Preparing for Holiday Feasts
By Kimberley on Sep 26, 2008
Each year, there are a few things we say will not do again, since we had already done them, just for the experience.   You know.   Been there.   Done that.   Got the T-shirt.
Making our own maple syrup is one of those things.   A cool novel thing to try.   Hard work, but fun.   We have now done it 3 years running.
The other is raising our own turkeys for food.   It is work.   Not hard work, but still work.   And it is definitely not cost effective.
But at the beginning of July, we did it again.   We took ownership of some newborn turkey poults.   And with it, responsibity for the quality of their short scheduled lives.
Raising five poultry with the full intent of keeping them only for only five months and then serving them up with cranberry sauce may seem harsh and cruel to many.   In fact, I lean towards being one who would be a vegetarian if not for the fact that I really enjoy meat.   My problem is that I also like the animals.
Watching the turkeys grow is fun.   They can grow from mere ounces to 60 pounds in 6 months!   In fact, we buy our poults later than some people just so that we don't end up with oversized birds like we did our first year.   20 to 30 pounders is what we expect this year.
This year's group were born around the 4th of July.   At 5 weeks old, they were fluffy, relatively inquisitive (turkeys are not the brightest animals in the farmyard), friendly, and already about the size of our chickens.
Like their native cousins, the wild turkey, our turkey enjoy roosting.   Unlike wild turkeys, however, our turkeys can not fly.   They can walk and run well, but they just don't fly.   I suspect they are not lean enough, to put it politely!   So, when they roost, they do so on stonewalls, on water troughs, under the truck, under bushes, and on the lawn.
The critters are now approaching 3 months of age.   And it is becoming apparent we may have 3 Toms and 2 Hens.   Not an ideal situation at all.   The Toms will soon start arguing and sorting out their hierarchy.   It's not pretty.
This past weekend, we had a nice warm afternoon and an impressive sunset.   When I went looking to round up the turkeys to put them back into the barn, I found all five them basking in the last bits of sunshine.   They truly looked to be quite content, sharing the sunshine together peacefully.
When it comes time, we do not "do the deed" ourselves.   We use a local USDA inspected & approved operation for that.   We book a date, pack the critters into individual dog crates and drive them over on that morning, and pick them up later that evening.   It is fast, safe, clean, and less traumatic for us.   However, I always get sad and teary-eyed as they leave the farm.   And why not?   I raised them from babies, took them for walks, and tended to them everyday.
But, THAT day is still weeks away.
In the meantime, as we keep an eye on the calendar and await the first big holiday at which one of these fine creatures will be the main event, the turkeys continue enjoy to run free of the property all day long.
This includes wandering out into the pastures with the horses, some of whom herd them and chase them, others of whom will graze peacefully side by side with the white feathered birds.   (This photo is from a pasture webcam.)
Each night, the turkeys go back into the barn, into their own shavings-bedded stable, where they eat, sleep, drink, and roost, safe from the fishercats, coyotes, and foxes that would love to have their own Thanksgiving feast.
And, so it goes.   Another year raising turkeys.   Probably not our last.