One Man's Ruminations About Faith, Family, and Livin' The Good Life
"If a community, or a section, or a race, or an age, is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation, it must find a way to throw it off. To think that this cannot be done is pusillanimous. And if the whole community, section, race, or age thinks it cannot be done, then... it has doomed itself to impotence." —Twelve Southerners
Getting Started With Turkeys
We bought twelve, day-old turkeys back in May. They are five weeks old. We are raising them for meat. We have raised chickens for meat for several years, but not turkeys. So this is something new for us.
One turkey will go to our good neighbor who lets us use some of his land (at no charge) for our agrarian pursuits. We may barter one or two birds with friends who raise beef. We’ve done this, pound for pound, with our chickens in the past. We hope to have land to raise a beef or two someday. But we’re doing what we can with what little we have now.
I’ve heard that turkeys are harder to raise than chickens because they are more stupid. Being more stupid than a chicken is really stupid. Now, I’ll bet there are people out there who love chickens and will assert that chickens are actually very intelligent animals. Well, I happen to enjoy and appreciate chickens myself, but I maintain that they are still stupid. Or, to put it more nicely, how about this: they are “brain deficient.” It’s a proven fact that chickens don’t have a brain in their head.
As evidence of this fact, I present the famous Wyandotte rooster, Mike, of Fruita, Colorado.If you haven’t yet heard the story of Mike the headless chicken, prepare to be amazed.
Back in 1945, Mike’s owner, a farmer named Lloyd Olsen, decided to make a meal of Mike. He chopped his head off in the back yard. The bird didn’t die. It walked around like it still had a head. What would you do if you had a headless chicken strutting around your barnyard?
Yes, Mr. Olsen took the bird on tour. He charged people a quarter to see his famous chicken. He made a lot of money off that bird. Mike even made it into Life magazine. He lived for 18 months without his head before accidentally dying in a hotel room in Phoenix. You can learn more about Mike the headless chicken here.
Anyway, I can tell you that young turkeys have a different “personality” than young chickens. For one thing, they are more curious, and stupid. Did I mention that turkeys are stupid?
The top edge of the cart is about 29” off the ground (or, in this instance, the floor of my shop). The turkey chicks were about 5” high at the time. So they were jumping over the edge and falling a distance six time their height. That’s the equivalent of you or me jumping off a three-story building. Of course, turkeys have wings and we don’t. But at a week old, their wings don’t work very well. They do not land very gracefully. The point is, it’s a stupid thing to do, especially more than once. Somehow, though, they survived.
After a week, I moved the ugly little darlings to a larger enclosure with taller sides inside my shop. We fed them turkey chick starter and made sure they had clean water at all times. In addition to that, we made a point, right from the start, of feeding them comfrey leaves. I was surprised that, at two days old, they eagerly took to the green leaves (I’ll admit, this was an indication of some intelligence on their part).
At first, we cut the leaves into little slivers with scissors. As the birds have grown, I’ve cut the leaves larger. Now that they are out in a chicken tractor, I take whole stalks of comfrey and start at the stalk end cutting chunks off with pruning shears. I switch to scissors when I get to the leafy top. I do this comfrey feeding twice a day and the turkeys swarm over the forage like feathered pigs, gobbling it all down.
And speaking of pigs, we adopted a pig-raising technique from Northern Farmer, Tom Scepaniak. In his Plain Talk interview with Rick Saenz. Tom tells how he introduces soil to newborn piglets in the barn. They can smell it, play with it, and even eat it.
With that thought in mind, I used a shovel to chop out a circle of sod, with long grass and weeds on the top, and I put it in the brooder with the turkeys. They were too yound and weak to peck and eat the greens but they had a lot of fun trying. Every day, I put in a fresh piece of sod and it was a big attraction to the little critters.
When the time came to put them out on “pasture” (otherwise known as our lawn, as seen in the beginning photo) the turkeys were no stranger to the greens and have become good grass eaters.
I’m not an expert on raising turkeys but I’m learning. And, so far, I’m doing pretty good at it. All twelve turkeys are healthy and growing. I really do think comfrey leaves and sod have contributed significantly to this success. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you get some turkey chicks.
P.S. If you have not yet read my other poultry-related essays, I invite you to do so. Here are the links...
I've been blogging here about Faith, Family & Livin' The Good Life since 2005. Browse down this column and you will discover a rich resource of contra-industrial thought, down-to-earth inspiration & useful how-to information.
As of May 2013 I have ceased the regular once-a-month "blogazine" format and gone back to sporadic posting. Please sign up above to receive an e-mail notice when I post an essay to this blog.
CLICK HEREto view the archive of links to past Deliberate Agrarian monthly "blogazines."
Whizbang Gardening is Coming Soon!
Click the book's cover to learn more
Have You Been To Planet Whizbang?
It's my deliberate agrarian home business. Click the beet and check it out.
My New York Times Op-Ed Article
The Jeffersonian Solution (click the man and read the article)
This Man, Now Deceased, Predicted The Economic Decline of America Back in The 1950's.
Click the picture to read about Professor Walter Prescott Webb's Boom Hypothesis of Modern History, and where we are headed from here
Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense...
I posted this to the internet in early 2008. It is still the most practical advice you'll get for dealing with the harsh economic realities that we face now and will face even more in the years ahead. (click the picture to read the essay)
What Would an Agrarian Monetary System Look Like?
Well, for one thing, it would NOT be based on paper money. Click Andy Jackson for some details.
Thomas Jefferson's Warnings About Government Debt (Then and Now)
Read it and weep (click the president)
How Farmers Became Slaves To The Corporate Masters
Click on the mostly forgotton 1937 book by Professor Walter Prescott Webb and learn the sad story
Delmar Ain't So Stupid...
Click on Delmar and read why I think he's the smartest of the three characters in the "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" movie
It's my new blog. Click the picture and stop on by!
The Deliberate Agrarian Book
(click picture for details)
Have You Seen The Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe I Invented?
Click The Picture For Details about the hoe and the inexpensive wheel hoe kits I sell
A Christian-Agrarian perspective (click the picture to read the essay)
I Invite You To Read My Online Gardening Essays
Click on that beautiful handful of sifted compost.
Have You Seen Leo Sprauer's Handcrafted Hop Hoe?
Click the picture to learn more.
A Missive On The Prosperity-Driven Life
"The desire to be rich, to have an abundance of possessions and money, is the keystone of our modern, neo-Babylonian culture." (click the picture for my perspective)
Prosperity Gospel/ Prosperity Idolatry
Click the picture to hear John Piper's powerful 2.5 minute condemnation of the modern prosperity gospel
Have You Read Roe?
E.P. Roe, that is. Click on his picture to read some excerpts from this remarkable Christian-agrarian author of the 1800s.
Deliberate Agrarian Archives (From Before The New Monthly Format)