The avian world rules our days…..feeding, watering and tending to ducks, turkeys and chickens. We love our duck eggs, we love our ducks first and foremost. But we also adore our chickens and turkeys!!!
Our broiler chickens, aka the “Bubbies” or the “Bubsters” are quite a joy. So many farmers like to talk smack about the Cornish cross, which is the most commonly raised meat chicken in this country. On-line you’ll read that they are lazy, messy, not able to forage, disgusting, inefficient, etc. The Cornish Cross is a hybrid (different than genetically modified) chicken of the F2 sort, meaning these little meat machines come from a unique and secret combination of 4 different breeds. 2 different parent breeds make up the rooster side, and 2 different breeds of chicken make up the hen side. Then THOSE 2 different offspring are mated to make the Cornish Cross, which is a remarkable fast growing, hearty and robust bird. There are a few things to know if you are about to try raising your own. Keep them warm for the first 2-3 weeks. They grow muscles, not lots of feathers, so they need to be kept cozy in this tender period of their lives. After they are 4 weeks old, stop feeding them before 8pm each night to prevent them from growing so fast that they have heart attacks. Give them things to climb on when they are in the first weeks of life so they can develop stronger leg muscles. A piece of 2×4 leaned up on a block works well. They don’t like to roost, but they will climb up and on and over and get stronger legs in the meantime. From day 1 when you bring them home, talk soothingly and use this tone everafter, we croon “oh Too-Toos” for some reason, and they love it, and respond to this sound, & coming running! Also from day 1 give them tiny snipped up greens. Feed them from your fingertips, sprinkle them in the feed dish, all over. These ARE chickens, and they LOVE variety, but like a mother hen, you need to teach them some of this stuff. Give them a bowl of plain old feed and they will just sit there chowing down, like a kid in a bag of potato chips.
Oh the turkeys, how we love to raise turkeys!We raise the broad breasted turkeys, and have found that all the stigmas against them are just not true. They are bright, inquisitive, friendly birds. Being so closely related to the native wild turkey, many of their wild instincts are there, just waiting to be tapped into. Again, feeding them greens as babies helps them learn what they already know deep inside. Treating all animals with kindness and respect makes a world of difference in your relationship with them & their quality of life. Our summer turkeys have just graduated to being able to be free outdoors during the day, at night they’ve been staying in a chicken “tractor” to stay safe. One thing to watch with all birds on your farm/homestead is arial predators during the day, and the host of others potentially coming to dine at night. As the turkey babies have grown to large chicken size, we feel confident they will be safe out during the day, but night time is still worrisome, so keeping them contained at night is just safer.We kept 4 hens from last spring to try our own turkey breeding experiment. We never got the heritage tom we were hoping to, in time to produce offspring ready for the Thanksgiving crowd. The 4 hens have been laying eggs for the last 2 months, unfertile, but delicious eggs which Heartland Restaurant has excitedly put on their menu. Something different. We have a beautiful relationship with these hens and are excited to see how they do next spring when they have a boyfriend to make those gorgeous eggs fertile. Turkeys are just a joy to have around.