Thursday, June 18, 2009

Testing, 1, 2, 3...(er..4)

Rose, one of our two Bourbon Red hens, sat diligently on the nest of eggs for over three weeks.   There were 14 in total; mostly hers, but with a few from the Narragansetts snuck in for good measure.  Well, despite what we (humans) felt were adequate security measures, the skunk (s?) got them all.

Having a healthy skepticism for natural hatching, I had tucked away several in the incubator, even though nothing had worked so far.  Over three incubators and four different thermometers, we had failed with almost thirty eggs  - none hatched.

Success at last - thank goodness!  (I was beginning to drag out all my tofurkey recipes that I had accumulated over the years...)
#1 and #4 show the difference in plumage.  #1 (on the right) is a Bourbon Red; the Narragansetts are darker,  duller browns with a bit of black.

Despite the claims by numerous sites that the incubation period is 28 days (don't believe all that you read - it can cause traumatic boo-boos) our poults have widened the hatching window...#1 and #2 came on the 30th day, #3 on day 28, #4 on day 29.

And not to be outdone - precocious #5 is announcing his/her arrival on day #27:
Turkeynomics 101
Last year we bought the poults (11) from the local feed store at a base price of $8.75 each.  Add organic game bird starter, at $16.95 for a 25 lb. bag, and we were starting off pricey.  We lost three to various ailments of baby poults.  

They arrived the third week of May, and we let them free-range for a lot of their lives, with minimal supplementation of organic turkey grower.  The decision to let them range was part kindness - our chickens free-range, and seem much happier and healthier for the experience, and part financial - we had to be able to sell these at the end of the year, and could not afford huge use of organic feed at $21.95 for a 50# bag.

By November, they were not as large as we would have liked, averaging around 8 pounds from the processor.  (Who charges $10 each for processing, BTW.)  This was due, in part to the fact that heritage breeds naturally take longer to put on "Thanksgiving weight", and in part to the leaner range diet.

By Thanksgiving, organic, free-range, heritage turkey was selling for $4 -$7 a pound.  New York City (three hours away) was going for $8 and more, but our customers were local, and we wound up charging $4.  We kept breeding pairs of both Narragansett and Bourbon Reds for this year.  We ate two ourselves, and sold the rest.  It was not a money-making success.

With all the difficulty hatching our own poults, we are getting started three weeks later.  So, like it or not, there has to be more grain supplementation.  We want to exceed 10 pounds for all the birds; hopefully some higher.

Free-range has to be greatly limited, due to the proximity to the enlarging food gardens and my neighbor's reluctance to host turkey pool parties again this year when the poults discover the fun of his yard... (did you know cabana chairs make lovely roosts on hot afternoons?)  

So, we shall see if we can turn this turkey business around this year...



bybiddie said...

Hey, Melanie - Congrats!!! They are awful cute, in a turkey kind of way. Keep us posted...


Kara said...

Thanks for sharing. We just got our turkey chicks from Hoover's Hatchery and for 10 I think it was $80 including shipping. It is our first year so we have a lot to learn so keep these posts coming! BTW I am still seriously thinking about a ram lamb from Kristi, so if you warm your DH up to the idea let me know. Dibs on the mioget one! OR I might wait until next year (for a gully)...I will need to bring in a new line next year for sure. I can get by with the lines I have for one more year. But I really think I would like a polled ram for a couple of years at least. So let me know as a combined trip of some sort would be fun, either this year or next.

Christine said...

If I were your neighbor I would love to host pool parties for your turkeys. We used to live near a peacock farm. One day we came home to about 30 of them on our patio. I thought it was the coolest thing EVER. The way they were lounging around it really did seem like they were having a party.

Good luck with your birds this year.

kristi said...

Come on Melanie, I read Kara's comment!! Okay so I guess I am SOL on the turkey this year? LOL