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Turkeys on the farm

Back in July, we placed our first order of birds from a breeder we found on Craigslist. Literally, days after moving in.  We also acquired a free rooster a few days after moving in to integrate with our flock we kept in the city, from Craigslist (we were extremely motivated to get our farm up and running, haha! ) We ordered more chicks (straight run Marans, which means whatever is picked is what we get, gender-wise.  I figured this would be a great way to get ready for raising meat birds next spring by butchering the extra roosters.  I did a little tiny bit of research into what breed of chicken we wanted and I went with Marans because they seemed to be a good multi-purpose bird), turkeys (bourbon reds – we wanted a heritage breed so they could breed on their own (commercially bred birds cannot naturally breed and are bred with artificial insemination) and my husband really, REALLY wanted a tom as a pet so I wanted a breed that would be able to live longer and had less chance of leg and heart issues.  This does mean they mature slower and it can take 9-18 months before you butcher them.  But a better quality of life and natural breeding ability to be worth it – and I am told their meat is superior to the turkeys found in the grocery store) and guineas (tick control, alarm system, and general entertainment).  35 more birds.  Thinking back, summer time is not my favorite time to brood chicks.  While we can put them outside quicker and use the heat lamp less, it also means we may not see them laying until spring now that winter has come and the days are shorter.  We do not use artificial light in our coop because we feel the winter is Gods natural break to keep our flock laying healthy through the rest of the year.  I’ve heard by not lighting the coop, it can extend the length of time they lay eggs during their life.  And, it’s a fire hazard.  So, we leave artificial light well enough alone aside from a light we only use when we are in there after dark.  We don’t heat the coop either – the flock is acclimated and ready for the cold.  Last year when the actual temps dropped below zero and windchills were -40 they did just fine.

Part of our bird order included 5 turkeys.  The breeder told us we most likely wouldn’t know male from female until they were nearly mature.  Apparently its impossible to sex them so early.  That was fine with us.  Well, we have finally reached the point where we can tell male from female.  This is what we saw:

Our turkeys are very friendly.  They come running when they see you walk outside.  They wait for you on your porch.  They even fly up on garbage cans to peer into your windows.  And your roof.  And they pose on top of your vehicle so you can take a picture and laugh about having ‘meals on wheels.’ I have to admit turkeys are fun to have.  And the expression on your kids face the first time they hear a turkey gobble is priceless.  I wish I could have photographed that moment!

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