Tag Archives: Turkey

Time-Traveling Turkeys

Free Birds

In the States, Thanksgiving is practically synonymous with turkey. Any mention of the holiday automatically conjures images of a big, juicy, oven-roasted bird, and vice versa. Even vegetarians aren’t immune to the association — plenty of them nod to tradition with products like Tofurkey.

But as pleasant as it is for us humans to gorge ourselves on tryptophan-laced poultry, you can’t blame turkeys for wishing they could remove themselves from the menu. In Relativity’s Free Birds, two of them finally get the chance to do just that. Reggie (Owen Wilson) and Jake (Woody Harrelson) find a time machine to take them back to the very first Thanksgiving, where they attempt to save their kind once and for all.  To watch the first trailer, press HERE.

Raising Turkeys from Poults

If you’re starting your turkey flock with day-old poults, you are probably wondering how to make sure they grow into healthy, happy adult turkeys. With some preparation and care, your baby turkeys will thrive.

Set Everything Up

Just like for baby chicks, you’ll need to set up a brooder for your turkey poults. A turkey poult brooder is just the same as one for baby chickens, so you can use these resources to design your brooder. The key is to have everything set up and warmed to 95 to 98 degrees before your poults arrive. Also similar to baby chicks, the poults will huddle under the lap if they’re too cold, or stay at the edges of the heat source if they’re too hot. So while a thermometer can be a helpful guide to temperature, especially before the poults arrive, use their behavior as your guide.

You will raise the heat lamp a few inches each week (and roughly 5 degrees lower) until the temperature is the same as the outdoors or the poults are 6 weeks old. You’ll also want to have feeders and waterers filled and placed properly. You don’t want them right under the lamp, but you also don’t want them too far from the center. Place them so that the poults can get to them easily without getting either chilled or overheated. Hanging feeders can prevent poults from standing – and pooping – in the feed or knocking it over.

Use pine shavings – never cedar – for the bottom of the brooder. Once poults are three weeks old, some farmers like to use clean sand. It can be cleaned just like cat litter and keeps the brooder dry.

Finally, make sure you have their roosts and pen ready for them to move to after they outgrow the need for the heat lamp and are ready to move to pasture.

As Soon As They Get Home

Once your poults arrive home from the feed store or from the post office, inspect each one as you remove it from the transport box. Dip its beak in water as soon as you put them into the brooder, so they learn where the water is and how to drink. Remember that especially for shipped poults, they will be stressed from the transport process. Make sure they eat and drink well for the first two weeks.

Preventing Problems

Turkey poults are particularly prone to “starving out,” which means that some poults will get pushed away from the feeder or hang back, and will actually starve to death despite food being available. Keep a close eye on poults while they’re feeding to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Overcrowding can also contribute to starving out, so make sure you have plenty of room for your poults. You’ll want at least a 10×10 space for a dozen day-old poults, and as they get bigger they will need more room.

Add a Roost

By three weeks of age, you can add a roost to your brooder. Teaching turkeys to roost early helps when they’re eventually moved to roosts later. Plus, they will sleep warmer and more comfortably.

Feed Them Properly

There are many different feeds for poultry. Medicated, nonmedicated, starter, grower – what to pick? Turkeys need high protein, more so than chickens. A gamebird or poultry starter that has around 28 percent protein works for the first 12 weeks. Medicated or not is your choice; many small growers like to use nonmedicated feed. After 12 weeks, the feed can be lowered to 20 percent, but any lower and your turkeys won’t grow as big as they could.

Move Them Outside

As your poults grow, you will need to make the brooder bigger so they aren’t crowded. As mentioned above, each week you will raise the lamp and lower the temperature about five degrees. Or, you could switch to lower-wattage bulbs as they grow. Much like vegetables, you will need to “harden off” your turkey poults by gradually exposing them to outside temperatures. By three weeks, they can have access to an enclosed “sun porch” on nice days – but keep them inside on rainy or cold days.

Make sure they are fully feathered and at least eight weeks old before moving poults to their new outdoor housing. You can give them access to outdoors but still provide the lamp at night for a week or two, and then finally move them to their new, grown-up turkey roosts and pen. Check on them nightly for a few days after the transition. Make sure they don’t get damp or chilled.

Domesticated and Grazed Turkeys

Our friend, P. Allen Smith, discusses the majesty of the wild turkey, spends a little time with grazed turkeys and discusses how turkeys are raised and domesticated in today’s world.

If there was a symbol of Thanksgiving it would have to be one of these. But this is no ordinary turkey. In fact, this one is really pretty lucky since it’s not on someone’s dinner table and it has been raised in a very unique way.

This bird and all of his friends are being grown not the conventional way in large houses, but with a more old fashioned approach, they are all field grazed. Grazing them on pastures like this is a spin on the free range idea except this goes one step further. It sort of serves as a mobile corral that protects the birds and keeps them under control, but also allows them to feed on fresh green grass daily.

Moving them is simple. This entire coup can be rolled forward by a single person. It’s made of light weight materials and it has wheels at the rear.

An added benefit to this controlled grazing is the poultry litter. You see, it’s loaded with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, all the things that make our garden grow. And it can turn this pasture green seemingly overnight.

But too much of anything can be a problem. How the poultry industry disposes of its waste has become a major issue in many states. With this method the waste doesn’t concentrate in one area building up in the soil or water so it doesn’t pose a problem to the environment.

This isn’t a new concept, it’s the way turkeys were raised in the 1930’s and 40’s and just as it did then, today it allows a small farmer to raise a crop in a sustainable way.

Keeping Poultry – A review of some books, manuals and guides

After wading through many books on keeping chickens and other poultry, I wanted to share with you a few of the books that have been on my kitchen table for the last few years.  I like the books to be clear, concise and if possible, entertaining!  Oh and good, clear photography is always a winner too!

Chicken Haynes

The pitch:

This book, the latest innovative “Haynes Manual“, will provide a complete and easy-to-understand reference for the growing band of people wishing to keep their own chickens for both food and pleasure. Pitched at the novice but also containing plenty to interest the experienced chicken-keeper, the book will contain no-nonsense advice, tips, facts and step-by step sequences, as well as plenty of relevant photographs and diagrams. As more people keep chickens nowadays than at any time since the Second World War, this book is a timely addition to the “Haynes” range.

Our thoughts:

This is a great book for anyone thinking about, or already owning chickens. It’s packed with great pictures of everything you need to know about, from things like scaly leg and red mite for the novice to keeping and showing for the more experienced keepers.  There are clear and concise sections on diet, care, housing, breeding and illness along with many more sections on how to care for your chickens.  It can sometimes feel as if the book is geared more towards the keeper who has a large number of hens, and not so much your back garden keeper. However, the detail is very good without being over complicated. There are also list of daily, weekly, monthly checklists as well as a chicken calendar giving you a month by month account of what to expect!

Chickens an essential guideThe pitch:

In Chickens, poultry breeder Suzie Baldwin offers a practical guide to everything both the beginner and more experienced hen owner needs to know, from whether to buy chicks or hens, what varieties to chose, how to tell if you’re buying a healthy chicken and how to ensure it stays that way, to how many chickens you should keep, and what kind of coop is best. She also answers all the questions commonly posed by first-time owners, from whether you need to have a cockerel, whether chickens ever fly away and how quickly they will start laying, to how to prevent them being attacked by foxes and what to do when they become unwell.

Our thoughts:

This is a great book for anyone thinking of raising chickens, as it will take you gently by the hand and tell you everything you need to know to start you adventure in raising chickens.  Packed with beautiful photos and easy to understand text, it would prove an invaluable resource you will turn to again and again.  It covers everything from setting up your garden to what to do when they are ill and things to consider when going on holiday. The authors personal stories are a lovely addition as they really explain her points well and make you realise that she really does know what she is talking about.

DummiesThe pitch:

Practical how–to advice for keeping chickens   “For me, raising chickens, for eggs and meat, has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of our family farm. I am a great admirer of “chicken whisperer” Pammy Riggs, and with her two co–authors she has produced an admirably thorough guide to enjoying the pleasures and avoiding the pitfalls of keeping chickens. Get the book, and take the feathery plunge!” – Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall    Keeping Chickens For Dummies provides you with an introduction to all aspects of keeping chickens, from constructing a hutch to the correct feeding regime. It offers expert advice straight from the River Cottage ‘Chicken Whisperer′, so whether you′re looking to raise chickens for eggs, meat, or just the entertainment value and fun –  Keeping Chickens For Dummies is the perfect place to start. Keeping Chickens For Dummies: Shows you how to keep chickens in different conditions Offers guidance on choosing and purchasing chickens Gives great step–by–step advice on constructing the right housing Provides expert advice on how to feed and care for your chickens.

Our thoughts:

This is an excellent, comprehensive and very readable book. It is clearly laid out and very accessible. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone starting to keep chickens and will help you avoid any of the pit falls that it’s easy to stumble into when first starting out.  It’s also packed with enough insightful information to be a valuable bible for the seasoned pro!  Beware though, that there are US and UK editions, each specific to chicken keeping in that country!  Let this guide by your chicken bible.  From the basics of chicken keeping, egg laying, housing, skin issues, to housing an all round great guide.

Practical guideThe pitch:

This comprehensive and practical guide provides all the information that you need in order to start keeping poultry. A buyer’s guide shows you what features to look for in healthy poultry as well as the best sources from which to buy them. Essential information is provided on feeding, hygiene, treating ailments, and good poultry husbandry. The second half of the book is a beautifully illustrated guide to poultry breeds. It is divided into sections covering foundation breeds and man made breeds with each subdivided according to type of poultry. A final chapter looks at popular goose, duck and turkey breeds. If you are interested in keeping a few hens in the back garden, selling eggs for profit, breeding birds for sale or exhibiting pure breeds, this authoritative guide, written by a leading expert and international poultry judge, is the perfect book for you.

Our thoughts:

We love this book, because it gives a great overview of keeping different varieties of poultry, not just chickens!   It’s a bit like having an expert standing next to you all the time, offering tips and reassurance.  But beware, because it’s covering so many different varieties of poultry, it doesn’t go into as much detail about specific breeds.  If you want that kind of information, you’d be best to go for a species specific book

A turkey called Cranberry

Meet Cranberry the turkey, saved from the Christmas dinner table, who now thinks she’s a dog. She loves going for walks, lives in a kennel and even ‘barks’.

Jerry and Dawn Watkins adopted the bird after she was found wandering around a car park, and the couple were left bemused when the bird took an instant liking to their pet Labradors, Teal and Widgeon — and then started showing dog-like traits.

Mr Watkins, 55, the National Director for Equine Welfare at HorseWorld in Bristol, said: ‘We got a call from a member of the public after they had seen her on the loose.

Jerry and Dawn Watkins with Cranberry their pet Labradors. The bird has her own kennel right next door to the dogs' day kennel but can often be found relaxing in the house

Jerry and Dawn Watkins with Cranberry their pet Labradors. The bird has her own kennel right next door to the dogs’ day kennel but can often be found relaxing in the house

Cranberry the turkey with Teal and Widgeon. Though Labradors are bred to hunt game birds, the eight-year-old bird is the leader of the pack among her canine friends

Cranberry the turkey with Teal and Widgeon. Though Labradors are bred to hunt game birds, the eight-year-old bird is the leader of the pack among her canine friends

The couple adopted Cranberry after she was found wandering around a car park

The couple adopted Cranberry after she was found wandering around a car park

‘People in the local area often report animals they’ve found to the centre.  They know we have a lot of different species — not just horses and donkeys.

‘Dawn and I live on site and often take in waifs and strays. She’s a very friendly and affectionate bird. We were very careful about introducing her to the dogs, but Cranberry seemed unconcerned.

‘The dogs were intrigued and just wanted to sniff her.’

Bizarrely, Labradors are bred to hunt game birds but in fact, the eight-year-old bird is the leader of the pack among her canine friends.

Mr Watkins said: ‘She’s the head honcho. She will pinch the dog’s feed but they would never dream of trying to get it back from her.

‘She’s now got her own dog bowl for her corn and occasional dog biscuits to stop her stealing food from the dogs. Every morning, we let them out and the dogs follow her around.

Mr Watkins said they picked up the bird after a member of the public called to say they had seen her on the loose

Mr Watkins said they picked up the bird after a member of the public called to say they had seen her on the loose

Jerry and Dawn Watkins, left, often take in stray animals and people in the local area call their equine centre to report any animals they’ve found.

Mr Watkins said Cranberry has now got her own dog bowl for her corn and occasional dog biscuits to stop her stealing food from the dogs

Mr Watkins said Cranberry has now got her own dog bowl for her corn and occasional dog biscuits to stop her stealing food from the dogs

Mr Watkins, 55, the National Director for Equine Welfare at HorseWorld in Bristol, said Cranberry is a very friendly and affectionate bird.

Mr Watkins, 55, the National Director for Equine Welfare at HorseWorld in Bristol, said Cranberry is a very friendly and affectionate bird

‘Once animals get to know each other, they understand their body language and behaviour so it doesn’t really surprise me. The only thing she won’t do is fetch. She picks things up but just eats them.

‘We won’t be having turkey this year. We’re having beef instead.’

Cranberry has her own kennel right next door to the dogs’ day kennel but can often be found relaxing in the house.

Mr Watkins said: ‘She loves being stroked. If you stroke her, she will go into a relaxed state. She will hunker down. It’s quite charming.

‘Like most dogs, she has her favourite. It’s Dawn. She feeds her more than I do.’

Mr Watkins said: ‘She loves being stroked. If you stroke her, she will go into a relaxed state. She will hunker down. It’s quite charming’

Mr Watkins said: 'She loves being stroked. If you stroke her, she will go into a relaxed state. She will hunker down. It's quite charming'

Cranberry with Dawn and Gerry Watkins and Charlotte England. The eight-year-old bird loves wandering around with the dogs and has even proved a great ‘guard dog

Cranberry with Dawn and Gerry Watkins and Charlotte England. The eight-year-old bird loves wandering around with the dogs and has even proved a great 'guard dog'

Mrs Watkins, 34, said: ‘If someone is coming up the garden path, she’s really useful because she’s got her own alert call’.

Mrs Watkins, 34, said: 'If someone is coming up the garden path, she's really useful because she's got her own alert call'

Cranberry loves wandering around with the dogs and has even proved a great ‘guard dog. ‘Mrs Watkins, 34, an equine lecturer at Norton Radstock College, said: ‘If someone is coming up the garden path, she’s really useful because she’s got her own alert call.’She likes to be right in your space and will walk to heel — just like a dog.’She’s a big bird and people can get quite disconcerted but it’s her being friendly and inquisitive. ‘There are not many turkeys who like to be stroked and petted. They usually like to be left alone but Cranberry wants to be close to you. She’s part of the family now.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2251532/Turkey-thinks-dog-Rescued-bird-loves-going-walks-lives-kennel-BARKS.html#ixzz2OZHUnOBn

What’s with the wattle?

A bird‘s wattle, like its comb, can help to dissipate heat. The thin, elastic protuberances that hang down from a turkey’s lower jaw allow for the rapid transfer of energy across the skin. Birds don’t have any sweat glands, and most of their bodies are covered with a thick and well-insulating coat of feathers. When it gets really hot out, blood flow increases to those parts of their bodies that are exposed to the air, like the wattle, the comb (a growth at the top of the head), the snood (flaps of skin hanging over the bill), and the feet. Birds can also cool off by expelling water vapor. That is to say, they pant like dogs.

Wattles may be cool, but they’re also manly. Male turkeys and chickens have larger and brighter wattles than females, and the size of the protuberance varies with testosterone levels. This gender dimorphism is strikingly displayed among those unusual chickens (about 1 in 10,000) that develop as male on one side of their bodies and female on the other: The masculine half of the wattle hangs much lower. Environmental factors can also affect wattle size. A male bird, for example, might experience wattle shrinkage after losing status in his social group.

Initial research on chickens, turkeys, and their ilk found that hens strongly prefer a male with a big and colorful comb but don’t seem so turned on by the size or floppiness of his wattle. That doesn’t mean the latter is irrelevant to sex: Male birds of some species engage in a wattle-shaking courtship dance called “tidbitting.” This includes three distinct head movements—the “twitch,” the “long bob,” and the “short bob”—along with the emission of various noises and the repeated picking up and dropping of a morsel of food. Although hens are drawn to these displays on their own terms, wattles seem to make the dance even more attractive.

In 2009, a team of scientists in Australia demonstrated this fact by presenting two dozen Sebright hens with a series of computer-animated videos. In some cases, a virtual male was shown tidbitting with a normal wattle; in others, the wattle was either absent, rigid, or extra-floppy. Then the researchers measured the female response to this turkey porn. (There are some video clips at the bottom of this write-up.) It turned out that the hens were more interested in the rigid and normal wattles, which seemed to make the whole tidbitting routine more conspicuous. According to the researchers, these protuberances served to enhance “signal efficacy” for the courtship dance, in the way mascara might enhance some flirty eye contact.

In any case, a wattle isn’t always a good thing for a bird. Chickens kept in cold weather are most susceptible to frostbite in their wattles and combs. That’s why some farmers engage in a practice called “dubbing“: They slice off the bird’s head appendages with a pair of sharp scissors.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/11/can_somebody_explain_to_me_what_the_whole_wattle_things_about.html

The skinny on snoods, wattles and wishbones

Wild turkeys were an endangered species by the 1930s. Today, more than 7 million roam across North America.

Millions of wild turkeys used to roam freely across much of North and South America, but by the 1930s, over-hunting had reduced them to an endangered species. There were an estimated 30,000 wild birds left in the United States.

But after decades of restocking the population, there are now about seven million wild turkeys in North America.

World turkey production

Rank Country 2006 Production (tonnes)
1 United States 3,259,700
2 France 501,127
3 Germany 375,996
4 Italy 273,816
5 Brazil 215,190
6 United Kingdom 206,031
7 Canada 163,411
8 Hungary 108,018
9 Israel 105,000
10 Chile 90,399
Total World 5,797,749

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Agriculture and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2006.

The turkey is a variety of pheasant. Archaeological evidence suggests turkeys roamed North America as far back as 10 million years ago. Native Americans domesticated them about 2,000 years ago.

A male turkey is called a “tom” and a female turkey a “hen.” A large group of turkeys is called a “flock.”

Wild turkeys are found in hardwood forests with grassy areas. They spend the night in trees. They have excellent vision and hearing but don’t see well at night. They can fly short distances at speeds of up to 90 km/h and can run at speeds of up to 40 km/h.

Domesticated turkeys do not fly — because of selective breeding — and aren’t likely to run very much, either. By the time the average turkey is ready for your table, it has been so fattened up at the factory farm that it has as much chance of achieving flight as you do.

It takes 17 to 20 weeks to raise a turkey that weighs 10.8 kilograms or more. That bird will have consumed around 30 kilograms of feed while it was alive.

Canada is one of the world’s biggest producers of turkeys. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian farmers produced 180,000 tonnes of turkey in 2008. That’s an increase of 6.5 per cent from the previous year.

Canadian consumption of turkey has remained relatively stable over the past two decades — at around 2.2 kilograms per person per year. However, production has increased substantially as Canadian turkey exports have grown by 30 per cent since 2001.

The top turkey-eating country in the world is Israel, at 11.5 kg per person every year. Here’s how other countries measure up, per person per year:

  • United States: 7.7 kg.
  • France: 5.9 kg.
  • United Kingdom: 4.8 kg.
  • European Union: 4.0 kg.

Why is this type of poultry called ‘turkey’?

There are several theories:

  • The Native American name for turkey is “firkee.”
  • The wild turkey’s call sounds like “turk-turk-turk.”
  • Christopher Columbus named them “titka,” which is the word for peacock in the Tamil language of India. Columbus thought the New World was connected to India.

Why do turkeys gobble?

Male turkeys gobble; hens make a clicking sound. The gobble is a seasonal call for the males. They also gobble when they hear loud noises and when they settle in for the night.

What are those fleshy things on turkey heads?

The long fleshy area that grows from a turkey's forehead is called a 'snood.'The long fleshy area that grows from a turkey’s forehead is called a ‘snood.’ (iStock photo)The long, red, fleshy area that grows from the forehead over the bill is a “snood” while the fleshy growth under the turkey’s throat is called a “wattle.” These pieces fill up with blood and turn bright red when a tom wants to attract a hen but they can also turn blue if the turkey is scared. If a turkey isn’t feeling well, the snood and wattle become very pale.

Are there different breeds?

Common domesticated breeds include: Bronze, Broad Breasted Bronze, Broad Breasted Large White, Black, Bourbon Red, White Holland, Narragansett and Beltsville Small White.

Why does turkey have white and dark meat?

For the same reason that chicken does: the legs and thighs contain dark meat because the muscles are more heavily exercised from walking and contain more fat than the meat that comes from the breast. White meat has less oxygen-carrying myoglobin than dark meat. The more work a muscle does — whether you’re a bird or a person — the more oxygen it needs.

What’s with the wishbone? Does it serve a purpose?

The superstition goes that when you find a wishbone, two people should each grasp one part of the wishbone pull; whoever is holding the longest part when it breaks will have their wish come true.

For turkeys — at least the ones who spend their life in the wild — the wishbone, which is called the furcula, is key to strengthening their skeleton to withstand the rigors of flight. It’s formed by the fusion of the two clavicles at the sternum.

The bone is elastic, allowing it to act as a spring that stores and releases energy during flight.

Why can’t I buy turkey eggs at the supermarket?

Domestic turkeys are raised in cramped quarters. They're ready for market seven or eight months after they hatch. Turkeys basically aren’t the egg-producing machines that chickens are. There are also a lot more chickens in this country than turkeys. It takes turkeys longer than chickens to start producing eggs, and once they start, they produce far fewer eggs than chickens.

Turkeys also tend to be far more protective of their eggs than chickens. They’ll stay with them until they hatch and do what they can to keep you away from them.

Why do I feel sleepy after eating turkey?

Probably because you’ve had too much of it, combined with too much dessert and maybe too much of other stuff as well.

Yes, turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which the human body needs to build certain proteins. The body uses L-tryptophan to make serotonin, which has a tranquilizing effect.

However, many foods contain the same amino acid — and in much greater quantities than turkey. Ever feel sleepy after eating raw soybeans? Maybe you should. They contain more than twice the levels of L-tryptophan than turkey does.

What’s with the cranberry sauce and stuffing?

It’s believed Native Americans taught the colonialists how to cook cranberries and different kinds of corn, squash and pumpkin dishes.

The origins of stuffing are not certain. Some experts say it’s a traditional dish made from bread and vegetables and most probably originated in Eastern Europe.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2009/10/08/f-turkey-facts-figures.html