Tag Archives: self-sufficient

Turkeys!!!!

In previous posts, I briefly mentioned the fact that I we have turkeys on our homestead this year: (Posts: First Day of Meat Chickens, I Get To…).

Why did you get Turkeys?

Two reasons: Fun and Yum.  Or Yum and Fun.  Either way, for eating and entertainment.  Those are generally the two reasons anything (other than dogs) come to live on our patch of land.

The more I can grow from my land the better.  I want to use the land, and by using it responsibly, we help make the land more healthy.

Another reason I actually got turkeys is because when I did a quick search of Craigslist, a  woman was selling some day old chicks and some turkeys.  I was in her general vicinity to pick up our meat chicks, so I stopped by, and brought home to turkey poults.  I believe they were 2 to 5 days old at the time.

What Kind of Turkeys did you get?

I don’t know.  I bought them from someone I found on Craigslist.  I really liked her facility, and I will definitely buy from her next year.  I will probably also buy my laying hens from here on out as well.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.  You can see the grass is pretty beat up.  That’s where the wagon was the day before.

I can’t remember the exact breed.  It is either a bronze or a broad breasted bronze.  The broad breasted will fill out most like the grocery store turkeys.  The bronze is a little smaller.  I’m not sure which one it is.  And quite frankly, with my limited turkey experience, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell by turkey processing time.

How do you raise Turkeys?

I put the turkeys in the brooder right along with the chicks. Most of the literature instructs keeping turkey poults and chicks separate.  I decided to ignore that.  The reasons sited to keep them separated is due to a disease called blackhead (a parasitic disease) and the large turkeys may injure the smaller chickens.

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

I had six meat chicks and those two turkeys in my first round of brooding for the year.  I cleaned the brooder daily and the flock was small.  This generally stops any disease problems.   A lot of problems with disease is due to overcrowding of animals – no matter what the species.  Also, the smaller flock allowed all critters to have plenty of room to spread out.  I had no problem with getting the chicks up to butchering weight.

I moved the turkeys outside into the chicken paddy wagon (chicken tractor) with the meat chickens at about 3 to 4 weeks old.  The chicken paddy wagon moves daily, so the chickens and the turkeys get fresh greens.  My original plan was to move the turkeys in with the laying hens at the time the meat chickens met their last day.

This did not happen.

Turkeys don’t move quickly.  And when I was moving the chicken paddy wagon one morning, one of the turkeys got his foot stuck under one of the runners.  He either sprained or broke his foot.  I thought I would have to put him down.  But he rebounded, and he’s almost 100% healed now.

But being that he was injured, I did not want to put him in a new flock.  He would probably be bullied to death.

So at this point, the turkeys are still in the chicken paddy wagon.  While not ideal, it is not forever.

According to my reading, the space needed in a turkey tractor for happy turkeys is 12 feet by 12 feet for 24 turkeys.  This works out to about six square feet per turkey.  Their current space is 10 feet by 4 feet.  So our turkeys get 20 square feet per turkey.  So they should be pretty happy.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

They look pretty happy.

They act pretty happy.

My goal is to provide a happy life for them  (and all of my critters).

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I will be moving them to an open paddock in a week and a half after I process my second batch of meat birds.

What do they eat?

They began eating chick starter.  I fed them exactly what I fed my meat birds, and I still do.  But as turkeys age, their protein requirements decrease.  In the first seven weeks of life, their protein in take should be 26% to 30% of their diet. And then from 7 to 14 weeks of age, the require only 16% to 24% protein. After that, they thrive on feed that is 14% to 16% of their diet.

Our turkeys have access to fresh grass and a new insects everyday.  They go wild when I move the tractor, and seem to prefer eating the white clover.  (Oh, how I love white clover, almost as much as I love dandelions).

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

Costs

So far the costs have been low.  As I’ve had the turkeys mixed with the chickens, I can’t pinpoint how much they ate versus how much the chickens are consuming.  I am certain that I could buy a chemical laden turkey in the grocery store for less than my costs to raise these guys.  But there is a peace that comes with raising your own food.  I know my turkeys are having a good life, and living the way a turkey should.  I also get a lot of entertainment raising them.

So basically, my hobby produces awesome food.  Sign me up!

Overall

Overall, I love raising the turkeys.  They are hilarious and look like little dinosaurs.  Even more than the chickens.  I love their gobbles, and they seem to have so much more personality.  It’s also  neat to have wild turkeys in the area.

Wild Turkey with her two babies

Wild Turkey with her two babies

I feel like the turkeys are meant to be on this land.  I will continue to have turkeys well into the future.  In fact, I believe I will expand my flock next year, and sell a few extra turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.

Always an adventure, just out my backdoor!

I Get To…

I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  In order to take care of all of our animals and get out the door in time for work, it’s essential.

4:30 am is early.  It can be hard to do.

When I told myself I HAVE to get up to take care of these chores, it was difficult to get out of bed.

But then I changed the conversation I have with myself.

I decided I GET to take care of my critters.  My turkeys, my egg chickens and my meat birds.

I’ve had agrarian dreams for as long as I can remember.  I primarily wanted egg laying chickens.  I thought my homesteading yearnings would be quenched by having a few chickens running around.

Not so much.  We started off with six hens.  Then we added more chickens, and now we have 17 laying hens and one rooster to watch over them.

This year, I got to add two turkeys and chickens raised for meat.

My garden is huge and we got our first plum from our plum tree.

All of this takes a lot of work.  And in order to balance this, my work life and time with my family, I have to get up at 4:30 am.  (and having an amazing husband helps!)

But the reality is that waking up at 4:30 in the morning is what living my dream looks like right now.

So it’s really wonderful that I have these chores to do.  I love them, and I love having my animals.  I love providing a good life for them and eating off of our land.

I move differently throughout the morning when I realized that I get to do these chores.  When I “have to” do those chores, I trudged.  I was bleary eyed.  But changing “have to” to “get to”, I look forward to getting out of bed and seeing my chickens and turkeys.

So getting out of bed super early is a luxury for me.  So while I may be tired, and sleeping in sounds wonderful, the payoff of homesteading is worth it for me.

I also get to share this with you.

So thank you for reading and sharing in my journey.

Meat Chickens – Week Two

Our chickens are two weeks old!!!  Time is flying.

All ten chicks are still in good health.

What’s Changed?

I no longer have to do the daily Pasty Butt check.  But I do shovel out the brooder daily, and put in new pine shavings.

We have also removed the heat lamp, since they no longer need it.  We are in the beginning of Summer, so the weather is warmer.  When removing the heat source, observe the chicks to see if they start huddling together to gather heat, or if they act normally.  The types of chicks and the current weather make a huge difference as to the exact time to remove the heater.  That’s why it is so important to observe.

And finally, we have to do daily cleaning of the brooder.  This means we scoop out most of the (poopy) pine shavings and replace it with fresh pine shavings.  I put the used pine shavings around my blueberry bushes.  They love the acidity of the pine.

The chicks are quickly feathering out, and I think they will be ready to move to the chicken paddy wagon (outside) next week, or the week after.  Again, it’s all about observation.

Progress Pictures:

Here is a the progression of the birds aging:

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

From Left to Right: 1 Day Old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old

Previous Meat Bird Posts:

Weekly Video:

Meat Chickens – One Week Old

Our meat birds are celebrating their one week birthday.  It has been a relatively easy week.

Notice the chicks are starting to feather out.  They start this at the tips of their wings.

Notice the chicks are starting to feather out. They start this at the tips of their wings.

The how-to’s of their first week of life is pretty easy, and not very time consuming.

What is the daily chores for week old chicks?

I check on the boys (as we ordered cockerels, all male) at least once a day, and usually twice a day.

Once a day I pick up each chick to check for Pasty Butt.  Pasty Butt is when the chick’s back end (poo hole?) is clogged with poo.  This can actually kill them.  So as soon as you find it, take a warm, wet rag, sponge or paper towel and gently clean it.

The bummer about this condition is that if your bird gets pasty butt once, they are likely to get it again.  BUT it’s super easy to take care of.

I check to make sure that they have plenty of fresh drinking water and that their food is full.

The chicks eating their feed.

The chicks eating their feed.

Then, I add in some more pine shavings to keep everything clean and smelling fresh.

Why Pine Shavings?

I like pine shaving over other bedding for the brooder because the high acid of the pine neutralizes the smell.  Also, the chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, while wood is high in carbon.  This makes the perfect combo for fertilizing your plants when it’s time to clean out the brooder.  While the  nitrogen in the manure is good for plants, it can be a little too much in the fresh poo and burn the plants.

Be Careful NOT to use:

  • Cedar Shavings – the oils from this will hurt the chicks lungs.  Avoid this throughout the chickens entire life span.
  • Newspapers – the newspapers create a slippery base.  Chicks also have a natural desire to scratch and dig.  Please let your chicken express his chicken-ness, and give him something to dig in.

So far, so good.

It’s been amazing to watch these guys grow.  They have two or three more weeks in the brooder and then we’ll be moving them out to the chicken paddy wagon.

Left: Chick One Day Old Right: Chick One Week Old

Left: Chick One Day Old
Right: Chick One Week Old

Here’s this week’s video:

Strawberries – Dehydrated

The strawberries are here!! That means summer is here.

And we have oodles of strawberries.

WAY more than we can use just for fresh eating.

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There are so many things you can do with your strawberries:

  • eat fresh
  • preserve into a jelly or jam
  • strawberry pie (my husband’s favorite)
  • Strawberry Muffins
  • Fruit Salad
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  •  fruit leather
  • freeze
  • dehydrate

With today’s batch-o-berries, I’ve decided to dehydrate.  I like dehydrating strawberries as a way to preserve them.  It’s a much healthier snack than jelly (which is made from the juice of a fruit) or jam (which has the chunks of fruit in it.) as those tend to have lots of sugar, but I still make it.  It’s a tasty treat.  Especially when paired with homemade peanut butter.

Back to the Dehydrated Strawberries

I think they taste like a gummy fruit snack.  However, this is coming from a person who has probably eaten about 5 fruit snacks my entire life, and has not had one in years.  I believe my opinion on this snack being akin to fruit snack is similar to a vegan’s opinion on meatless bacon.  But these are pretty dang tasty.

And easy to make.

What do you need to make this delicious snack?

  • A dehydrator – You can certainly use your oven on a low temperature overnight, but I really do like my dehydrator.  It’s easier than my oven and more fool proof.  So while I encourage LESS clutter and LESS equipment, I do like having a dehydrator.  I use it to make Kale chips, fruit leather, and other dehydrated fruits
  • Fresh Strawberries – I used about 3 1/2 cups of fresh whole strawberries. Try to get them local and seasonal.  The better the ingredients the better the finished products.

How To Make Dehydrated Strawberries:

  • Slice them about 1/8 of an inch thick.  You can also put them on whole if you have small strawberries.  Keep in mind: the thicker the strawberry the longer it will take to dehydrate, AND the strawberries will shrink when they are dehydrated.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

    I sliced, my little guy placed them on the dehydrator.

  • Place them in a single layer on your dehydrator.  If they are layered, they will stick together.  They will still be deliciousIMG_0437
  • Set your Dehydrator to 135 degrees F and let it do it’s thing for about 3 hours.  It may take longer or shorter depending on the current climate and the thickness of the strawberry slices.IMG_0440
  • EAT THEM!

Storage

I store mine in a mason jar in the fridge.  They may not need to live in the fridge, but I think that’s the best place for them.  They will last for months, if you don’t eat them.

Uses?

These are good for snacks, or in granola, or in cold cereal.  We really like to eat these as snack plain.  I love having this healthy, convenient snack in the cooler months, long after strawberry season has passed.

 

Our New Adventure – Day 1, Batch 2

As a family, we want to make sure we source our meat from local, humane and sustainable resources.  Sometimes we aren’t successful, but over 95% of the time we are.  We have a great resource for chicken, but we have agrarian dreams and we wanted to raise our own.  Okay, mostly, have agrarian dreams and a very supportive husband.

Our First Batch

So our newest adventure is raising meat birds, particularly chickens.  We started our first batch five weeks ago, and we got our second batch of ten chicks last night.  We start them in our homemade brooder, where they live for three to four weeks.  You can read about this DIY brooder here.

We ordered six cockerels (male chicks) for our first batch.  I also picked up two turkey poults at that time, one male and one female, from a different local farmer.  This first batch of chicken should be ready to be processed (a nice way to say butchered) in about three weeks time.  The turkeys will take about six months and should be ready around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Six chicks and two bronze Turkeys.  Another agrarian adventure begins!

Six chicks and two bronze Turkeys. Another agrarian adventure begins!

 

I’ve read that we should raise the turkeys away from the chickens, and I’ve read it doesn’t matter.  Having the turkeys and chickens together so far seems to working out wonderfully.

Our Second Batch

We ordered 10 chicks for our second batch.  That seems like the ideal amount for the Chicken Paddy Wagon.  The Chicken Paddy Wagon is a 8 foot by 4 foot shelter that we move daily.  This is the Joel Salatin Method.  Everyday, we move this enclosure to a new section of grass.  We do this so:

We got a mixed batch of broilers.  Here they are:

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And a video describing their second day:

Types of Birds

We order “broiler” chickens from a local hatchery.  They are a mix of large bodied heritage breeds that will have a decent amount of meat in a little bit of time.

We did not choose to use the “Cornish Cross” chickens.  Those birds come to full maturity at 6 weeks. If they are not processed by about 8 weeks, they start to die from enlarged hearts, or their legs collapse beneath them from the heavy body weight.  These Cornish Crosses get so large their feathers do not cover their body.  From what I’ve read, these fraken-chickens are not interested in eating bugs or grass.  Essentially, they have lost the “chicken-ness” of being a chicken.  This seems highly unnatural to me.   And a lot of that extra nutrient which pastured poultry is known for comes from the birds eating bugs and grass.

That being said, I think I will experiment and buy a few Cornish Crosses in the future.  I have had a lot of experiments go differently than what I read.  My plants and animals have not read the same resources I have.  So I would like to see the results given our inputs.

Processing the Birds

We have processed birds here before.  We did that last fall when we found that we had 4 roosters, and we ordered all hens.  It’s not a great idea to have that many roosters.  It’s really rough on the hens, and the roosters can fight with each other.  So we had to cull 3 roosters.  (Culling is when you process chickens due to excess roosters or if they have lived past their laying prime.)

Costs

I am also keeping a running tally of the costs associated with raising meat birds.  I saw a whole organic chicken for sale at the grocery store for under $8.00.  I’m pretty sure our birds are going to cost more than that.  However, organic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Organic is better than conventional, but it stinks compared to pastured.  These organic birds that you can buy at a store just eat organic food.  They probably still live inside of large over crowed chicken houses with little to no ventilation.  The birds are probably not eating any bugs, digging in dirt, or eating any grass or weed seeds.

We are feeding our birds 100% organic feed while they have access to the outdoors during the last half of their life.  We want our chickens to be happy and to live healthy lives.

So join me on our journey with meat birds from day one to our table.

 

Link to the water and feeder for your Brooder:

Baby Chick Feeder Bottom

Water Bottom

Bottle for Food and Water

 

Perennial Plants

Planting perennials, especially edible perennials, on your property is an investment in your property and is a long term investment that pays dividends rather quickly.  A perennial is a plant that you establish once and it comes back year after year.  Your plant may take some maintanence, but the first year of establishment will take the most work.  The upfront cost of a perennial is more than than an annual, but when a $20 tree lasts decades, it is easy to understand the perennials’ pay-off.

Perennials, specifically trees, do more than just provide food year after year.  They provide shelter for song birds, nectar for bees and butterflies, provide shade, have beautiful blooms and help prevent erosion.  Annuals, when done without thought, can deplete soil and add to erosion.

Here are some the perennials we have added to our property thus far:

Blueberries:

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The beautiful bush has beautiful flowers in spring, followed by berries and present a red hue in fall, .  I have planted 16 of these plants on our property so far and may plant more in the future.  I have heard that the plants will last up to 50 years.  That may be the rest of my life.  We have selected six different types blueberries that fruit from the beginning of summer to the beginning of fall and each has a slightly different flavor.

Strawberries:

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We planted a total of 50 plants from two different varieties.  They live around the blueberry plants as they both like acidic soil.  You can expect about 3 years of production out of strawberry plants. They make an excellent ground cover and produce beautiful white flowers.  Beautiful and Tasty!  This is the theme of my landscaping.

Elderberry:

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This is one of the two elderberry trees I planted less than two weeks ago which was shipped bare roots.  Being shipped bare roots means that when your tree arrives, it looks like a dead stick.  So please don’t judge it’s appearance yet.  You can see it has little green leaves sprouting.  The plant is starting to make itself feel at home.

Elderberries are medicinals.  Elderberry syrup can be used as a powerful antibiotic that is not harmful to your natural balance as medicines provided by the big pharmaceutical companies.  (my opinion, and I’m not a doctor)  The fact is that you can buy elderberry syrup on Amazon for between $10 – $20 for 8 ounces.  or you can make it yourself, which I will demonstrate once I have elderberries from my trees to use.

You can also make elderberry wine, and jelly.  A well-rounded plant with many uses.

Apple Tree:

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Currently, I have two apple trees. I’m not sure if or how many more we may add.  Apples trees also get beautiful white flowers before they fruit, and can fruit for up to 50 years.

Paw Paw:

20140513_190939What in the world is a paw paw?  A paw paw is actually a plant that is native to the Eastern United States.  For those of use living in that region, it means they are quite easy to grow.  The flowers are gorgeous and attract the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly.  Some gardeners and wildlife lovers plant this tree for the sole purpose of enjoying the Zebra Swallowtail and the beautiful blooms of the tree.  BUT WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!  Easy to grow, beautiful, attracts and supports a rare butterfly.  More than that? Yes.

Paw paws produce a fruit that has a custard-like consistency and tastes like vanilla banana.  You will need more than one, as they are not able to pollinate themselves.

Plums:

IMG_1994I have one plum tree that is a self-pollinating variety.  This spring it treated us to beautiful flowers for over a week.  The show it puts on competes with that of the exclusively decorative trees.  And you get delicious sweet fruits from it.

Peach Tree:

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This was a bonus on our property.  This peach tree lives on the edge of the wooded area, and we assume it is a volunteer from a discarded peach pit.  We were pleasantly surprised by peaches last year, and we look forward to it again.  Jaxson enjoyed them quite a bit:

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Almond Tree:

This looks very similar to the peach tree and is related to the peach tree.  In fact, the peach and almond tree can cross pollinate.  As you can see, both trees get beautiful pink blooms in Spring.

Pear Tree:

We have two Pear trees in our chicken run. They look very similar to the apple trees and have wonderful white flowers in the Spring.

We also have 2 grape vines, asparagus, lavender and mint (which has a hint of chocolate).  We still have many more perennials we are planning on adding.

You may be thinking, “What are you going to do with all of this fruit?”. We do food preservation.  We would like to share our wholesome, natural, local food with our community.  So once we get a surplus, we may make it available for purchase.  What we don’t eat, preserve, or share we can give to our chickens and let the birds eat.  And even if they rot on the ground, they are adding fertility to our soil.  There are so many pros and not many cons.