2020 Turkeys

December 3, 2020

This is our fourth year of raising turkeys. Due to a cancelled butcher date our first year, this is also the fourth year of butchering turkeys on the farm. Customers drive to the farm and pick up their fresh turkey, works pretty slick.

Butchering turkeys is not my favorite job, but our closest poultry processor is about an hour and a half away, and that would require two trips, one for the live birds, and one to pick up processed birds, so more than 6 hours, plus customers would still have to get their turkeys somehow.

Turkey butchering day starts with early chores and starting by 8:30 am processing, done by noon, and then customers start rolling in. I don’t set an end time, but thankfully all the customers arrive before my bedtime.

The weather was miserable for turkey day this year with a snowstorm the night before, meaning I had to move snow in the early am, followed by snow and rain all day. But we had a great crew of friends to help butcher and a steady stream of customers all afternoon. The weather wasn’t able to dampen my spirits.

Giving Thanks for Turkeys

November 30, 2017

The turkey adventure is almost over, (we have a few frozen ones left).  I’m calling it a success, because we are getting great feedback from our customers, and we received an education.  Turkey-directed learning is underrated!

About six weeks before our processing date at Twin Cities Pack,I decided to call and make sure everything was lined up.  The owner said no, someone called and cancelled our appointment.  I was able to reschedule for the week before Thanksgiving, but this meant that the turkeys would be frozen.   

I was in shock, because I knew that many of our customers expected a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, and may cancel if we no longer offered that option.  I was depressed for about a half hour, but then I realized that we could still offer fresh turkeys if we processed on-farm, and customers traveled to the farm to pick one up.

I checked with an Amish neighbor who had the necessary poultry processing equipment, and yes we would be able to rent it from him and he would also provide his expertise.  The last poultry I butchered myself was about 20 years ago as a character-building exercise.

So we offered two options: a frozen turkey from a state-inspected facility, or drive to the farm for a home-butchered fresh turkey.  A few people cancelled, but most stayed with each option split about equally.

I took some of the turkeys to Twin Pack and then picked up the birds the next day and delivered to a central point.  It went fine.

Then the Monday before Thanksgiving dawned, and I did my chores quickly and went and picked up Benny, my Amish neighbor, and his poultry processing equipment.  We used a propane tank to heat the water for the scalder.  The plucker ran off of hydraulics.  I used one of my tractors to run that, but had to change one of the ends of the hydraulic lines, no problem.

We set up and began with me doing the killing and scalding, Braden plucking, my Dad and my Uncle Carl doing quality control, and Benny gutting.  Braden also learned how to gut as he took a real interest in the whole process.

I’m not going to kid you, it was gruesome.  A few customers came before I had a chance to clean up.  I’m amazed they didn’t jump in their cars and drive away as I looked like something out of a horror movie, with blood spattering my face and glasses.

But after I had a chance to clean up I felt better and actually enjoyed the rest of the day as I had a chance to visit with many of our customers and even gave short tours to some of them.  It was a great way to end our turkey project, and reminded me why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.


September 2, 2017

Baby Turkeys!  Other than watching a chicken raise a wild turkey, this is my first experience with turkeys.  They seem to be more curious than chickens, even coming towards me and out the door of the brooder house.

I drove to Abendroth’s Hatchery, near Waterloo Wisconsin, to pick up the poults on Tuesday.  They were very lively, peeping nonstop in my car until I was nearly crazy.

I was told by the owner of Abendroth’s that turkey poults need it very warm, 95-100 F.  If its not warm enough, turkey poults don’t huddle up like chicks, but don’t eat, and start dying by about day three.

I put a third heat lamp and 250 watt bulb in my brooder house and only lost one poult the second day.  By day ten I had made a pen and was turning them out in the yard.  And by day seventeen I had moved them to an old cattle trailer without heat, which I plan to move around the farm to give them fresh paddocks to graze.

My secret weapon, which you may not be able to see unless you click and enlarge the photo is the raccoon fence I put around everything to keep all the critters at a respectful distance.  I have a tighter mesh metal fence inside that to keep the turkeys in.

I have no protection for aerial predators, and have noticed more birds of prey flying around, but don’t believe I’ve lost any to predation.  My partners were having trouble in previous years with owls taking chicks at night, so I’ve been locking the poults in the trailer at night.

One night an owl woke me up hooting in the tree which is only a few feet outside my window.  So they are around.  One morning several years ago I was out early before sunrise and a Great Horned Owl scared the shit out of me as it coasted above my head landing in the same tree.

If you are in the area and would like to visit, let me know.  We are farrowing and calving right now.  The turkeys are a fun addition and won’t be little for long.