Turkeys

Having heard all sorts of terrible things about turkeys and having never done turkeys before and we decided to do a trial run. So, in the spring of 2007 we received 6 day old turkey hatchlings and raised six Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys over the summer. This experience was fantastic and dispelled all those myths about turkeys. These little creatures were an absolute delight to raise. They were curious, brave, and well-behaved.

As of September 19th, 2008 I have 25 white turkey chicks in the new barn. They are only two weeks old at the moment. They will be ready for butchering just before Christmas. We got a late start on the turkeys this year because of all the new developments on the farm–specifically, waiting for the greenhouse and the turkey barn to be completed. All of this takes more time than you ever think it will. So, no turkey this Thanksgiving–we’ll probably have duck instead!

Beautiful Broad Breasted Bronze turkey tom. My first batch of turkeys, summer 2007.
Beautiful Broad Breasted Bronze turkey tom. My first batch of turkeys, summer 2007.

Life and death on the farm:

We had a terrible mishap with the first batch of turkeys ordered. They come all the way from Alberta in the care of Canada Post. Unfortunately, they missed their ‘connection’ in Prince George and arrived late into Williams Lake, a mere 450 k from me–and, consequently, didn’t make the mail truck to Bella Coola. Things are complicated when you live in a remote location; we only get mail three times a week. What this meant for our baby turkeys who arrived to Williams Lake late on a Friday night of a long weekend, was certain death–which most of them managed by Saturday morning. However, thanks to the combined efforts of Beaver Valley Feeds in Williams Lake, who managed to take the few survivors in on the Saturday afternoon and care for them all weekend, coupled with the kindness of Gerald of Chilcotin Frieghtways, who picked them up at the last minute and saved the day (not to mention many lives) and kept them in the cab with him to keep them warm, we managed to get 7 of the original 25 batch to the farm.

Sadly, a few more died over the next few days–something that was not surprising considering the extreme stress the little creatures were put through. The hatchery was good enough to send another batch of twenty replacements out to me and, once again, Chilcotin Freight came to the rescue. Gerald delivered them to me at midnight the following night when he arrived in town.

So far, we’ve lost three more of them and are down two birds from our original order of 25. Hopefully, there won’t be any more losses and we’ll see the rest of these babies grow to maturity.

Babies on the farm:

The babies are growing. They are now snug in the new, purpose built barn, complete with nursery/brooder room.

Freshly hatched turkeys arrive by Chilcotin Freight.
Freshly hatched turkeys arrive by Chilcotin Freight.

As you can see in the above photo, eating-and-pooping-and-pooping-and-eating is what they spend most of their time doing. The pie plate is holding weeds that I select for them and grind in my food processor. I like to give them as much fresh food as I can when they are cooped up. When they are grown, they will free range for the bulk of their food; in the meantime I act as mum and provide the fresh stuff.

If you look closely, you can spot the few turkeys that are a wee bit larger than the others. These are the few from the original order that are a week older than the new arrivals.

one and two weeks old.
Growing babies: one and two weeks old.

Below, they are starting to look more like turkeys, and get their first real feathers. These are white turkeys. I prefer to raise the Broad Breasted Bronze (but don’t let these guys know that) but the hatchery only does those a few times each year and, with our new barn building project, we missed out this year.

Two week old turkey, probably a male.
Two week old turkey, probably a male.

Check back here to watch these turkeys grow.

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9 responses to “Turkeys

  1. What weeds do you feed your poults?

    We just got 25 BBW and 25 bronze!

    thx

    • Hey Brad,

      I have observed my free range chickens and turkeys as they grow and I pick the weeds they eat naturally. So, chickweed, plantain, dandelion, grass, goosefoot, shepherds purse. I also feed them my excess salad greens like lettuce, mustard, rocket, and leaves from my cabbages. Basically, any weeds that we could eat they can eat.

  2. Kelly

    We recently moved to a VERY rural area far from the city of Los Angeles, a nice 2 and 1/2 acre ranch (its a start LOL) We happened into a farm feed store to get dog food and happened to see for the first time baby chickens. I opened the cage and took out two which were different from all the others, the wee birds snuggled up in our hands and fell asleep.

    Upon returning them to the cage the birds went crazy, they pecked at the cage followed us and chirped like crazy things. We were told that they were turkeys and upon the first handling they believed us to be their moms. I am not sure this was the truth, but it tugged on our heart strings. Yup we have turkeys. (good salesman)

    Being babies we were told to keep them inside, so we got a cage and they went into my daughters room. Yeah, she spoiled those little critters, but oddly they LOVED it. They wanted nothing more than close contact and loving interaction from us, and they got it. I never thought turkeys acted like this, they cried when put in the cage, they cuddled close all on their own. Being a city gal I thought only dogs and cats displayed the need for human love and interaction.

    They LOVE my daughter, cuddling her and curling up on her to sleep. They escape out of their cage to sneak inside our rooms and we wake with turkeys cuddled up to us. They make a coo sound in delight. Their intelligence fascinates me daily. I woke up one night with a warm snake like object across my neck, panic overcame my mind as we have poisons snakes all over the place, as I pondered my escape I heard a wee chirp, OMG I was being cuddled by the (which we know now is the tom) His wings in full spread, his head would rub against my neck and he would coo in delight.

    We know now they are BBB’s and its obvious we have a hen and a tom (tom is mine). They LOVE pets and tickles. They interact playfully with our cats and dogs, you should see how they all actually PLAY together. I have to laugh when I see a dog, cat and turkey all taking a drink from the same water bowl.

    By now you must all think I’m a nut case, heck I might think the same before becoming a turkey person. I just wanted to share the epiphany with others, seeing the way they seek out love and interaction just like our “domesticated” animals made me ponder the fact that we need to understand our connection to ALL life on this planet. I couldn’t kill anything that has love for a species that is so barbaric in nature. They show us perfect love and perfect trust, and what do we show them? Great I’ll probably end up becoming a vegetarian.

    As I read the holy words now, I’m beginning to understand things differently, were NOT suppose to destroy what GOD created, were to embrace his creations. To kill is wrong and the fact that we kill animals desensitizes us. I’m rethinking life as I believed it right now, maybe it was all in his plan, and it all started with two wee turkeys.

  3. we have 2 king Palm Turkeys, how old till you butcher? the people we got them from said better with age wait past 2 years but i have been reading they get realy tough

    • HI Heather,

      I raise them for customers and myself and only let them get to between 22-26 weeks old. I’ve never let a turkey get more than 6 months old but have butchered chickens older than 1-2 years and yes, they are tough! So, I would think the turkeys would follow suit. Having said that, when you hunt them in the wild, you never know the age of the animal and they are delicious. Of course, you have to be prepared to chew which, given the industrial processing of animals those who have become accustomed to those flaccid birds aren’t prepared for. If you want them for your freezer, then I suggest butchering them before 9 months of age.

      If you do let a couple get older, please come back and let me know how they turned out!

      Kristeva

  4. This is great. Makes me want to have some turkeys again!

  5. Terri Kolean

    Hi Kristeva,
    I found your website and info on butchering turkeys to be extremely helpful,especially the photo documentary. I recently butchered my 1st turkey and followed the info you had posted and thought it worked great. I do have a ? that I’m hoping you can help me with though, on another website they talked about not using the meat if any yellow fluid came out after making the cut close to the vent to open the bird up for cleaning out the intestines ect. because the bird might have been sick. Do you know this to be true?, I would be very disappointed if I had to throw out that 20 lb. bird, I tried finding info on this at my local library but was not sucessful,so anything you might know on this would be so appreciated.

    • Hello Terri,

      I have never heard such a thing. That said, I don’t claim to be an expert. However, Clarence (who taught me and has 80 yrs experience in farming) never warned me to look out for that. I was taught to look at the liver of animals and various other organs in general for the overall health of the animal. If the organs looked healthy and you raised it yourself, I wouldn’t worry too much. Having said that, I would suggest asking someone more experienced than me for the final word. If you haven’t already checked out Matron Of Husbandry wordpress blog, then I suggest you do. She is an amazing woman and a wealth of knowledge. You can find her sight in my blogroll. If you find out anything more, please pass the info on. Good luck!

      Kristeva

  6. I lov ur farm, the turkeys look wonderful and well fed, pls what do u feed them with?

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