A home-grown turkey for Christmas dinner was part of our vision when we started on the turkey raising journey.
I was so excited to raise two turkeys – one for Thanksgiving dinner and one for Christmas dinner. It all seemed nostalgic to me. I envisioned a male and female, happily living at LL Farm. In the end, they would be my bragging rights at the holiday table.
The idyllic vision that I had in my head slowly turned into one trial after another. Ahem…Did someone say homesteading was easy?
The journey began in April (read about it here) when we pre-ordered one day old turkeys (a male and a female for companionship) from a hatchery. They died within 24 hours!
Determined to embark on this adventure of raising turkeys, we didn’t give up. We searched high and low to find two more turkeys. We ended up driving 2 hours to a feed store that had two turkeys left. They weren’t sexed, but thought to be a male and female.
Mr. and Mrs. Turkey quickly outgrew the brooder that we had set up in the basement. We moved them into the garage until the weather steadily stayed warm enough for them to safely live outside.
Handy Hubby built them a coop and we fenced in a corner of our pasture for them to live safely in. (You can read about it here.) Their life set before them was to be carefree. My vision was panning out! Mr. and Mrs. Turkey were flourishing. We enjoyed watching them go about their days – scratching at the ground or relaxing under the shade of a pine tree, they were always together…they were a happy couple. We were often entertained by their whistle (not quite a gobble). To watch a 30 second video of them and hear their whistles, click here.
I enjoyed showing them off to friends and family. Both adults and kids were in awe of them, especially when Mr. would fluff his feathers and start strutting around. I was thankful that I could use the turkeys as a teaching lesson – explaining the cycle of life, expressing how important it is to know where your food comes from, all the while appreciating Mr. and Mrs. Turkey and what they added to LL Farm.
They devoured the meat bird food that I fed them. That stuff cost a pretty penny and that’s really all they liked to eat; they didn’t eat as much kitchen scraps as the chickens. But, I figured it would be worth it in the end to eat my own farm raised turkeys.
BAM! The ideal vision started going down hill…fast! Mrs. Turkey died and Mr. Turkey went crazy. Feeding and watering him daily became a battle, not a welcome chore as it once was. He flogged at me on more than one occasion, making me a little scared of him. Most days I entered his area with some sort of protection: usually a broom or bucket lid. I felt safer having some sort of defense weapon. Thankfully, I only had to warn him with it, never did it get physically violent. Read more about Mr. Turkey’s grief and anger here. You will also read about an unlikely, but welcome friend that helped him through it all – a cow.
The day came, and I think it is safe to say that we were all ready for it. My parents came over to help and we ended up with a 26 pound turkey in the freezer.
On Christmas eve, we put that humongous turkey in the oven to bake ‘low and slow’. The taste was definitely different from the store-bought turkeys that we are accustomed to. After all, it was pasture raised, compared to some poultry farms where the poor things don’t see sunlight or get to roam in the grass.
So, to sum up our turkey raising experience:
Would I consider it a failure? No, not completely – we did raise a turkey and it did make it to our Christmas dinner table. We’ll call this is a ‘learn as you go’ lesson.
Do I think it was financially the way to go? No – Wow, that turkey ate a lot!
Will I do it again? I’m not going to shout NO, but I can say that I don’t plan on raising turkeys any time soon.
Well, like I said, he was 26 pounds! I’ll be busy creating some leftover meals using turkey for the next couple days. To see what I share, visit my blog.