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Rethinking Turkeys

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Earlier this month, Dan’s knee injury brought all of his projects to a halt. Of course, that initially led to frustration and eventually a discussion. We’ve periodically taken time to evaluate our original goals and analyze our progress. From the beginning, we wanted to work toward a simplified maintenance lifestyle. By that I mean we wanted to get our infrastructure built before our “retirement” years. We knew that as we got older, we wouldn’t want to be tackling large building projects or taking on energy intensive ventures. So we’ve worked to get to a comfortable status quo.  

I think the greenhouse is probably the last of those big things. Not that we don’t have tons of ideas. The ideas never stop! But eventually, we knew we’d have to reach a point where we could say, we can be content with what we’ve got. Things like injury or illness have a way of really bringing that point home. As badly as Dan felt that I had to do all the chores, it was manageable. I was exceedingly glad when he was out and around again, but everything got done and no one was worse for the wear.

Which brings me to the turkeys. Of themselves, they are an excellent addition to the homestead. They are easy to care for and have fantastic entertainment value. And of course there are the eggs and meat, of which we don’t get a lot, but it’s the reason we got them. 

However. It’s impossible to evaluate any one element on the homestead as an entity unto itself. That’s part of the equation, but in fact, each element fits into the homestead system. So the question is, how does it impact everything else? In the case of the turkeys, not as we hoped. 

Part of the problem is that every species of bird we’ve brought here wants to be in the chicken yard and the chicken coop. First the Muscovys, then the turkeys, each was given their very own area and accommodations, but they all managed to eventually make their way into the chicken yard and invade the coop (much to the indignation of the chickens). Now, if everybody could just be one big happy family, that would be great! But (for us, at least) it hasn’t worked that way and we have constant squabbling going on over the coop, over the roosts, over the nest boxes, over the feeders, over the waterers, etc., etc.

The addition of Tom really changed our poultry dynamic. Poults came along, of course, but also a new challenge to chicken territory. Three times, Tom has gotten into fights with our two roosters (which fortunately Dan was able to break up). So, Tom is not allowed into the chicken yard. 

Then Jenny B (mother of our two poults) decided to take a stand. She made her way into the chicken yard and coop once her poults were big enough to fly. Since then, she’s been dominating the chickens and frequently challenging Schooster, the chicken yard rooster. She’s taken over the top roosting bar in the coop, so that none of the other chickens will use the roost. 

Most recently, we found our friendliest hen dead. Her head and eyes were pecked in, so we suspect Tom killed her. The sad part is that she lived in the chicken tractor with our second rooster because all the other hens were so mean to her. Dan let her out to enjoy a little freedom that day and then we find her dead. And with that we had to ask, are the turkeys worth it?

I think the tendency is to evaluate that from an economic point of view, i.e. comparing feed costs to egg and meat production. That’s definitely part of it, but there are other considerations as well. That can include time and maintenance, but especially, how well anything fits into our homestead system. Some critters (or other things) fit in better than others. 

We haven’t reached a decision about all of this yet, but I suspect that the conclusion we’ll come to is that the turkeys would be better off some place else.

Rethinking Turkeys © Sept. 2023 by Leigh at 


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