Animals – Turkeys

November 24, 2010 – On the Dreadful Side of Miserable

31 degrees. 32 degrees. 33 degrees. Rain. Sleet. Ice Pellets. Thunder. 30 mph wind. Repeat. Today was an absolutely miserable day to butcher turkeys.

Ice covered everything – from the propane tank.

To the hog barn that caught the overspray from the plucker. Working with water on such a day leads to very difficult conditions. A couple of changes of clothes down to the undies. 13 turkeys and 8 chickens later, the job was done.

one year ago…”Lemons at High Hopes”

September 26, 2009 – Foraging Turkeys

It’s about time for a turkey update.  After the skunk in the brooder house, we were left with 12 turkeys.  One them had a badly damaged leg from the skunk and wasn’t moving around too well, so now that they are about big chicken size, we threw it in with the chicken butchering.

turkeys ofraging

The rest of them are happily about, foraging and being turkeys, starting to gobble and puff up at any hint of danger.  Back from my days at the county conservation board, I learned that turkeys don’t like owls, so if you make an owl hoot, the turkeys send out an alarm that spreads through the flock.

one year ago…”Stainless Steel Milk Cans”

July 21, 2009 – Turkeys Arrive

Today the turkeys arrived, just in time to mature by Thanksgiving.


Here’s a two-day old turkey poult (baby turkey). They’ll be inside and under a heat lamp until they are strong/big enough to survive outside.

baby turkeys

A group of poults gets used to their new home. We’re thinking of butchering our own poultry this year, after we try some chickens we’ll know if we want to attempt the turkeys!

one year ago…”Red Green Alive and Well at High Hopes”

November 25, 2008 – Waiting for Turkeys

I was up at 5 am to bring the turkeys to Milo, about 30 miles south of Des Moines.  It’s first-come first serve and my turkeys got in about 11:00.  Then it was about a three hour wait until they chilled in ice water so they could be transported.  After dropping some off in Ames, it was home about 6:30.  In the three hour wait, I visited a park close by the locker, Lake Ahquabi State Park.

There was a unique structure out at the end of a dock.

Inside the structure was an opening that went to the lake.  It was an indoor fishing shack.  Could be handy on a wet or hot day!

one year ago…”Last Lambs of the Season”.

November 24, 2008 – Loading Turkeys

Thanks to Martin, the turkeys look good and are ready to go.  The second day we had the turkeys, Martin sheepishly asked us if he could take care of the turkeys.  We anointed him primary turkey feeder and waterer.  About a week or so into the turkey care, we went to bed one night, but Martin had snuck a note on our pillow thanking us for letting him take care of the turkeys.  Evidently, it was important for him to have a significant chore, and so he did.

The turkeys will be fresh for Thanksgiving, heading to the locker tomorrow.

one year ago…”Change of Season”.

October 13, 2008 – Pastured Turkeys

Our pastured turkeys are now out living the good turkey life.  These are the regular old commercial turkeys but we’ve trained them some new tricks.

We move this old hay wagon around the pasture with their feeder connected to it.  If it’s not raining they roost on top of the wagon at night.  We’ve got some electric netting around their area to keep predators out.  They get water in a different place from a 55 gallon bucket that fills from the gutters off an old outbuilding.  We leave the door open in the brooding shed and they can seek shelter in there if the weather turns nasty (and they have).

one year ago…”Teotihuacán Ruins”.

August 9, 2008 – Poults Arrive

Our poults (baby turkeys) arrived this week.

Here they are in the brooding area. (Knock on wood) they’ve all survived the transport and first few days.  Martin has stepped up and has taken primary chore responsibility for the turkeys, so is the first one to feed and water them every day.  We have 16 this year.  Last year many died in transport, so this year is already better.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #83″

November 19, 2007 – The Turkeys

Success this year.  We raised 10 turkeys this year and all 10 are still alive. They are now living out in the pasture and use an old hay rack for shelter/roosting.  Even at 20+ pounds, they are still strong enough to fly up to the top rail of the hay rack. 

These turkeys seemed particularly happy – one morning we were late getting out to feed them and we were surprised they en masse found a way to get to the back door of the house to announce breakfast was late!

one year ago…

September 29, 2007 – More Folks Poking Around the Farm

Today we had some students from a livestock class tour the farm. It sounds like a fun class – the students tour dairy, elk, goat, and a wide range of common and uncommon livestock farms.

We fit into the small and diversified category. Here, I am getting ready to demonstrate how owl hoots get the turkeys to gobble and fluff up their feathers.

I still remember when I learned this trick from a turkey hunter when I had a summer job at the Story County Conservation Board. I didn’t believe “Joe” when he said, he could make wild turkeys gobble. So one day when we drove down a gravel road into a small timbered valley, he stopped the truck, stuck his head out the window and gave some owl hoots, and out of the woods, came the turkey alarms. I didn’t think there were any wild turkeys living there, let alone that he could get them to talk. It even works on domestic turkeys. I guess the owls are one of the turkey’s enemies and if they hear an owl, they set out the alarm.

one year ago…

September 17, 2007 – Turkey Roosting (hey, that’s only one vowel exchange from roasting!)

The turkeys have taken to roosting on the top of the back brace of the hay wagon. They crack me up. It’s actually a good place to roost, especially if your behind is over the back instead of over the wagon!

I wonder how long they’ll be able to fly up to roost as they get bigger? Nine are roosting up on top and one stays on the ground. I wonder if the ground-dweller is the mystic/philosopher of the flock or just the least intelligent one?

one year ago…

September 9, 2007 – File Under: It Works

Joel Salatin would be proud of this cheap and easy temporary turkey shelter.  The turkeys used to be in the “turkey tractor” (the moveable pen that is now upside down on the old hay wagon).  But they were getting too big, so I just put a tarp over part of the wagon for rain protection, put the tractor on top as a rain porch for the food, hung the waterer on and voila – a movable turkey resaurant, hotel, and umbrella.

I had thought of building a small shelter for the food and turkeys, but this was much quicker and probably better than a portable shelter that would be prone to blow-over and perhaps not as easy to move as this one, already on wheels.  The turkeys are all within a fence that keeps big critters like dogs and coyotes out, so they are free to roam a fairly wide range.

one year ago…

November 21, 2006 – Thanksgiving Turkey

Here’s one of our thanksgiving turkeys. Today was the day they went to the locker – so they are fresh for Thanksgiving.

It was a rough start to the turkey season – first 10 of 15 of the poults arrived dead from the hatchery this summer. As the replacements weren’t sent for a month, we were worried about the turkeys getting to size. Then a feral cat, ate some of the other turkeys out on the range. At $5 a poult, it adds up in a hurry. We ended up with 9.

The biggest two were about 26 lb and the rest were 12-16 lb, which wasn’t too bad. We kept two – one 16 lb for Thanksgiving and the biggest one Emma cut up and vacuum-packed for many meals. We traded a couple of turkeys for some berkshire pork from Eden Farms. We fried up some chops tonight and they were the best I’ve ever had – literally melt in your mouth chops.

one year ago…

September 4, 2005 – Turkey Update

It looks like the turkeys are once again reaching giant size. We’ve got some big Toms and they aren’t due to the locker until October 8th. A trick I learned when I was working with the Story County Conservation Board was to make an owl sound to get wild turkeys to call. Turkeys hate owls and sound the alarm.
We are growing the Bronze-breasted turkeys and I made an owl hoot and watched a Tom puff out his feathers and try to look menacing. The turkeys, I must admit, are a bit freaky looking, especially the waddle thingy that hangs down from their head. I’m sure there must be cultures who use this fleshy piece for things I would rather not imagine.
Tom’s big waddle.

July 1, 2005 – Sheep Finally Arrive

Today, we finally picked up our sheep. We got four from Goat Girls Farm near Runnells. Emma has promptly named all of them in the vacuum left by her sister’s absence. Without further ado, this year’s sheep crop!
They are still a bit shy, only on the ground in their new home a few minutes when this picture was taken.
Did you hear about the two shepherds leaning on their crooks at the end of a long day. The first one says to the second, “So, how’s it going?” The second one sighs and shakes his head, “Not good. I can’t pay my bills, my health isn’t good, and my oldest kid was thrown in jail last night.” The first shepherd replies, “Well, don’t lose any sheep over it.”
sheep We’ll have these until the grass dies in the late fall.
The turkeys are growing fast. Here are what our Bronze-Breasted look like today.

June 6, 2005 – Back Home

We drove home from Minneapolis yesterday and arrived home around 1:30. In contrast to the trip up, where Martin talked nearly non-stop. …right Dad? ….right, Dad? …right Dad? …right, Dad? He slept almost all the way home. I should hope that he keeps valuing my opinion as he ages! Today I got some of the thistles in the pasture mowed down, but that ended rather abruptly when the pulley came off the mower deck, along with some loose bearings. Not a good sign.

We moved some of the turkeys and chickens out to the chicken tractors. Right now they are close to the old hog barn, but will be moved out to fresh pasture daily.

Here are the handsome bronze-breasted turkeys.