Turkey day is right around the corner…
But don’t worry, these guys are safe. Duke and Earl will still gobble a hello to anyone who wants to visit. We have done a first though! We have tried “growing our own” this year. Don’t worry, no photos of the future holiday feast on the hoof, or of the “preparation”. It’s not that I am looking forward to this Saturday either. Life on what has become more of a real “farm” has been a pathway. Part of the journey has included the passing of almost 30 layer hens a few years ago.
We had acquired 30 polts (young hens) from a local feed store. We have since been warned that often the animals and feed that they sell are not in the best of health, or of even decent quality. The hens we got were about 2 months old and were infected with Merrics Disease. It is a virus that infects chicks when they are just a few days old. As they age, they will develop paralysis on one side of their body and usually end up getting trampled by their coop-mates or starve because they can’t get to food or water. It doesn’t affect older birds but once you have it on your property it takes a long time to die off. Long story short, as the birds do not ever recover once they start showing signs of the illness, our operating philosophy became “if they look sick, they get put down”. In an attempt to curb the spread of the disease and to save us the heartbreak of trying to nurse a dying bird along, it seemed like the kindest thing to do for everyone. So to boil it down, in the past 28 months, I have become very good at (read: detached, clinical, pragmatic) dispatching fowl.
Fast forward to this spring. They had Turkey polts at the Country Store (where we get 90% of our farming stuff now). We figured it would probably be more expensive to raise our own Thanksgiving bird. Adam also had to promise Joscelyn that she would not have to deal with them at all (“if I get attached they don’t get eaten!”). She did end up doing some of the daily feeding, and yes I think we probably have spend around $130 in feed on the four remaining birds. Part of the rational was that we wanted to see how much work it really was to get them from fluff to food. And it’s satisfying to know that they spent their days wandering around a 1/2 acre field, eating grass, bugs and such. No confinement, except for at night, to keep them safe. We even got a couple dozen eggs from the hens! (taste like chicken).
We started with six. One of them pulled up lame as they were getting bigger (happens with the meat breeds sometimes). The fifth is currently running around the local woods in a four legged rat trap. I came home from work two weeks ago to see a big pile of feathers on the wrong side of the fence on the north end of the field they have been getting raised in. These birds have a white man’s vertical. I have no idea how it got over the fence, but it did, and a coyote found it. Yum yum!
So the remaining four will be waddling around for only a few more days. I can’t say that I am going to be really sad to see them go. The poop like a large dog (no kidding!) and are about as smart as a bag of hammers. Duke and Earl will probably design a perpetual motion machine before these four learn to rub two brain cells together. It’s incredible how humans have engineered the brains right out of these things.
It’s all part of the grand experiment called life. I don’t know that we will try this again next year although with a little prep work, it could be quite easy to raise a few meat birds. Oh and for those of you who are wondering how the littlest farmer is handling the news that we will be eating one of the birds for Turkey day? For quite some time now, she has been referring to them collectively as “meat”. “honey what’s that turkey’s name?” “That one’s Duke, and that’s Earl, he’s kind of funny, and those over there, they are Meat.”
So here is a parting shot of Duke, with Earl in the foreground, trying to steal the show.