Turkeys in Tractors & Comfrey For Feed
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, this is my first year raising turkeys. I started with 12. Two have died of undetermined causes. Neither bird appeared unhealthy. The losses were disappointing but not unexpected. They say that turkeys will die for no apparent reason. I’ve read that a 15% loss when raising turkeys is to be expected.
I was speaking with a neighbor last evening who is also raising turkeys for the first time. He had borrowed my Whizbang Chicken Plucker to process a batch of chickens. He is an organic dairy farmer. He is one of those who have a strong organic conviction because it is the right thing to do, not just because it has become more economically profitable in recent years. He told me he had some turkey losses too and started putting minced garlic in the bird’s water. There were no more problems after that. He also told me he uses things like garlic, cayenne pepper, castor oil, Echinacea and other herbs to heal his cows and boost their immune systems. I like to hear things like that, especially from a neighbor.
This neighbor is keeping his turkeys fenced inside a length of electric poultry netting from Premier. He moves the netting and birds to fresh pasture as needed. But he doesn’t have a charger to electrify the net. He said he couldn’t afford it. He uses the net only for containment of the birds and tethers his dog by the pen to deter predators.
I came very close to buying some of that same fencing this year, and a solar charger to keep it “hot” but I held off. It was going to cost several hundred dollars and I have read that keeping an adequate electric charge can be a bother.
So I opted to keep it simple. I put my ten turkeys in two old chicken tractors and I move them to a fresh patch of field twice a day. The turkeys are doing well. They are awesome grazers—far better grazers than chickens.
And I continue to be amazed at how much my turkeys like comfrey. I bring it to them in bunches and hang it for them to pick (as shown in the photo below). They will ignore their grain feed to eat the comfrey greens. I did a little research and found that comfrey is very high in protein. Fact is, it has almost the same protein content as soybeans!
I have four bush-like plantings of comfrey that I planted back in 1998. The rootstock was given to us by our homesteading friends and country neighbors Kathy and Jack who were part of a local Y2k “support group” we got involved with. It was Kathy and Jack who introduced me to the idea of growing garlic for its health benefits. And Kathy gave a soapmaking demonstration to our group, which eventually led to my wife, Marlene, starting her own handcrafted soap business. A lot of the things that are a big part of our way of life now began back when we were getting ready for Y2k. But I digress…
Until this year, have seldom used Kathy & Jack’s gift of comfrey. I’ve tried feeding it to chickens in the past but they are not as fond of it as the turkeys. But now, this year I wish I had more comfrey because I’ve fed most all of it to the turkeys, and they would be eating a whole lot more if I had it.
Comfrey is easy to grow. It grows like a weed. But it doesn’t spread like a weed. It doesn’t appear to be bothered by disease or bugs. My comfrey planting thrives in an area that gets only partial sun. As the cost of poultry feed costs go up, alternatives like comfrey have a lot more appeal. And there are more reasons besides turkey feed to have a LOT of comfrey growing on your homestead.
To learn more about comfrey, I encourage you to read this article by Nancy Bubel.
Every day when I feed and water my turkeys, I tarry to watch them. They are amazing, fun creatures. And as I see them growing bigger and fatter on grain and greens in the fresh air, I can’t help but think how nice it’s going to be to have one of them for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s the way it is when you raise animals for your own food. You look at the animal and see it on the table, feeding your family.
P.S. If you have not yet read my other poultry-related essays, I invite you to do so. Here are the links...
Backyard Poultry Processing With My 11-year-Old Son
My Whizbang Plucker Story
Frequently Asked Questions About The Whizbang Plucker
Introducing My Deluxe Homemade Chicken Scalder
Talkin’ Bout My Chicken Tractors
FREE Chicken Feed
How To Butcher A Chicken
The Next Best Thing To A Whizbang Chicken Plucker
My Chicken Plucker Parts Business
The Best Place to Buy Plucker Fingers
Posted by Herrick Kimball