, toss in the whole avian influenza thing going on, selling a live bird right now is more of a pain in the ass than normal…plus, we like turkey, and we let these jerks breed so we can eat the extras, so…

Tomato seeds are popping up through the dirt.
I’m getting ready to sow a few more.
Only have 36 little cups (though each cup has more than 1 seed in it and I’ll pot up any extras that come up from those multiples…except for the San Marzano…I only had 10 of those seeds, so 1 per cup) and that ain’t going to be nearly enough tomatoes for us.
Tomatoes is like beans…I could plant an acre of ’em and that *might* be enough for us.
😂😂😂
All my other seeds that I ordered, have come in.
Hubby is just picking up bits and bobs here and there when he’s at the feed store or the hardware store.
Mostly adding to the carrots/beets supply of seeds.
We go through a lot of both.

And that’s us.
We’re just waiting on spring to really and for truly get here.
And for hands in the dirt/building season to begin.
YeeHaw.

Turkeys Is Stupid

I know I’ve said it before.
I know I’ll say it again.
Turkeys is stupid.
Now, I tend to love my stupid children…that’s what I call my breeding group…my stupid children.
But every now and then you get one who is either a complete idiot (more so than their flock mates) or a complete asshole.
Idiots can be kept, if they’re not too much trouble.
Assholes?
Welp, those are the ones we eat.

Way back in winter we moved the turkeys to the garage after a particularly bad storm.
Except for Dingus (a tom) and StupidShit (a hen)…those 2 stayed in with the chickens because they were happy there.
Since it’s been much, much nicer, and all the coops are open during daylight hours, StupidShit has decided she must go into the duck yard and pick on T.D.
T.D. is a sweetgrass turkey who never really grew, and who the ducks decided was their turkey…and she seems to be able to speak “duck” so she lives with them, acting like a duck. Hence the name T.D., which is short for…TallDuck.
What can I say.
I’m not terribly inventive when it comes to naming animals.
🤷‍♀️

Anyways, StupidShit (because really, that’s exactly what she is…and she’s not even a nice hen, she’s a nasty shit…where Dingus is a big stupid tom, but sweet as hell and easy to handle, she’s a c**t) decided that she must visit with T.D., which was all well and good until she started picking T.D.’s tail feathers out, causing bleeding.
Yeah, that shit don’t fly with me.

So, StupidShit got corralled and sent to Oscar for…attitude adjustment.
😉
Because Oscar is my dominant tom, and the hens behave for him…or else.
Oh, but the corralling…
I should have grabbed the net, but she’s tried to rip her way out of it before…
So I went into the chicken coop, where she was trying to hide from me, and grabbed her.
Low and behold, that bitch tried going for my face with her talons as I reached for her.
Thankfully, I got my arms up in time to block her, and knocked her on her feathered ass, from which I grabbed her leg and hung her upside down ’til she tired her stupid self out.
Then she got carried, upside down, across the yard to the garage, where Oscar and the ladies had free run of the garage while their hut was getting scraped out.
StupidShit got a fancy green band (just a zip tie) on her leg, and then released.
Well damn if she didn’t try to take her bitchiness out on 13 right away, and Oscar dropped her with a well placed shoulder…😂😂😂
That’s *exactly* what she needed.
And when she tried to get up?
Both Oscar and Emma dropped her again.
Emma is the head hen in Oscar’s group and she, like Oscar, will accept no shit from anyone.
The only ones those 2 defer to are the humans…and even then, I had to *remind* the OscarMayerWeiner who the real boss was.

While we finished cleaning and re-bedding the turkey hut, StupidShit got educated over and over on using her stupid turkey manners. By the time we had to herd them back to the hut, she was a thoroughly deflated hen.
Good.

Once we got back to the house, I had a chance to clean up the presents she gave me…

I’ve got a matching one on the other arm.
Not gonna lie, I was pretty darn happy to see Oscar and Emma discipline her.
Today she seems to have calmed down.
When I went to collect eggs, she just moved to the other side of the hut and stayed as far away from me as she could. And all the other hens were happy to get their morning treats, so it’s not that she’s taken up bullying anyone else.

Now we’ll see if she settles into being a good hen for Oscar.
If so, she’ll get to stay on.
If not?
Welp, I’ll Red Queen her.
😉

3 Weeks

In 3 weeks I’m going to traumatize the turkeys.
Again.
In 3 weeks they’ll get a deep cleaning of their hut (with weekly spot cleanings in between now and then) and deep, fresh straw added.
Then, in 3 weeks, I’ll start collecting eggs for the incubators.
Right now the eggs are being washed and eaten (because yummmmmmmmy!!).

Right now, my brooders that Hubby built me last year are all under snow.
So we’re not ready for itty bitty birbs.
Yet.
But in 3 weeks…
We’ll be closer to getting them ready.
So I’ll set eggs, and in the 4 week time it takes for turkey eggs to hatch, we’ll have those brooders ready for bebes.
Which is good, because at the end of May I have:
10 pekin ducklings
10 lavender orpingtons
10 black giants (regional variant of Jersey Giants)
5 white geese
and
25 white turkeys
to pick up from the feed store.
So yeah…Ima need those brooders.

And by the end of May the muscovies will be laying and hopefully some of the hens will be already sitting nests. If not, then soon.
I can’t wait for aaaaalllll the leetle bebe birbies to be here!
😍😍😍

Almost Done

So after too many whining about the weather posts, today is not that.
We’ve had a few lovely days, that even with a bit of wind blowing, have led to a lot of digging out.
We were able to get the ducks out of their coop for some fresh air yesterday, and today I have the oh so lovely task of scooping out their coop…it needs it.
Ducks, while cute and funny and really tasty, are gross little goofs who love to make every single thing wet with either water or shit.
😂😂😂
Their bedding makes excellent compost tho…if only I could get to the garden expansion spot.
Not that I’m worried about that, since the little brats just keep shitting.
There’s a never ending source of fertilizer for the gardens.

The warmer weather really has the green thumb itching.
Yesterday I grabbed up my pile of gallon milk jugs and set out some more winter sown seeds.
This time it was 2 types of peppers, mullein, and 4 types of tomatoes.

Now, this method doesn’t make things grow sooner.
What it does is give the seeds the chance to grow with Mother Nature, and in the end, makes for hardier plants, because they’ve adapted sooner to Ma Nature’s proclivities than if they were started inside and needing hardening off.
For our micro climate (which, in case you haven’t noticed, can be quite brutal) plants that adapt and produce well here are very desirable.
If I can select seeds from short growing season varieties that prove hardier than most, welp, then I can create my own seed bank for this space.
That’s a good thing.
(I am assuming that makes sense to more than just my short-on-coffee-brain this morning)

I’m poking at the husband to keep drinking the milks so that I have a few more jugs to set out before spring comes…I have some native perennials that are also medicinal to get going and I want to try both the outdoor and indoor method for starting them.
I’m sure those who drop in are confused by my mass of milk jugs sitting in the garden.
But if this works?
Then I can start a lot more seeds for a lot more things.
That’s a good thing.

Stupid turkeys are doing well.
Oscar is dancing and a couple hens are letting him do his job.
He and I had a “come to Jesus” meeting on Friday.
Since I’m not letting the hens sit yet, I’m collecting eggs.
Well, Oscar has decided that I am a threat to his hens that must be run off.
Oh Oscar.
So we had a…discussion…one that reminded him that *I* run his little flock, and he defers to me…so when *I* want the eggs, he will move his tail feathers out of the way and I will collect them.
Poor guy.
He’s just trying to be a good horny bird, protecting his ladies and making like a big man.
But, coming at me with them spurs while I’m picking up eggs?
Stops now, or he goes to Freezer Camp.
I do believe we have come to an agreement now.
Hopefully.
I really don’t want to butcher the guy for doing what his hormones tell him to do…he just has to remember his manners with the humans.

And then yesterday, the feathered assholes broke out of their cage in the garage.
Hubby was thrilled (not) to find them all over the place.
😂😂😂
They only shit on the tractor a few times, so it wasn’t *that* bad.
And I cleaned it up, so he can’t complain.
😉

So now we just have to get through March.
Hopefully it won’t be all lion-like and kick our butts with more snow.
I keep tellin’ my 2 that “we’re hardy prairie ponies, not pony princesses…we can do this”
And they look at me like I’m nuts.
Eh, maybe I am.

So off I go to dig some more, fling some poo…and then perhaps grab my favorite Paint and have a discussion with her about how she needs her hooves trimmed.
That’s gonna be fun.
Everyone is overdue because the weather has been an asshole.
Nicer weather means we have to get them Merry Mares back on track.
Yeehaw.

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.