Saturday, December 5, 2015

Turkeys Part One: Raising Our Own Birds

It has been such a long time since I posted.  My life has been a little crazy lately, and I never really felt like I had anything worthwhile to say here.  I did miss it though and have felt guilty for letting everything keep me from posting.  I am going to try to get back on the wagon and post more.  

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  Ours was spent out of town with family, and we enjoyed every minute of it.  When we got back in town, we decided to cook up one of our turkey breasts from the turkeys we raised this year.  We had not tried any of the meat and really wanted leftovers for turkey sandwiches which is something you really don't get when you go out of town for the holiday.  

Before I tell you about the turkey and how it tasted, let me give you a little information about these birds.  I know I have mentioned here that we were raising turkeys, but I never really went into detail.  

On April 2 we purchased four Broad-breasted Bronze turkeys.  They were a day old at that point.  We raised them inside in a brooder just as we do our chicks.  The turkey poults grew very quickly, much quicker than the chickens we got around the same time.  It turned out that out of the four, there were two females and two males.  Within a month or so they had outgrown the brooder.  My husband then built a turkey tractor to house them.  These are pictures of the tractor in progress.  It is made of lumber, cattle panels covered with smaller welded wire, and metal and plastic ties.  We covered it with a tarp to keep out the rain, hung the food and water, and made a roost for the turkeys to sleep on.  The turkeys then moved outside to their new home.  

We locked the turkeys in at night for protection, but during the day they had access to a large grassy area that was fenced with a large portable poultry fence.  They were moved around regularly to give them fresh grass.    Occasionally they did get out of the fence, but they were easy enough to manage and were, for the most part, very easy to care for.  My husband did have to go out each evening and shoo them into the tractor because they always hunkered down under the tree instead.  

They ate specialized poultry feed for turkeys and game birds, bugs and grass, and vegetable/fruit scraps.  You do have to be careful with turkeys because they will eat anything put in front of them and aren't the smartest animals.  They were always very fascinated by the yellow caution sign attached to the poultry fence.  

They were also very entertaining. The hens were extremely curious, pecking at you if you got close enough and getting right in the way of the camera.  The toms, on the other hand, were much more skeptical and puffed up immediately as soon as anyone came near.  They never became aggressive though, which I had been a little worried about early on.  

We raised them this way for approximately 24 weeks.  Everything we had read suggested that was a good amount of time, allowing the turkeys to grow to a reasonable size.  We scheduled to have them processed at Foothills Pilot Plant (a North Carolina plant specializing in humane small flock processing for farmers in the state).  We chose to let the plant process the turkeys because we had never processed turkeys before and were not confident we could deal with such large birds.  Turns out that was a pretty smart decision (more on that later).  

In the early morning hours, my husband loaded the four birds into crates on the back of the truck and hauled them a little over an hour to the plant.  That's where our lessons in raising turkeys really began...  





  1. It has been such a long time since I posted. 121 days by my news reader stats...but who's counting? So glad you're back and hope everything is OK w/ you. I go through my reader subscriptions now 'n then and delete blogs and websites that have quit posting, but always kept yours b/c even if you never posted again, there's a wealth of information in the back posts.

    Anyway...welcome back!

  2. Thanks Mike! It's good to know people like you read and find the blog useful. 121 days is too long, and I hope to stay much more current from now on. I am glad you held onto the link. :)