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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are Turkeys Really Stupid Enough to Stand in the Rain and Drown?



I had considered having poultry for many years before actually getting them.  Several books I read said turkeys were not a good choice for the small farm because they were difficult to raise, required special accommodations and were actually too stupid to come in out of the rain.  They would look up at the sky, wondering what that strange thing was hitting them in the head...and drown.   "The Homesteader's Handbook to Raising Small Livestock" published by Rodale Press in 1974 starts the turkey section with this...

A Dickens to Raise
"Of all homestead poultry projects, turkey-raising seems to appeal to the least number of people.  Turkeys are among the most difficult domestic fowl to raise.  They are amazingly stupid - from the newly hatched poults who can starve to death while trampling in their feed because they haven't learned where to find it, to the hens who lay their eggs standing up.  They are easily frightened.  And turkeys are much more susceptible to disease than other fowl are."

"Five Acres and Independence" has this to say about turkey raising...

"Turkeys, unless reared by modern methods, are the most disappointing perhaps of all poultry to raise because the poults are delicate.  The turkey hen  is the worst fool of a mother imagineable.  Unless she is confined in the morning and during rainy weather, she will lead her brood through wet grass with the results that they get chilled and so weakened that many, if not all of them die.  Then too, the young turks are subject to diseases that are highly fatal.  So turkey raising, although highly profitable to the specialist and the raisers of large flocks under modern methods, is a branch of poultry raising advisable for the small farmer to avoid."

The large book "Country Wisdom & Know-How -  Everything You Need to Know to Live off the Land"  doesn't even mention turkeys at all!


Wow!  No wonder I never even considered raising turkeys!  When the friend who ordered my chicks showed up, she told me "Oh and I threw in 6 turkeys too", I thought "hmm, well, we will see how it goes".  I was really expecting the worst.  But the only problem I had with the poults was a result of typical turkey behavior...turkeys are very curious and will find ways to get into trouble.  My friend left the feedbag in the brooder house...and the next morning, I found one poult stuck IN the bag and another trussed up with the bag string...wrapped around its legs.  I have no idea how the poult accomplished that feat.



I found the poults no more difficult to raise than the chicks.  I did eventually separate them, as turkeys have differing nutritional needs than chickens.  I only had ONE problem with these first turkeys...one tom broke it's leg shortly before butchering time.  These were Broad Breasted turkeys and their bodies literally outgrow the skeleton.

I acquired heritage type turkeys next and let three hens lay, set on and raise their own poults.  They were fantastic mothers and kept perfect care of them, not losing a one.  They raised them in an outdoor pen in March when the temperatures at night were in the low 40's.  I was amazed that these little poults, that have to be kept in 90-95 degrees in a brooder, were walking around in such low temperatures.  But mom was right there to cover them every few minutes or so to warm them up.





As far as the old "farmer's tale" of turkeys being so stupid, they drown in the rain, that is utter nonsense as well as anatomically impossible.  Turkeys are very curious, as I mentioned.  This can get them into trouble at times.  It does not mean they are stupid.  If you listen and understand their various vocalizations, you can begin to see what they are doing and why.  The turkey's nostril is more of a slit than a hole.  Above it is a bony structure that partially covers the opening from above.  There is no practical way for rain to enter the nostril and certainly not enough to drown a bird!  


Every time it rains, my birds do not stand around looking up wondering what that wet stuff is!  They take cover under a tarp and stay there until it stops!  




I am glad I did not listen to the so-called 'experts' or let them dissuade me from raising turkeys.  Turkeys are valuable watch birds...they spot things in the sky long before the chickens do and will give an alert for  the others.  My chickens have learned to listen to them! I have found them to be much calmer and friendlier than my chickens and so much fun to have around.  Each one has a distinct personality.  I provide what they need in terms of food and shelter and they provide me with healthy homegrown meat, eggs, hatching eggs, and poults.  These ones pictured are now pets and I love hearing their greetings in the morning.  I am quite enamored with turkeys and will never be without them.


You have a goodie for me??




12 comments:

  1. Great article! :) I have heard the same things about turkeys, glad to know it's not true.

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  2. Is there a particular breed of turkey that is the friendliest? Love the article!

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    1. It varies even within a breed, SGF. The Broad Breasted are VERY friendly which makes it difficult to butcher them AND you can't keep them or breed them. Among the heritage breeds, I've seen all kinds of comments from breed owners on the turkey group I belong to. My birds are a mix of Bourbon Red and Narrangansett, plus I had a Blue Slate hen. (mother of the one above) I haven't noticed any difference in the different color varieties.

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  3. Thank you, love this one. I have a broody hen right now, but turkeys are pretty dumb. I like mine though.

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  4. Thank you :) I was kinda sorta looking at midget white or beltsville white, thinking smaller = less food hopefully. What do you know about ducks? ;) I am looking at runners or khaki campbells.

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  5. I am actually thinking of getting a breeding flock of midget whites as some point. They have been reported as being "the best tasting", although I know taste is subjective. True MWs are hard to get. They are in much demand, both hatching eggs and poults. I have no experience in raising ducks, but that is something I'm interested in too.

    Btw, there is a difference between the MWs and the Beltsville Small Whites. I will refresh my memory over at the turkey group...I'm thinking the Beltsvilles are a bit bigger.

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  6. What a great article Barbara! Have you submitted it to Gretchen's turkey link up? I think it would be great over there!

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    1. Dani, thank you! What is Gretchen's turkey link up? Tell me more! :-D

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    2. I found it, via Google! Now to figure out how to post it. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  7. What great photos! I just fixed my link up (and I just saw your comment - sorry) Would love you to link up.

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  8. Great post. Good info. We've been considering adding turkeys eventually and now I'm sure we will.

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    1. You won't regret it! Turkeys are great birds to have around.

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