From the Brooder to the Pasture

Author Photo
By Lori Havens

My last blog post left off with the purchase and homecoming of our day-old turkey poults to the brooder that Farmer Bryan had just finished … in the nick of time!

The little birdlets spent seven cozy weeks in their newly crafted brooder, where they learned to eat a little grass and the occasional bug that flew in through the window or crawled in through a tiny opening. They explored their tiny “world” and grew strong and healthy.

Finally, at 7 weeks, it was time to leave the brooder and meet the great big world outside! First, I suit up for work …

I’m not able to photograph the capture, wing-trimming, and crating of the birds as it is fully a two-person job, all hands on deck (and none on the camera), but we do a gentle body-grab of the birds, pinning their delicate wings with our hands so they don’t injure themselves by frantic wing flapping. Once captured, Farmer Bryan tucks them under one arm, by his side, like a football, then holds out one wing. I look underneath the wing so I can see the “quick,” where the feather quills’ blood supply is, and then carefully trim off the feathers beyond the quick … very much like trimming fingernails.

It does not hurt the bird (again, like trimming fingernails), and prevents them from being able to fly out of the protected pasture area we have ready for them. If they were to fly out, they would very rapidly be eaten by something … so flight is a liability. In the photo below, you can see the trimmed wing feathers on one of the birds:

Once the feathers are trimmed, I open the top of the poultry crate and Farmer Bryan gently places the turkey inside and guides it as far back as possible. He quickly withdraws his arm and I quickly close the hatch so our bird doesn’t escape … which they try to do! We put about five turkeys in each crate. Once all the turkeys are crated, we lift the crates into the back of the Kawasaki Mule, our farm utility vehicle, for the ride out to the pasture where the Chicken Huts, all scrubbed out and re-named “Turkey Huts,” await the nervous birds.

Once we’re at the Turkey Hut, the crating procedure is reversed, again taking care to open and close the hatch quickly to prevent the turkeys from injuring themselves in any escape attempt. Food and fresh water await them inside the Turkey Hut, and they soon settle in for a meal and then a nap in the warm sunshine!

We leave them in the Turkey Hut for one week, so they learn, no doubt about it, where “Home” is … food, water, shade, shelter. It also gives them time to get just a bit bigger, which makes them only slightly less of an easy “pick-off” meal for one of our resident hawks or eagles. At 8 weeks, we will open the door to the Turkey Hut and allow them to learn the lessons of living on the pasture … under our watchful eyes! Stay tuned!

Published on Sep 11, 2014