October 9, 2010


It's hard to believe these are the same cute little fluff balls that fit in the palm of my hand when they arrived just 9 weeks ago. They grow so fast, in fact, we're trying to slow them down so they don't get too big. We love raising turkeys and suffer a little heartbreak each year as Thanksgiving nears. There is just no doubt in my mind that these guys and gals are living happy lives. They're so much fun to have around.

This turkey has a brilliant idea!

Check out the 2 turkeys in the background doing their wing stretch dance!

Now that we're at a new location, the turkey setup is a little different but we've got a pretty good system... for now, anyway. They roost and sleep in the greenhouse which we've turned into their 'home base' and in the morning they go outside. Lately Nate has been herding them out to a fresh patch of grass inside a ring of temporary fencing. The greenhouse floor is covered in wood chips which we get for free from the township. Each morning, after we move them outside, we rake up all of the manure from under the roosts and add it to the compost pile. This is going to be one valuable, fertile compost pile!

Turkeys have a really strong instinct to roost. This instinct is what keeps them safe at night in the wild while they sleep. Predators can't get to them if they're up off the ground. We feel it's important to allow our animals to express their natural instincts. We want them to express their full turkey-ness. So, Nate built them roosts.

What we've done the past 2 years is house turkeys in our movable field shelters. For starters, we have more birds than we've ever had before but more importantly, there are no roosts in the shelters. We had been fencing off the area around the greenhouse and letting them roam there but they went through all of that grass already. They go crazy for fresh grass and we don't want to deny them of that. That grass is what keeps them healthy and what makes them so healthy for us to eat. As a result of all that grass consumption, they are really high in omega-3's.

So, we've been trying to come up with solutions for how to best house them and give them fresh pasture daily. Basically, we're trying to keep Nate from having to do any more building this season. He's our fix-it/design-it/invent-it/build-it guy around the farm and the poor guy is all 'built' out. We'll do some planning over the winter and will think about building a bigger, better turkey shelter for next season.

So, Nate's spent some time practicing this herding thing and figuring out what sounds to make to keep the turkeys alert. Turkeys imprint so easily and follow us everywhere so he thought maybe he could take advantage of that. In fact, the reason they can't totally free range without any fencing is because they would just follow us home and poop all over the porch!

I was at work the other morning and got a call from Nate and it went something like this:

Me: "Hello?"
Nate: "I did it!!!"
Me: "You did what?"
Nate: "I herded the turkeys to new pasture!!!"
Me: "You herded them?"
Nate: "Yes!!!"
Me: "With fencing and help from everyone there?" (Mind you, there are 94 turkeys.)
Nate: "No, all by myself using 2 long bamboo rods!!!"
Me: "You mean they stayed with you and you got them where they needed to go with no one escaping?"
Nate: "Yes!!!"

Needless to say, he was pretty excited and I couldn't quite picture how he did it until I came home and it was time for him to herd them back home to roost. Oh my, what a sight.

Let's hope it continues to work. At least Nate and the turkeys are having fun!

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