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!
😍😍😍

White Turkeys

That is a wrap on white turkey growing for the year.
Yee. Haw.
We learned some things, have plans to improve those things, and yup, will definitely grow them again next year.

First thing…
Remember I said I wanted to keep the hen for the breeding program with the Narragansetts?
HA!!
Good thing we decided against it.
The one I thought was a hen…wasn’t.
In fact it was the only male in the group of 6.
That’s right, the massive 30-40lb birds were actually the hens.
So I would have been keeping the wrong bird!
And clearly, the size of the hens would have made long term health for them all but impossible.
But they’re not bred for health, they’re bred for fast and furious growth and off to the freezer.
Still, mine went 24 weeks without issues, where most commercial turkeys are done at 16.
I figure as long as they’re running and hooting looking for their morning hard boiled eggs, they’re good to stay.

Which brings me to the 2nd thing…
Size.
Oh my word.
Those hens I thought were toms were huge!
I don’t have a final dressed out weight yet, but they did not fit the restraining cone.
And even though we tried to make it work, the cone completely split on the 2nd to last bird.
So we need to invest in metal restraining cones.
Whether Hubby makes them or we buy them, doesn’t matter.
Also, thankfully we had the turkey fryer pot for the scald to pluck dip.
Our regular pot we use with meaties and roosters is waaaaay too small.
And!
Our plucker, which says it can handle turkeys…can’t.
Or, at least not the size these hens made.
So we either grow them smaller next year (😂😂😂) or we hand pluck.
They are easy enough to hand pluck.

Of course the other thing about size is the rest period after butcher.
They have to stay in the fridge for 24-48 hours afterwards and before packaging.
We have our regular food fridge up stairs and the basement beer/butchering fridge.
Um, the basement fridge is really, really full with 6 turkeys.
😂😂😂
If we grew more than 6 (we had 10 but had a 40% loss over their growing season) we’d have to do processing for more than 1 day.

Finally, feed costs…
Turkeys are expensive to raise.
There’s no getting around that.
For the first 8 weeks, they need a quality high protein feed.
For us, that meant buying the gamebird feed from the local feed store…and supplementing with hard boiled eggs.
Each poult eats an average of 3 ~ 55lb bags in their first 8 weeks.
They grow fast and need ample protein and energy to do it, so feed is out for them 24/7.
After the first 8 weeks, I transition them to the fermented barley/wheat chop that we feed everyone else.
But they still get hard boiled eggs.
Both for protein and to help the transition.
Once fully on the chop, they get that with garden weeds, thistles, greens and kitchen scraps.
And hard boiled eggs. 😂😂😂
What?
They really, really, really love hard boiled eggs!
Plus the next poults will learn what the goodies from Loop are sooner, rather than later. 😉

So, 6 whites go through roughly 55-110lbs of fermented feed a week.
That fluctuates with the amount of green/weeds and food waste from Loop.

Cost wise?
$6.70 for each poult.
3 x $27.50 for gamebird feed.
16 weeks at 2 x $8 for chop/6
**edited to adjust the chop costs since I forgot to divide the 16 week total by 6 for 6 poults.

Which gives us a total of $131.86 to raise a poult to butcher.
It’s that upfront of almost $100 in feed, plus that we pushed them out to 24 weeks.
But their size shows that 24 weeks was fine.
And to get size like that in 16 weeks, you’re feeding more bagged feed than the chop.
See?
Turkeys are just plain spendy to raise.

So why do it?
Well, it’s because happy food tastes better.
This growing your own food thing isn’t always about saving money.
Hell, I’d say growing food animals is almost always a money losing activity.
BUT
I say this so often…we are what we eat.
And eating poorly raised, never ever see the light of day, no delight in weeds and greens tossed to them, no space for turkey races and fun, turkeys has an effect on us.
Never mind that it’s cruel, in my opinion, to keep birds locked up away from the sunshine and the ability to act naturally.
So we raise our birds on the ground, in the sunshine, giving them the foods they love and that help them grow. Anyone who’s been here can see, my birbs are happy af.
Just watch ’em come running when they see me…because that means The Food Lady is bringing *something* good. 😉
That’s worth the cost.

To sum up:
Turkeys are expensive.
The end product is huge and worth it.
Need metal kill cones.
And a 3rd fridge (or a walk in) would be nice.

My Day with the Turkeys

Listen, I love raising turkeys.
They’re funny, they’re kinda cute in an ugly way, they like to sing which is quite endearing, and they call me all. the. time…it’s adorable, really.
Plus, they taste pretty good too, once they end up at Freezer Camp.

But, oh my gawd…
They’re so stupid. And they have absolutely no sense of self preservation.
Like yesterday for example…

So we’re set back about 200ish feet from a fairly busy gravel road.
The horse pasture goes to within 25 feet of the ditch, and right on the other side of the ditch is…the gravel road.
The turkeys have been ranging the yard and pasture mostly without incident.
Until yesterday, when they followed their stupid beaks, eating grasshoppers (YAY!!!) until they ended up in the ditch outside the pasture.
And then 2 whites ended up on the road.
Oh for fuck sake.

So out I go, yelling at these stupid birds to get their “feathered assholes back in that pasture or fucking else!”
And that worked.
For just about an hour.
🙄

It’s also super smokey here right now because of the winds blowing smoke from forest fires up north down onto us, so I had to do the bulk of the chasing by myself, since my Kid couldn’t breathe outside (oh the joys of asthma!)
But she did help catch a couple of the whites, who got their flight feathers clipped and tossed into the proper turkey yard with Dingus, Oscar and the gals.
No more nice Food Lady.
Time to get acquainted with the big boss turkeys on the Farm.
Like, right fucking now!

“I am the Boss turkey!” says Oscar

After another hour or so, I had caught all but two of the Narragansett youngsters and had them clipped and into the turkey yard.
Happily, Dingus and Oscar were behaving themselves and not beating anyone up.
It helps that even though the whites are younger, they’re big birbs, and they look out for the younger Narragansetts, so even without a lot of experience, they weren’t taking any shit from the big guys.

White in the duck yard before he figured out how to get out of there…

It’s good for them all to be together though.
The whites showed the big Narragansetts the joys of the extra foods the Food Lady throws them, and they’ll be safer away from the fucking road!

Yesterday was out first Loop pick up, so there was lots of goodies for birds to eat.
And then this morning, before I let anyone out, I added extras to their feed trough.
We got a lot of bakery items yesterday, which the whites love…bread and sugar are their favorite things.
I mix it into their fermented feed so they couldn’t just pick out the stuff they like, but had to eat the good-for-them stuff too.
Just like little kids.
I *do* call them my stupid children for a reason!

But the whites will only be with us another 8-12 weeks.
Then off to Freezer Camp they’ll go.
I must admit, I am looking forward to Freezer Camp…

And then I’ll have to integrate the last 34 turkey poults with the big guys before winter.
lol
No, I do not have a lot of turkeys.
Not at all.
😉