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Author Topic: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures  (Read 2856 times)

Offline jennabug

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A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« on: December 29, 2016, 03:03:53 PM »
Things are painfully slow at work right now, and I've been meaning to do a write-up on my experience with my first domestic turkeys this year.  So here goes... 

Backyard poultry was a stepping stone for me getting into hunting actually.  When we bought our first house, my neighbors got me into chickens for eggs.  Having chickens got me outside more, gardening and listening to podcasts about farming and food.  Having chickens and learning more about farming also introduced me to butchering, because whenever you get chicks from a feed store there's a chance for roosters.  Roosters don't last long in the suburbs  A friend of mine (who I met through the "chicken community") was kind enough to teach me how to butcher last year, and it was much easier than I thought it would be.  This same friend inspired me to start hunting as well, and I completed my hunter's education that fall.

By the time spring came around, I had remodeled my coop and chicken run.  I was ready to raise some chickens for meat, and I bought 4 cornish cross chicks.  Chicken people know that when spring comes, chick fever hits.  It's hard to resist getting more of the little fluff-butts anytime you're in a feed store in the spring... "just one more".  About a month after I got the meat chickens we were at Ranch and Home and my husband mentioned they had chicks, which I had been successfully ignoring.  We went over to peek at them and noticed the turkey poults, and started talking about how hard(easy) it would be to add one to the flock.  Needless to say, we came home with one Broad Breasted Bronze poult.  I named him Jeffrey.  :chuckle:

Jeffrey figured me out pretty quickly, constantly crying for attention until I picked him up.  The first 3 weeks or so he would be snuck in to the house for short visits and would fall asleep looking content.  In the meantime the meat chickens were growing quickly.  When the butcher day came, my friends and I hosted a backyard butchering workshop.  It was actually a lot of fun and helpful to those that were interested in either raising their own meat birds or just knowing about how it's done.  My birds ranged 4-5 lbs dressed.  Along the way, I shared with friends and family on social media: the growth of the birds, the butchering class, and the cuteness of Jeffrey.  Many selfies were taken and posted on Thursdays for "Turkey Thursday".  (Only a few people got that joke initially.)  There were a variety of responses to the idea of me killing an animal that some considered my "pet", though I never considered him as a pet.  I still don't know how to explain the mindset to someone who doesn't understand that you can love and appreciate an animal, then harvest it with respect and appreciation.  I think part of me was also testing my ability to do that with livestock before hunting.

Summer came along, and I started to think about hunting too and started exploring hunting podcasts.  (I have times at work where I process a lot of data and can listen to books and podcasts while I work.  I also listen to things while doing chores and such at home.)  I quickly fell in love with turkey hunting stories, and liked the idea of hunting something I had some knowledge about and knew how to field dress.  So I kept listening to the turkey podcast and studying up on turkey hunting.  (There's a side story here that I'll tell later.)

Somewhere along the line, I realized that Jeffrey was not maturing in the way I expected him to.  The snood was not elongating and the head was still feathered...  dude looks like a lady.  Jeffrey was thereafter known as Miss Jeffrey.  She remained extremely sweet, would lay at my feet in the pen.  She was no longer small enough to hop onto my lap unexpectedly.  I started to ween my friends off of the idea she'd be kept by posting her weight weekly.  I think I was ready to process her in August, but my husband was not quite ready for killing day.  The original plan was that she'd be butchered at a size and weight where she would still fit in the turkey fryer.  A few times I asked the Mr if he was ready, and eventually I said "I'm doing it this week".  She was 25 lbs live weight, and quite wide.  It was unknown if she'd be able to fit in the fryer at this point.

A coworker and friend was interested in learning about the butcher process, and my neighbors (and kids) joined in as well.  The whole thing went very well, and the kids enjoyed it after the killing was over.  We took time to talk about all of the different turkey parts... the feathers, oil gland, crop, heart, bones and tendons.  The kids took some feathers home and made writing quills out of them, and another coworker wanted some feathers for tying flies.  Miss Jeffrey dressed out at 20.5 lbs and was too large for the fryer.  We decided that she'd be best as a Thanksgiving turkey, so I put her in a heat shrink bag and into the freezer.

Thanksgiving at my grandmother's was fantastic.  Miss Jeffrey baked beautifully and tasted great.  My mom baked her, as she was staying overnight and was able to start her in the morning.  I forgot to mention that she should be cooked at a lower temperature, so the meat was a bit dry, but very flavorful.  Overall, the family was impressed.  I could see my aunt cringe when I referred to our dinner as "she" though.   :chuckle:  It was habit, I suppose.  I took one last selfie with my first turkey to post on Facebook for the grand finale of "Turkey Thursday".  I have had several people thank me for sharing the journey with them, or mention that they gave some extra thought to their Thanksgiving meal. 

My second turkey is a slate blue jake named Wallace.  I added him to the flock as a juvenile a couple weeks before I butchered Miss Jeffrey.  Her reaction to him was priceless... strutting, purring, etc.  I will probably butcher Wallace this weekend or next weekend; he's getting quite large. 

[more pictures pending... working on uploading them]


Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2016, 03:05:11 PM »
Turkey Thursday Pics

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2016, 03:05:41 PM »
Freezer Camp

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2016, 03:07:04 PM »
Result

Offline jackelope

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2016, 03:38:41 PM »
Nice, nothing better than raising your own food. I hope one of these days I get to the point we can raise some rabbits for meat. Right now I think I might get a beat down from the female units if I brought that up seriously.
Thanks for sharing the experience.
:fire.:

" In today's instant gratification society, more and more pressure revolves around success and the measurement of one's prowess as a hunter by inches on a score chart or field photos produced on social media. Don't fall into the trap. Hunting is-and always will be- about the hunt, the adventure, the views, and time spent with close friends and family. " Ryan Hatfield

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Offline elkboy

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 04:28:07 PM »
Thanks for sharing!  A great story.  Looks like you gave the turkey a better life than that of the majority of turkeys out there, domestic or wild! 

Offline Mark251

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2016, 05:01:11 PM »
Great story!  Thanks for sharing it  :tup:

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2016, 06:00:48 PM »
Thank you. Rabbits are really appealing to me too, but I think the Mr would not be into it. And I'm too busy with everything else already.  :chuckle:

Offline jackelope

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2016, 08:02:30 PM »
Well. Rabbits are a thing at my house. Just not the eating kind because there's a 9 year old who would hit me with a large stick if that idea ever came to light.

:fire.:

" In today's instant gratification society, more and more pressure revolves around success and the measurement of one's prowess as a hunter by inches on a score chart or field photos produced on social media. Don't fall into the trap. Hunting is-and always will be- about the hunt, the adventure, the views, and time spent with close friends and family. " Ryan Hatfield

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Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2016, 09:54:27 PM »
That's fantastic and adorable!

Offline Widgeondeke

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2016, 10:53:11 PM »
Thanks for sharing....Home raised turkey and rabbit and chicken is the best.

My son's turkey would jump into his arms every time he went in the coop. 

Offline Whitpirate

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2016, 10:59:37 PM »
A farm life is a life well lived.  We raise chickens, ducks and pigs with the occasional steer and maybe soon some rabbit.  Your turkey looked delicious.

Offline Timberstalker

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2016, 05:19:06 AM »
This is awesome. Glad you got into raising your own food.
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Offline jackelope

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2016, 07:27:26 AM »
Thanks for sharing....Home raised turkey and rabbit and chicken is the best.

My son's turkey would jump into his arms every time he went in the coop. 

And then it jumped into the oven. And then it jumped onto his dinner plate......
Was kind of hoping the kids would do some turkeys again one of these years.
:fire.:

" In today's instant gratification society, more and more pressure revolves around success and the measurement of one's prowess as a hunter by inches on a score chart or field photos produced on social media. Don't fall into the trap. Hunting is-and always will be- about the hunt, the adventure, the views, and time spent with close friends and family. " Ryan Hatfield

My posts, opinions and statements do not represent those of this forum

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2016, 07:34:47 AM »
Thanks for sharing....Home raised turkey and rabbit and chicken is the best.

My son's turkey would jump into his arms every time he went in the coop.
Hahaha. That's great.  Having a turkey fly at you can be a little frightening when you're not used to it.

 
A farm life is a life well lived.  We raise chickens, ducks and pigs with the occasional steer and maybe soon some rabbit.  Your turkey looked delicious.
I am so excited for the day we have land and I can bring my horse home, have pastured animals and a much larger coop. And can shoot in our backyard.   Someday...  :)

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2017, 07:09:14 PM »
Yesterday I butchered our Tom Turkey, Wallace. I invited a couple of friends who are hoping to start hunting this year so they could learn how to dress a bird.  He dressed out to 15 lbs with almost no pin feathers. Definitely interested in trying slate turkeys again. I also want to try some "midget whites" if I can find them. 

Also, if anyone is interested in learning about poultry or butchering, let me know.  I'm happy to share what I can. We'll probably do another group butcher demo/event this spring in the tricities. If you'd like to join or know someone who is interested, PM me. :)

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2017, 07:11:41 PM »
Nice looking bird, why no pin feathers? :dunno:
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Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2017, 07:16:26 PM »
Nice looking bird, why no pin feathers? :dunno:
Honestly, I'm not sure. His feathers were very fine, and pulled out very easily. We got most of them by dry plucking, even though it was below freezing outside. Under the wings were very fluffy, like a silkie chicken. And the feather shafts were very small and shallow.  I suspect that it's a characteristic of the breed.
The bronze hen that we did was much harder to pluck and I was trying to clean up the pin feathers with needle nose pliers before she went in the freezer.

Offline kellama2001

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2017, 08:13:40 AM »
Great story, thanks so much for sharing! Now i want to raise turkeys too!
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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2017, 10:22:17 AM »
Nice looking bird, why no pin feathers? :dunno:
Honestly, I'm not sure. His feathers were very fine, and pulled out very easily. We got most of them by dry plucking, even though it was below freezing outside. Under the wings were very fluffy, like a silkie chicken. And the feather shafts were very small and shallow.  I suspect that it's a characteristic of the breed.
The bronze hen that we did was much harder to pluck and I was trying to clean up the pin feathers with needle nose pliers before she went in the freezer.

I have a retired butcher buddy that helped me butcher 4 turkeys in November. He showed me a slaughter technique that was pretty neat and made plucking super easy. It takes 2 people as you need to pin the turkey to the ground. Basically you put the knife in the mouth and push it through the brain quickly. Something about this process makes the feathers release and come out really easily. I was skeptical and thought he was screwing with me but it worked like a charm.

Offline jennabug

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2017, 11:54:39 AM »
Nice looking bird, why no pin feathers? :dunno:
Honestly, I'm not sure. His feathers were very fine, and pulled out very easily. We got most of them by dry plucking, even though it was below freezing outside. Under the wings were very fluffy, like a silkie chicken. And the feather shafts were very small and shallow.  I suspect that it's a characteristic of the breed.
The bronze hen that we did was much harder to pluck and I was trying to clean up the pin feathers with needle nose pliers before she went in the freezer.

I have a retired butcher buddy that helped me butcher 4 turkeys in November. He showed me a slaughter technique that was pretty neat and made plucking super easy. It takes 2 people as you need to pin the turkey to the ground. Basically you put the knife in the mouth and push it through the brain quickly. Something about this process makes the feathers release and come out really easily. I was skeptical and thought he was screwing with me but it worked like a charm.

Interesting!  I'll have to try that sometime.  I wonder if it works for chickens too...

Offline 180-GRAIN

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Re: A Tale of Two Turkeys, and other poultry adventures
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2017, 09:56:39 AM »
Nice looking bird, why no pin feathers? :dunno:
Honestly, I'm not sure. His feathers were very fine, and pulled out very easily. We got most of them by dry plucking, even though it was below freezing outside. Under the wings were very fluffy, like a silkie chicken. And the feather shafts were very small and shallow.  I suspect that it's a characteristic of the breed.
The bronze hen that we did was much harder to pluck and I was trying to clean up the pin feathers with needle nose pliers before she went in the freezer.

I have a retired butcher buddy that helped me butcher 4 turkeys in November. He showed me a slaughter technique that was pretty neat and made plucking super easy. It takes 2 people as you need to pin the turkey to the ground. Basically you put the knife in the mouth and push it through the brain quickly. Something about this process makes the feathers release and come out really easily. I was skeptical and thought he was screwing with me but it worked like a charm.

Interesting!  I'll have to try that sometime.  I wonder if it works for chickens too...

It probably would I would think. It really helped with the pin feathers.

 

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