Sunday, 26 July 2015

Turkeys - For life or just for Christmas?

June and July are the months for hatching turkey chicks and after mulling over the idea of raising turkeys for some time I finally took the plunge this summer with 6 beautiful Norfolk Bronze poults. Armed with with a pet carrier lined with clean straw, a flask of boiling water and a small hot waterbottle I set off to collect my new additions from a North Yorkshire breeder. The chicks, who seemed to appreciate the hot water bottle beneath the straw, spent their journey home scratting and pecking and chirping happily.

. Once home I placed them in the brooder under the electric hen as I do with my incubated hens and waited for them to venture out and explore their new surroundings. Turkeys I discovered are quite different from chickens however, and they seemed to be drugged by the heat. After lifting each drowsy little chick out in turn and offering them food and water only to find them returning to toast themselves unconscious on the hot little turkey heap, I decided to dispense with the electric hen in favor of a heat lamp. This seemed to work and gradually they began to come to life and more importantly to eat and drink.

Turkeys are much more prone to illness and infection in their early development than chickens so cleaning the brooder is a daily task along with regularly freshening water and clearing the droppings from their food. As their immune system takes longer to develop than chickens, I am not able to get them out and about in the sunshine as I might have liked. I hate to keep animals confined even if it is for their own good so I have added a few features to their environment to encourage their inquisitive natures and stimulate natural behaviors.

A short narrow branch has been secured to make a natural perch which the older of the chicks have made the most of and a tray of sand has formed a dust bath. A budgie mirror on a chain glints and glistens as it moves which catches their eager eyes and receives an inquisitive peck or two. 

This morning I lined their brooder with the pages of the Smallholder magazine which caused quite a stir. They were particularly taken with a picture of a vintage tractor ( red of course!) and got very exited about a full page advert for miniature donkeys (yellow). I tried to explain that the term "miniature" was applied rather loosely and that the photos were not life size but the whole experience proved too much for their tiny turkey brains and they suddenly had to retreat to the corner of the brooder for a nap.

While they were snoozing I pinned up a large picture of a Turkey from the cover of the Smallholder magazine in order to help them stay focused on their goal ( to become lovely big turkeys) I also covered the donkey advert with straw just to avoid confusing them again.

They are a fascinating little bunch and very sweet. I look forward to seeing them grow up and mature into beautiful friendly birds who can lead a happy free range life and keep me supplied with eggs and meat for years to come. But if they all turn into bolshie stags........well I suppose there's always the roasting tin........,      .

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