The turkeys are here! The turkeys are here! I didn’t realize how much I missed having turkeys on the farm. They were born two weeks ago and arrived the following day. Honestly, they are dumb as rocks, but so incredibly social and curious that I adore them.
The process of raising turkeys is a wonderful experience. They are quite delicate for the first several weeks so great care has to be shown. It is not uncommon to lose many, if not all, of them in the first few weeks. Poults (baby turkeys) are susceptible to many diseases, and since we do not administer any medications or antibiotics here on the farm, we have to be deliberate in our attention to them. We always feed them first as there are illnesses chickens can pass to them during those first few crucial weeks. If we work with the chickens at all during the day, we wash our hands thoroughly before tending to the poults. Once they are big enough to leave the barn brooder and live outdoors, we must be careful to keep them off of pasture areas where we have raised chickens because illnesses can live in the soil for up to three years; a challenge for sure!
Despite the worry about survival, I absolutely love these creatures. I could sit and watch them for hours. Yes they are dumb. How dumb you ask? Turkeys have been known to drown in the rain because they don’t have sense enough to put their heads down. They might be really stupid, but they mask it well with their expressive personalities. They are eager to make friends and will bond with almost everyone and everything. They will attempt to be BFF’s with everything from the glass water dispenser to the cardboard bumpers in the corner of their brooder (bumpers must be in place so they don’t suffocate in the corner…….swear to God :)).
Turkeys calm quickly when we enter their area and never shy away from human interaction. They will investigate every inch of me by pecking at anything that catches their eye: buttons, rings, shoelaces, cell phones, kneecaps :-) As they grow, I have to make sure to dress carefully or I turn into their human playground and these birds get BIG, like about 40 pounds big by the time we butcher. Honestly, they grow so big and have such a commanding presence that the pasture takes on a Jurassic Park look.
One of my favorite parts of the day is the A.M. feeding. Even though these guys are only a couple of weeks old, the males have already started their morning “strut”. They lower their wings, stand tall while puffing up their chest and display their tail features like a fan. Then they strut veeeeery slowly in front of the females. “hey sugar, see anything you like?” By the time they are full grown the males will do this in a choreographed routine, standing in a perfect line while strutting in unison. Hysterical.
But hands down, what I enjoy most is knowing that these turkeys will be raised properly. They will receive tender loving care and a healthy diet and environment. They will roam freely their entire lives while enjoying fresh air and sunshine. When the day comes to be processed their sacrifice will not go unnoticed. At Happy Earth Farm we take a moment to quietly thank them for the bounty they will provide to tens of families. They will be what brings loved ones together as they share a perfect meal and laughter while creating treasured holiday memories. And for that I am thankful.