This Fowl Friday, we have something new to share. Last week we were half crazed moving our chickens around the property. The hens moved out to their new coop in the gardens, and the chicks finally took up residence in the main coop. There was a reason why all that happened by last Friday. It turns out we’re not done with baby poultry here.
Meet one of the new brood!
For the past few weeks we’ve been chatting with a friend who hatched more baby turkeys this year than expected. The idea was thrown around about adding a few turkeys to our farm, and last Saturday we decided to bring four turkey poults here to Curbstone Valley.
These turkeys were hatched April 10th, and are just now 6 weeks old. These are not purebred birds, although their parents were. The lighter reddish toned birds are Bourbon Red crossed with Royal Palm. The brown birds are Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze crosses. We won’t be sure for a couple of weeks what we have in the way of males versus females…although we have our suspicions.
Choosing to raise turkeys was not something we rushed into though. We’ve thought about this seriously for the past few weeks. We already have a lot of projects going on here, and wanted to be sure we could meet the turkeys needs here. We’d need to build secure housing, at least while they’re small, as we currently have nesting hawks and owls on the property, and this will take time away from the 101 other chores we need to take care of.
Turkeys primarily are raised either as meat birds, or occasionally as backyard pets. Although they can lay eggs for a few months in spring, they are not nearly as prolific egg layers as chickens, and so not typically kept for egg production. If we decided to get turkeys, what would we do with them?
We decided to give raising turkeys a try, but know that it’s not for everyone, and yes, one of them at least is destined for the table. We realize that may ruffle a few feathers, but for us we recognize that every year, millions of turkeys are raised commercially, and distributed across the United States for the holiday table. Most of us don’t look beyond the sanitary wrapping and sell-by dates. If we’d buy a turkey, then why not raise our own?
The more we have been producing our own food, and supporting local farmers by shopping for our food locally, the more we question where all of our food comes from. We don’t eat much meat by choice, however, the meat we do eat we now prefer to only source from local farms, that humanely raise their livestock. Yes the meat is more expensive, but with good reason and worth the difference in price for improved flavor, and the knowledge that the animals were raised with care and compassion.
Without getting too graphic, or political, the conditions under which the majority of commercial turkeys are raised, and the conditions the humans that work with them have to endure, are enough to make most of us want to skip straight to dessert on Thanksgiving.
However, it wasn’t all that long ago, that the responsibility of raising our food was our own, and what we didn’t grow ourselves, was grown by our neighbors. Over the last Century or so we’ve all become very removed from our sources of food, as that food has become more convenient and readily available. As gardeners, we appreciate the care and effort required to raise our salads, or tomatoes or fresh fruits. But what about the rest of our diet?
I’ll be honest, I do admit to stuttering a little in making our decision to raise turkeys, and not leaping at the idea, but I also recognize that I live in a part of the world where raising my own food is a choice, rather than a necessity.
So here it is, our great experiment. One certainly cannot be more locavore than raising one’s own Thanksgiving dinner. The reality is, if I’m going to look forward to a holiday meal, knowing that our Turkey had a good life, was raised with care, with a wonderful diet, out in the sunshine and green grass, means it will be one of the few on any Thanksgiving table that can claim that.
It won’t be easy…it’s not meant to be, nor should it be. The problem is, at this age, they’re rather inquisitive, and adorable.