Lessons learned from my first season of turkey-raising

 

Most of the blogs I read are homesteading or microfarming sites and for the past month have all had scant posts mainly consisting of “Haaaalp, there are not enough hours in the day!”  Which I can relate to.  I simply cannot get it all done between dawn and dark, no matter how hard I work. On the bright side, my chronic insomnia is at an all time low due to overwhelming exhaustion by the time I collapse into bed.

 

It’s just been one problem after another. Something ate all the blueberries; gotta net the plants.  Something is eating all the blackberries, gotta make a tree-limb-n-twine-lashing fence around them. Something died out in the woods and the dogs keep dragging home greasy bones, a pelvis here, a femur there; gotta find whatever it is and bury it.  Why are the huckleberries dying?  Not enough nitrogen says the internet; time to pee in a bucket, mix in a gallon of pond water, and use it to fertilize them (studies reliably show that human urine, which contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, is an excellent replacement for chemical fertilizers, and provided you aren’t sick, it’s pretty much sterile, though you might not want to use it when the plant is actively giving fruit that you are harvesting).

And on and on.  So much work, so little yield yet.  Do you realize those wild-eyed preppers are right, we’ll all die if the electric grid goes down because none of us knows how to produce our own food successfully?  I never really believed it until this summer when I’ve worked so damn hard just to keep everything from out-and-out dying, let alone yielding anything edible.

 

But let’s talk about those turkeys.

 

We started out at the end of April with two adorable Broad-Breasted Whites and two Broad-Breasted Bronzes.  We thought we’d process them at five months, right around the beginning of October, but they just grew so incredibly fast.  Earlier this month one of the bronzes went lame…

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so we took it to Munsell’s Poultry Processing; he dressed out at just shy of 15 pounds and into the freezer he went.  Bronzes have dark spots on their flesh and don’t look as lovely when roasted whole…

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Note the dark spots on his flesh

…so I was really looking forward to seeing how the Whites turned out.

 

Several days ago I loaded up the three remaining mondo-ginormous turkeys and hauled them to Munsell’s…

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…but when I went to pick them up, the girl told me that the USDA inspector had condemned two of my birds after they were opened up due to septicemia.  One white was deemed acceptable:

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I was so shocked I could hardly speak. I keep a very clean coop if I do say so myself, frequently cleaning feeders and waterers with disinfectant and letting the birds out to free range all day.  How could my birds not be healthy?  They’d looked and acted just fine.

 

The ladies who slaughtered them came out to chat with me and said it just happens sometimes. One of them told me she raises turkeys herself and sometimes the inspector condemns them.  They told me they process around 500 head of fowl per day and on average the inspector condemns about 20 birds.

 

Still, I fretted about it all evening and tried to find information online about how to prevent this from happening again, but I could not find much information aimed at the small-time backyard turkey producer. What I found was publications generated by the poultry industry, which I started to read with interest.  Last year, around 1% of turkeys were condemned after slaughter, which is significantly better than my 50% condemned rate, though it’s not really comparable since I had only four birds. But guess who has much higher rates of condemned birds?  Antibiotic-free producers!   Ahhh, that makes a lot of sense…my birds had septicemia, which is usually caused by E.Coli infection, and guess what we never, ever give any of our poultry?  Antibiotics.

 

So I’ve learned some things for next time.  To summarize:

 

  • Broad-Breasted turkeys, which are the industry standard, are specifically bred for extremely rapid growth with an excellent feed-to-meat conversion ratio.  This rapid growth stresses the birds, however, which means…

 

  • They are prone to infection.  If they are given antibiotics regularly, losses will be lessened, but…

 

  • If you are committed to raising them antibiotic-free, expect to lose significantly more birds, either due to mortality or due to being condemned at the time of slaughter.  Make sure to buy twice as many poults as you want finished turkeys.

 

So next year, maybe we’ll try a slower-growing heritage breed of turkey.  They take longer to reach a decent dressing-out weight and the feed conversion is a lot less efficient (which I don’t care about, since we only raise a few birds and we free-range them for part of their feed). We are leaning toward raising either Midget Whites, which are reported to taste very good and be easy to raise…

…or Bourbon Reds, which dress out rather larger:

In case you are planning to raise turkeys, here are the sources of information I found helpful regarding septicemia (be aware that these publications are produced by the poultry industry and have a pro-antibiotic slant to them):

Specialists explore new options for managing flock health while defending judicious antibiotic use

Antibiotic-free poultry production: Is it sustainable?

Even though we only ended up with two out of the four turkeys in the freezer, it was a good learning experience for our first attempt.  I’ll leave you with a few other tips I learned:

  1. Turkeys are friendly toward humans but somewhat aggressive toward each other and other varieties of birds.  Use Blue Kote to deal with pecking injuries. Given them half a head of cabbage suspended on a rope in the brooder so they have something to peck at while they’re little so they don’t get in the habit of pecking one another.
  2. Turkeys and chickens cannot be raised together due to the risk of the turkeys contracting Histomonas meleagridis from the chickens, which causes Blackhead disease.
  3. You MUST feed the turkeys separately if you are raising them in the same area as other poultry such as ducks and geese.  Turkeys are total pigs and will eat all their own food and then go eat the other birds’ food.  The Broad-Breasteds (BBs) will overeat if given free access to all the feed they want; we allowed ours to overeat and gain weight too quickly.  Here is a feeding chart (assuming free ranging in between feeding times):

4.Turkeys are excellent free-rangers and want to be out and about all day from an early age.  Plan for this.

5. It can be hard to find feed for turkeys. You need to start them out on 26-28% protein; we found a game bird feed that worked for this.  You can lower the protein to 20-24% later and then finish them out on 16% to get a nice layer of fat on them before slaughter.  Withhold food for at least 15 hours before slaughter so that the crop and intestines will be mostly empty.

6. They need a much larger coop than you think if you are raising BBs.  Our coop quickly grew too crowded.

7. Unbelievably, they seem to like to get in water.  Maybe ours were just imitating the ducks and geese, but they would actually get in the pond to cool off on hot days.  One saw my husband on the other side of the pond and swam all the way across to him! I wish we’d gotten a picture of that absurd sight.  Anyway, if you don’t have a pond, your jakes and jennies (but NOT poults) might appreciate access to a kiddie pool full of fresh water when it’s hot out.

Two Muslim men in France reportedly murder Catholic priest. Motive is no doubt unclear.

Since the American main stream media seems to be under-reporting this rather significant news story out of France this morning, I think bloggers should pick up the slack:

Two knife-wielding attackers who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest and critically wounded at least one other person during a Tuesday morning terror attack on a Catholic church near the Normandy city of Rouen, officials said.

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Feminism claims another poor girl’s life.

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Feminism has been a mixed bag for economically privileged women, but it has been a straight up disaster for poor women.   However, feminism is simply a tool that has been used by a global elite to line their own pockets via usurious “fiat dollars” that banks are allowed to create out of thin air and lend out to us.  How to get us to borrow, spend, borrow, borrow, and spend some more?  Destroy marriage and childbearing, and women will seek to fill the hole that remains with stuff, career, travel, and a vapid Sex-in-the-City lifestyle.

The destruction of traditional culture goes hand-in-hand with the destruction of the family unit.  The progressive globalists pulling feminism’s strings don’t really give a shit about women.  If they did, they wouldn’t have been egging this poor stupid Pakistani girl on, knowing what her eventual fate would be:

What is the real story here? CNN wants to spin an epic tale of an average woman standing up to patriarchal oppressors against all odds. CNN wants to turn her into a martyr and a heroine. But she is neither of those things, and CNN’s tale is false on its face.

The real story is a sordid one. It is a story of a number of news organizations and NGOs following Anglo-Saxon ideologies of feminism and progressivism, funded and directed from abroad, working on a long-term project to undercut traditional Pakistani society and remake it in the images of Harvard and Oxford Utopia. It is a story of a lower-class Pakistani woman without a husband who got sucked into the pointless spiral of selfies, clicks, and likes that is Western social media, and was then selected and fueled down that path by those same news organizations and NGOs in order to further their political goals.

When she met her inevitable fate in Muslim Punjab, they eulogized her and blamed the patriarchy. And yet, before Qandeel Baloch was having phone calls with journalists at major left-of-center newspapers, she was not likely fearing for her life, nor twerking half-naked for millions to watch on YouTube. Qandeel Baloch was not empowered, she was a political pawn for organizations that did not care whether she lived or died.

Notice that none of the female journalists encouraging her to pose half-nude on the internet were themselves doing anything so pointlessly stupid.  They were happy to whisper lies about empowerment in the girl’s ear, telling her she was strong and independent when in reality she was just reveling in the attention, as most girls would.  Did they care that she would be almost certainly be killed?  Apparently not.  Her death has been ever so useful for their narrative and the news organizations’ site traffic though.  She served her purpose for them, poor stupid girl, and she won’t be the last.

Feminism is the lie that progressive globalists feed gullible girls to celebrate their own debasement and destruction.

Marilyn Monroe in my jacuzzi tub

If it’s not one thing…image

…it’s a freakin’ ‘nother.image

Do you ever stop and ask yourself, “Is my life normal?”  I wondered that today as I was feeding mealworms and frozen corn to a female Rouen duck named (but not by me) Marilyn Monroe, who currently resides in a dog crate in the master bathroom.  When she’s not paddling ’round the jacuzzi tub with her one good leg, that is.

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“How are we going to sleep with all that quacking?” Phil asks me. I dunno, drink ’til we pass out maybe?

But we can’t do that.

Because Marilyn Monroe needs her syringe full of pain meds, that’s why, and I’m starting to get just a teensy bit jealous of the jacuzzi-n-drugs lifestyle the poultry around here lead while Phil and I sweat in the blazing sun working on fences to keep the wild animals from eating the domestic animals and the domestic animals from eating every last berry, vegetable, and herb on the property.

All I can say is these duck eggs, when they start laying in a couple of months, better be the BEST darn eggs we’ve ever tasted to make up for all the hassle these critters cause.

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The real Marilyn Monroe in someone else’s bathtub, quite possibly awaiting her own syringe full of pain meds

Pastor Eggerichs asks an important question

Pastor Eggerichs wonders: Do Wives Live by a Double Standard, and Is That Okay Because They Are Vulnerable Victims?

Pastor recounts the following email from a husband:

Recently, a husband e-mailed me: “My wife relishes the fact that she is a ‘strong independent woman.’ We are a blended family and I love my wife dearly. . . . We joined our lives in 2013 and combined accounts and everything else. I took care of the bills (to her request) and did a fine job.

(However) I questioned her on an issue dealing with her teenage son about the timing of getting his braces. This among some issues of the blending of the family drove her to separate out our accounts. It is a year later and she has no intention of joining our accounts. She keeps claiming that I do not like that she is fully “independent.” She also does not like telling me where she is going, does not want me to be a ‘step-dad’ to the kids (as they already have a dad they see every other weekend).

I am very hurt by this as it is again a separation move by her. It is not about the money to me. I am the majority earner in our family. To me, it’s about trust, becoming one with another person. When I married my wife I wanted the two to become one. That is not to say for her or I to lose our individuality but the two shall become one. Right now there is no way to plan for retirement together or plan for the future. We can’t even pay bills effectively as she pays some bills and I have to ask daily what she has paid. She is very happy with her taking care of her kids and me taking care of mine. This drives me insane. I hate the way she has forced us to live.”

Thankfully, Dr. Eggerichs has begun to notice the unbiblical attitudes that have oozed into Christian marriage. He asks:

Does a wife have a right to be independent like this? Let me answer that with a question: Does a husband have a right to be independent like this?

What would you think if the wife complained, “We can’t even pay bills effectively as he pays some bills and I have to ask daily what he has paid”?

What would you feel if the husband decided to separate the accounts when questioned by his wife, declared that he needed to be appreciated as fully independent, expressed that he did not like being asked where he was going, and asked his wife to stop being a step-mom to his kids?

Many gals would feel disgust about this mistreatment of a wife. They would label this husband as abusive. But how many would label a wife as abusive for doing such things?

Few.

We need more pastors asking these kinds of questions. Desperately. Let us all be in prayer that the Lord will have mercy on us for turning away from His perfect marriage model outlined in the Bible and send us leaders who will be unashamed of His Word.

Dealing with an injured goose bill

We like to let the geese free range around the fruit trees because they eat bugs and graze on weeds, but our gander, Uncle Waldo, just loves to eat the bark off our orchard saplings.   Since this kills the trees, we put some chicken wire around the saplings. This turned out to be a mistake which we have since rectified; however, we didn’t fix it before Uncle Waldo stuffed his big bill through the chickenwire in an attempt to get at that tempting bark, freaked out when he got stuck, and yanked his head up and back:

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Geese’s bills are actually rather soft and the chickenwire sliced right to the bone:

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Off to Dexter Animal Clinic we went, with Uncle Waldo in a dog crate honking dejectedly for his mate, Abigail, who was running about the yard in a tizzy, calling for Waldo, while the quacking ducks ran along behind her.

Protip: a wire dog crate is NOT the ideal way to transport a goose, as they spray poo out of their vent like a fire hose when they are scared.  Luckily we had put a plastic tarp around him.

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We weren’t sure if the vets would be familiar with treating geese, but Dr. Anna, a charming young British veterinarian, put us at ease right away with the knowledgeable way she handled Uncle Waldo.  This clearly wasn’t her first goose rodeo.

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She had Phil hold him in a towel to prevent poo spraying:

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And then proceeded to clean his bill thoroughly with a cotton ball and iodine, soothing our worried nerves by distracting us with commentary about the kind of “gayce” they have in England:

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She used a cotton swab to clean inside the sliced portion of his beak while chatting with him softly in her charming English accent, “Alright then, old man, here we go…”

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She showed us that the slice had gone down to the bone but wasn’t as bad as other damaged bills she’s seen.  She trimmed away the dead tissue with a little scalpel and then used surgical glue to fix him up:

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Uncle Waldo is about nine weeks old and weights 9.1 pounds:image

An injection of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain reliever was next; good old Uncle Waldo was such a trooper!

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Dr. Anna said the bill will not regrow but that granulation tissue will form and fill in pretty well around the injury.  Until then, Uncle Waldo must remain quarantined in the duck yard, which means the whole flock must remain there as they won’t willingly leave Uncle Waldo.

We had hoped to enter Uncle Waldo and Abigail in the Chelsea Community Fair; we thought they were a shoo-in for a ribbon given how rare Pilgrim geese are (the Livestock Conservancy lists them as critically endangered).  Alas, his days as a show goose are over before they began:

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However, he’ll still make excellent breeding stock.  We plan to breed and sell Pilgrim geese so as to do our part in saving the breed from extinction.

Uncle Waldo has a ten-day course of oral antibiotics now.  Dr. Anna explained to us how to crush the pill, dissolve it in warm water, and inject the antibiotic solution down his throat with a syringe; a goose’s windpipe is right at the back of their tongue in the center, so to give an oral medication, you must open their bill and insert the syringe down the side of their mouth a few inches into the esophagus.  I haven’t been able to get any pictures of us doing this yet, but I will try to and will add them when I can.

After we got home and Uncle Waldo had reunited with the frantic Abigail and resumed his place as Head of the Flock, I treated everyone to a big bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe, which I dumped into their little swimming pool for them to enjoy rooting out:

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It was a harrowing day but all in all Uncle Waldo is one lucky gander!

Subverting the headship of other women’s husbands

Several blogs I read have lately had posts on female Christian bloggers essentially meddling in other people’s marriages by advising what the wives ought to do or what the husbands ought to do about this or that situation. The gist of those posts has been that it is not the place of the female blogger to advise what other people’s husbands ought to be doing to lead their families.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of those posts. I have read a handful of Christian female bloggers over the years, and I haven’t seen too many situations – actually I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head – where the woman was writing anything that fit the description of trying to lead someone else’s marriage. I mean, there is a difference between explaining what the Bible says about the marital hierarchy to other women and actually advising a man how to lead his family or telling a woman what following her husband’s leadership specifically should look like beyond asking him what to do.  I almost wondered if they were perhaps making a mountain out of a mole hill.

But I just read a post that exactly fits the description of a female Christian blogger inadvertently subverting the headship of another woman’s husband and accidentally sowing discontent and strife in their marriage.

In response to a female reader who wrote her an email asking if the grief she is feeling about wanting more children when her husband says no more is normal, the Thinking Housewife (Mrs. Wood) writes:

You are meant to be a mother. You are meant to say yes.

You and your husband are complicating this issue. Stop trying to make decisions that you are not meant to make […]

Please remind your husband that it is not his obligation to provide a college education to his children or anything else but basics. It is his obligation, however, to have as many children as possible. Try to explain this patiently to him. In 30 or 40 years, when he is old and weak, he will not say, “Why did I have so many children? Gee, I wish they would stop visiting me and taking care of me.” When we meet a person and marvel at his individuality or good qualities, does it ever occur to us to think, “Oh, well thank God, his parents wanted him?” No, we know that whether that person was wanted prior to his conception doesn’t much matter.

For the rest of your marriage, let God decide how many children you will have. Anything else is sinful. Put away the contraception for good. If either of you doesn’t want more children or is afraid of having more, then turn to God.

This is not helpful advice; the woman already knows she wants more children and doesn’t need persuading.  In a general conversation, one that isn’t offering specific advice to a specific woman and her husband, it certainly would be reasonable for Mrs. Wood to discuss what the Bible says about children and what the purpose of marriage is and to review what church teaching says about contraception.   But in this case, what she has inadvertently done is completely subvert the husband in her reader’s marriage. She has taken on the role of leading her female reader,  but that is not her proper role at all.

Perhaps the woman’s husband is in sin in the area of contraception, but the correct response to this woman’s email would have been to tell her that feeling grief about being denied children is a normal response and then offering to pray for her to find peace in God. She might also have advised the woman to go to God in prayer about the situation but to commit to obeying her husband. Certainly the woman in question should feel free to talk with her husband about why she desires more children, but in the end she has to abide by her husband’s decision, not by Mrs. Wood’s.

My post shouldn’t be read as me “calling out” Mrs Wood; she probably didn’t mean to do any harm.  Nevertheless, she has set herself up as the authority over her reader’s husband’s decisions and has reduced the likelihood that the female reader will be able to contentedly follow his leadership even in an area where she may disagree with him and feel real sorrow at his decision.  This is something we (all women) must guard against accidentally doing.