Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Raising Turkeys: 2012
One important difference we noticed between turkeys and other critters is their friendliness. For some reason turkeys are a lot more friendly than all of the other critters we have raised. All the other critters would run away whistling or peeping in terror at the sight of the evil hand and required a lot of time to get used to my presence. Usually day old chicks, ducklings, goslings, etc. are too confused to be afraid so that is a good time to start bonding. Turkeys do not require much time, if any. This is not inherently good. If you intend to free range turkeys it is possible they will try to follow you everywhere. And by possible I mean extremely likely. When the turkeys were in their temporary enclosure they would follow us around as best as they could every time we walked by. We used to "free-free-range" the chickens and some ducks, which means they had complete freedom. Unfortunately, they would get into all kinds of mischief, so now they only "free-range" in an enclosure about the size of an acre. We intended to do the same with the turkeys, except their enclosure was smaller.
When we finally finished Fort Aqaba, we released the turkeys from their enclosure and actually just walked them over to their new home. It was like walking a dog, except we did not even need a leash; they just followed making only occasional stops to grab a bite to eat. Unfortunately, when we shut the gate of Fort Aqaba and walked away, the turkeys started crying. After a minute or so I thought they would not stop unless we did something. I was concerned that they would not eat or drink because they were so upset. I made a rickety scarecrow frame out of OSB and some other random filth I had on hand, and put some old clothes on it. I held the "calmturkey" in front of me as I walked towards the enclosure and quickly placed it inside. It seems to have worked since they quit crying so much. It is possible they would have stopped eventually, but I had no way of knowing for sure, especially since they were all piled on top of each other in the corner of the enclosure.
It is amusing when little turkeys in the brood box peck your hand, but when they get bigger you need to watch out as they can easily draw blood. Usually you will see a glint in the turkey's eyes before it strikes or you will notice a slight change in posture. This is not something they do out of malice. It is possibly just a pecking order issue or they simply see something interesting to peck at. Whenever I detected they were about to peck I would use my knee to push them back and I would do that as often as was necessary. Sometimes it would just be once, but it could take three or four times. The turkeys will make a noise that lets you know they find such behavior offensive, but it is better than being pecked. Turning your back is an open invitation to be pecked so never turn your back.
We did not place a lot of objects turkeys can perch on in the enclosure because we did not want the turkeys to get used to roosting outside. Sadly, after a certain point it was always a struggle to get the naughty birds to bed. I cannot imagine what it would have been like if they were "free-free-ranged". At this point we had already experienced the agony of herding filthy McMutants and wanted to avoid that with the turkeys. Herding turkeys is basically the same as herding every other critter--they will go in the exact opposite direction you go in. This means you will be flapping your arms and running around like a South African signer.
We never really found a good way to despatch the birds. First we tried to bleed one of the birds out but it was taking too long so we switched to decapitating them with an axe. We used feed bags to contain the birds and then I sat on them while Lostminds chopped them. Turkeys can get quite large and one of ours was nearly fifty pounds. They are also powerful, so if you are not sitting on them properly you will get bucked. Sitting on them is a bit like sitting on a rotortiller. On the day of doom we were actually able to walk some of the birds over to the execution site one at a time, but as you can imagine they became increasingly more hesitant.
We did two turkeys whole but had no way of scalding the birds because we did not have a large enough pot. We had to dry pluck the birds, but this was not really hard. The turkeys have tough skin and none of it broke while we plucked.