Tag Archives: heritage turkeys

Thanksgiving Turkeys Have All Found New Homes!

The turkeys enjoying fresh pasture grasses and clovers.

I’m happy to announce that all available Thanksgiving turkeys have been sold for 2011!

Thank you to all those who purchased one (or two or five…) of our turkeys:
Randy and Pam, Scott, Anna, Stephanie, Whitney, Joshua and Melina, Nate, Barbara, Constanze, Samuel, Brian, and Nancy.

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Brooding, Hatching, Growing, and Missing

The strange and wonderful haircut of Naked Neck chicks.

Our Naked Neck chicks (aka Turkens, but preferably aka Kentucky Redneck chickens) are doing well in their brooder.  We started off with 52 of them 2 weeks ago and they’ve all made it so far and are growing quickly.  Another couple of feathers on them and they will be ready to graduate into a pair of chicken scooters for 9-10 weeks.  After that, they will either join our laying flock or become tablefare themselves.  At that point we’ll get a good idea of just how good these supposedly “dual-purpose” birds are.  The gene that gives them their naked neck also is supposed to promote larger breast size, which was the main problem with the other dual-purpose breeds we’ve tried.  The genes may be linked on the same chromosome or something, but we’re hoping that these birds, once dressed, will more closely resemble the chickens our customers are accustomed to  from the grocery store while being ultimately sustainable than a grocery store chicken.

The other dual purpose chicken we’re working with are the Black Australorps.  We started with 30 chicks from our incubator a month ago and all 30 have thrived in the brood house.  They’ve almost completely feathered out and are more than ready to join Thomas and Not Thomas (the slightly older Australorp chicks) in the chicken scooter.  Now the chicks and I are just waiting for a break in the rainy stormy weather to put them outside.  The chicks do fine in the rain once they learn to go underneath the tarped portion of the scooter, but it takes a while for them to learn that so it’s best to put the chicks out for the first time when they’ll have a couple nice fairweather days to learn some outdoor skills before bad weather comes.

The incubator is still full of 22 heritage turkey eggs and 20 guinea fowl eggs that are due to start hatching tomorrow through Tuesday.  We’ve gotten several orders from people interested in guinea fowl keets, so after this first batch hatches the incubator will get loaded up with an exclusive hatch of guinea eggs.  Now if we could just get people interested in Thanksgiving turkeys!

The ducks are enjoying their temporary grow-out enclosure complete with mini-pond.

The Magpie ducklings also got to go outside.  They’ve grown so quickly.  They already weigh a couple pounds each at just 5 weeks old!  As you can see above, I modified a chicken scooter to accommodate a small pond for the ducklings to play in and drink from until they get grown enough to go onto one of the real ponds.  We’re also waiting until we can afford to order the poultry netting and charger to go around the pond to protect the ducks from coyotes.  After they’ve got a little habitat set up around the pond, the ducks should need very little from us in terms of supplemental feed.  Our hope is that the ducks can be a self-sufficient holon from which we can gather eggs and harvest meat with few or no inputs other than the fencing and charger.

The tom turkeys are missing half their hens on this stormy morning.

The last bit of poultry-related news is that 2 of our hen turkeys did not come back to roost last night.  (Knock on wood) we haven’t lost any of the turkeys since mid-July other than the ones we processed, so we are thinking that we probably didn’t have 2 killed on one day by predators.  Our hope is that they have created a secret nest or two and chose yesterday to begin sitting on the eggs.  The rough part of this exercise is going to be having to wait 28 days (the incubation period for turkey eggs) to figure out whether the hens are sitting on a nest or got gotten.  After 9 months of having the turkeys follow me around every day, it’s a little sad when a couple of them go missing.  I’m honestly worried about the silly turkeys.  Lindsey and I looked around for them for half and hour last night to no avail.  Hopefully that means they coyotes can’t find them either.  Good luck momma turkeys!

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Pre-order Your Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey

A Bourbon Red turkey relaxes on the fence enjoying the sunshine.

Spring is almost here!  That means that the turkeys are getting into the breeding mood and we should have lots of eggs soon from our small flock of heritage breed free-range turkeys.  Our turkeys free-range around our farm chowing down on grasses, seeds, and insects.  They fly very well and enjoy following us around as we do chores and take care of the other animals.  Their favorite afternoons are spent swinging on our front porch swing.  They truly are personable birds.  T’his year we are raising Black Spanish, Bourbon Red, Chocolate, and Narragansett turkeys.

Heritage breed turkeys were once common throughout the United States.  They are the quintessential American bird.  Unfortunately, with the rise of the factory-farmed industrial breeds like the Broad-Breasted Bronze and the Broad-Breasted White turkeys, the heritage breeds were almost lost.  Now these older breeds are developing quite a following based on their superior flavor, their ability to free-range, and their ability to be raised sustainably because they can both forage for their own food and breed naturally.

We need more people to help us preserve these heritage breeds that are so wonderful to raise and provide genetic diversity and safeguards to sustainable farmers.  We need to create a market for the heritage turkeys so that farmers like us can continue to raise them and the breeds won’t disappear forever.

How can you help save these breeds?  By eating them!

By eating heritage breed turkeys, you will ensure the breeds’ survival by encouraging small farmers to continue breeding and growing these wonderful birds.  If we all keep going to the supermarket and buying Broad-Breasted White turkeys (which can’t find their own food, fly, or breed naturally), then that will be all people will be able to raise.  The Broad-Breasted White turkey already has 95% or more of the American market.  If this trend continues, then other breeds may go the way of the Dodo bird.  That means less genetic diversity in our turkeys – one disease could wipe out great numbers of them.  Heritage birds not only taste better, but they provide genetic insurance against disaster!

From now until September 1st, Good Life Ranch is offering a special on a heritage breed free-range Thanksgiving turkey.  For $75 you can order your own heritage breed bird to be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal.  This price includes free delivery to your door anywhere in Kentucky!  For the average 14-lb bird, you can save $23 on the normal price of $7 per pound and the normal price does not include delivery.  What a deal!

To order, please contact us by emailing geoff@goodliferanch.com or calling 606.787.4217.  We will then give you more information and answer any questions that you may have.  We will confirm your order by requesting a $25 deposit to hold your bird, with the remaining $50 due upon delivery.  Please don’t wait!  We only anticipate raising 50 turkeys this year and they are sure to go fast!

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Thanksgiving Turkeys

The turkeys head off for processing. This is the only time they've been caged.

This morning I gathered up 40 Buff Orpington broiler chickens that have lived on pasture in 2 of our chicken scooters for the last 11 weeks.  It took the Buff Orpingtons almost twice as long to reach market weight as the Cornish X batch we processed 5 weeks ago, and they aren’t as heavy still.  Advantages in their favor:  they ate less feed than the Cornish, ate more grass, were more active, and stayed cleaner.  The Cornish have the double breast that most customers expect and taste great.  We’ll  see how the Buffs taste soon.  I’m interested to see, because to my knowledge I’ve never eaten a chicken that wasn’t a Cornish, White Rock, or a cross thereof.

The turkeys have free ranged all over our property gathering most of their own feed.  We put a little broiler ration and scratch grains in a bin to encourage them to roost in the poultry shed at night (they have to be bribed not to roost in the barn rafters), but other than that little bit of feed they’ve done well at fending for themselves eating grass, acorns, grasshoppers, berries, seeds, and “their” heirloom garden tomatoes.  They’ve swung on our front porch swing and chased the dog.  They’ve discovered that they cannot swim and that they can perch on one of the goats.  Undoubtably a finer life than 99.9% of all American turkeys.

The turkeys were harder to pack off emotionally.  We’ve had them since the 1st of July, and they kinda grow on you.  They’re not real smart, but they do follow you around while you’re doing chores or anything else they find interesting and keep you entertained with their antics.  This year we’ve raised 11 of the heritage breed turkeys to a “light” market weight.  I say “light” market weight because July to November is not quite enough time to grow them out completely.  We’ll see how much they weigh tomorrow afternoon.

You see only 5 turkeys in the picture because the other 6 have received “pardons” this year.  We’ve sold 3 of them and are eating 2 with our families at Thanksgiving, but the other 6 will be breeders for us in the spring.  We kept one tom and two hens of 2 rare heritage breeds – the Black, or Black Spanish, and the Chocolate.  We processed four Bourbon Reds (3 toms and 1 hen) and one Chocolate tom.

We’ll let you know how they are on the table.

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