Tag: turkeys

Turkeys in the rain

It’s the time of year where people on TV keep saying that turkeys are soooo stupid that you cannot leave them out in the rain because they’ll look up and drown. I cannot speak for the broad-breasted white franken-turkeys from massive turkey farms, but you know what you get if you put a black Spanish turkey out in the rain? A wet turkey!

In warm weather, they seem to like the rain. Our turkeys rarely run for shelter when it is raining.

Heritage Turkeys

In addition to growing open pollinated, heirloom vegetables — we’ve got a flock of heritage turkeys. These guys are Black Spanish turkeys. Unlike the broad-breasted turkeys raised commercially today, they walk around and do turkey things all day. They are all waiting by the gate as we walk over to the poultry pasture, and there are always a few turkeys following us around if we’re working in their area.

The two males we have from last year were amazing with the little poults this Spring. They’d take a share of poults and snuggle them at night to keep them warm. They’d march around them as the little ones pecked around during the day. Even now that the younger turkeys are almost fully grown, the older turkeys stand guard and make sure everyone gets access to food and water. Watching the adult turkeys with the younger ones has been right educational, and I am eager to hatch some of our own poults next year!

Duck and Turkey Milestones

We no longer have 22 tiny birds in the house! Stream (the new duckling) spent Monday night outside in the duck coop. We’ve been letting the little one out into the duck yard to hang out and get used to each other, but bringing it into the house at night. I got up at 6-something on Tuesday morning to make sure the little guy was OK and the ducks are now hanging out together in the yard. It was cold — mid 50’s — when I let them out of the coop this morning, and they all were napping next to the pond in the sunshine. The little one was sleeping right next to one of the big ducks.

Then, in the evening, we put the turkeys into the pasture with the big turkeys and chickens. They’ve been hanging out in the baby tractor next to the pasture, so everyone has had a chance to get used to each other. The little turkeys can fly really well — on Monday, Anya got sidetracked bringing the turkeys into the house. She left two thirds of the turkeys in the baby tractor with the zipper open! I noticed the chickens and turkeys were not in the coop, and I walked over to let them in. All of a sudden, this dark shadow comes flying at me … literally, it was a baby turkey who flew some twenty feet and cleared my shoulder. Since they were able to fly themselves out of the pasture, we trimmed feathers on their left wings. Now they look a little asymmetrical, but they mostly stay inside the pasture. Unfortunately, the mesh isn’t small enough and they can pop themselves out of the fencing.

The turkey farm where we picked up four turkeys last year — the owner said the male turkeys take turns sitting on the nest and taking care of the baby guys. I totally believe that after seeing how the big turkeys are with the little ones. They puff up and circle around the gaggle of baby turkeys. When the babies split out into multiple groups, the two big turkeys kind of round them up into two groups and each watch over his group. Anya says they even tuck the little ones around them to sleep.

Tiny Turkey Army, Take Two

The new turkeys arrived today — last year, USPS shipping was a horrible experience. This year, I called a few hatcheries to confirm they’ve been able to delivery healthy, happy poults. Meyers said they hadn’t had delivery problems, so we ordered 20 Black Spanish turkeys from them. They shipped yesterday, the shipping notice was delivered overnight, and the USPS clerk called at 6:30 this morning to let me know they arrived. Wow, was that early!

We got all the little ones into their brooder, fed, and watered (having more healthy birds seems to help because one little guy eats or drinks and a whole flock of little ones come over and copy it).

Incubating Eggs

We’re about to start incubating eight duck eggs, so I wanted to record the temperature and humidity settings that I’ve found for the chicken, duck, and turkey eggs (well, future turkey eggs! We managed to get five male turkeys last year)

Start End Temp Humidity
1 25 99.5 55-58%
26 28 98.5 65%
28 hatching 97 70-80%


Start End Temp Humidity
1 18 99.5-100.5 45-55%
19 Hatching 99.5 65-70%


Start End Temp Humidity
1 24 100 50-60%
25 Hatching 98 73-39%

Turkeys in the Coop

We have turkeys in the coop! Anya put the little guys in the coop by themselves, and then she brought our friendliest hens in (one at a time) and hung out in the coop as a referee. Then she brought the Bresse hens in without problem. And finally our least friendly older hens and then each of the roosters. Everyone was fine. And, when I opened the coop this morning, the little turkey guys were out on the floor with the chickens — eating their food and ready for a refill on their water.

Adventure Turkeys

We picked up four friends for TurkeyGuy on Sunday. I wasn’t going to chance shipping again. We considered getting some of the franken-turk broad-breast things from Meyers down in Polk — I really don’t want to create demand for animals that grow so quickly their bodies give out. And a big draw to raising our own animals is that the animals make more all on their own. Luckily, I found someone about an hour away from here that’s really into breed preservation (and heirloom vegetables too!). So we went on a second adventure over the weekend and picked up four more Spanish Black turkeys. We had a great time meeting the folks at Ohio Heritage Poultry — and got to see all sorts of heritage turkeys. One of the coolest things is that they’ve got a Spanish tom that will sit on the nest — both turkey parents take turns keeping the eggs safe and warm, so each one gets a chance to run around, eat, drink … I’m hoping this is an instinctual thing that carries on with our turkeys because that seems so much healthier than a single bird isolating herself and barely budging from the nest.

Anya fed and watered our new poults before we headed home. The new guys are a little older than TurkeyGuy — we put the new guys into the brooder and they were instant friends. TurkeyGuy wants to be big like them — he stands with the largest poult and stretches his neck out so they’re the same height. Today, Anya set the baby tractor in a shady spot outside and took all of the poults on their first outdoor adventure. They’re such chill critters — they wandered around, pecked at clover, scratched around in the dirt, and napped. It’s going to be colder for the next week … but they’ll be happy to get outside again next week.

Feeding Baby Turkeys

I figured out a good way to feed somewhat spry turkey poults — the really weak ones, we used a q-tip or pipette to feed … but the one that is walking around and doing turkey things. Well, some turkey things but not the ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’? I mixed the baby turkey chow (turkey & game bird starter) with some of the electrolyte water to make a mush. Then I put a little bit of the mush on my finger-tip. Spry baby turkeys love to peck at your fingertip. You can move your finger toward the bowl of mush, lower it into the mush, and get them to eat from the bowl. Even if they just eat the mush from your fingertip — they’re getting food and liquid.

Anya found another way to lure the turkey to its food — basically the cat / laser pointer game. We have a laser temperature gun, and she pointed the light onto the floor of the brooder. And moved the light as the little guy chased after it. When the light settles into the food or water, they’ll peck at it. You have to be careful not to get the laser light into its eye!

Turkey Hatchery

I’d spent a good bit of time, earlier this year, researching turkeys. I ultimately decided not to buy them this year — we were adding American Bresse chickens to our flock, and we are getting a few beehives. But we kept thinking about it — specially now that the Bresse are pretty much grown up. It was, however, too late to be ordering turkeys. They were all sold out! I managed to find one hatchery — Cackle — that had a “surplus” box of random heritage turkeys available. And hatching the very next day. We decided to order five, and the turkeys hatched basically the day we ordered them.

They shipped the little guys out the next day — and then we encountered the problem with sending live animals. The delivery was Friday. Then it was Saturday. Then it was Monday — that’s a long time for little guys to be trapped in a box! We rang up the USPS 800 number and our local post office this morning. The local post office offered to call us as soon as the truck got in — 4:30 AM — if we wanted. Better than waiting another four hours until they open. Luckily, the USPS folks in Akron were proactive about animal welfare and called me Saturday afternoon. He asked if we were expecting a shipment of live chicks. I said, “oh yeah; you’ve got our turkeys, turkey?” (because we all say turkey, turkey to each other all the time). He paused for a second to parse that out then said ‘yup’. He was concerned that the animals wouldn’t make it if they were sitting at his office for the rest of the day and all day Sunday. Did we want to come out there and pick them up? Yes! They’re even open 24/7. We wrapped up the work we were doing outside and drove right over. After I went into the distribution center and was directed to the chap who called, he called out “you here for your turkeys, turkey?” — always nice to come across goofy people.

Opening the box, we had two dead poults right off — one very dead, a second taking its last breaths. We got it a little liquid, but it was way too late. Between Saturday night and Sunday, most of the turkeys didn’t make it. We hand ‘fed’ them liquids to keep them hydrated, and we moved the less vigorous birds out of the brooder into a warm box so they wouldn’t get hurt by the ones that were walking around. The two slates and what I think was a Narragansett died too.

There’s a yellow poult that is still able to stand and open its eyes, but it’s quite weak. There’s a black one with a yellow head that’s doing well — it’s drinking on its own and venturing around the brooder pecking crumbles off the floor (and it’s found the food dish a few times too). I talked to the hatchery today because (1) the post office said that priority mail express is the only one with a guaranteed delivery time-frameĀ  and (2) there wasn’t any food in the box. Turns out there is a delivery guarantee for live animal express mail. So the post office did screw up (not that it helps). They also put cubes of gel nutrient stuff in the box because it’s consumed and doesn’t leave trash — there’s enough for the three days that it’s supposed to take to deliver your birds (also doesn’t help, but made me feel a lot better about doing business with the company). We also had a chat about expecting delays given the logistics changes at the post office — mail essentially gets put on the truck the day after it gets to each hop, and it takes a lot longer for delivery. If four or six day delivery is going to be the norm, they should be putting four or six days worth of food cubes into the box!