The season is fast approaching…chick season. This year on our homestead we are venturing into turkeys. People look at me like I am crazy. The one acre is small to most farmers, but it is big to me if I use it right.
The first several years I started with a garden that was about a 20 ft x 30 ft square. I fed our family many a meal out of that. People thought I was smart. “What a way to save money” they would say. Then I made it bigger and bigger and now it is at the point I can barely keep up. They now say “well that’s a lot of garden for one family, are you sure you can handle it?” Well yes and no. I do what I can and with God’s loving blessing it hasn’t failed miserably because of my lack of time and motivation.
Three years ago I added 10 chickens. I promised my hubby that 10 would be enough..but as the years have went on I have bought more to “replace” and have yet to totally get rid of my first flock who are now turning 3. I bought an incubator and birthed a rotation of march and fall chicks. March chicks lay by Oct/Nov when the older girls molt and the Oct/Nov babies produce when my March chicks molt for the first time. This ensures I always have dozens of eggs for my church. Now I have 27 chickens and supply about 5 dozen eggs a Sunday to my church…I’m the crazy chicken lady with the huge garden.
Last year we added sheep. I got stares from the neighbor. “Are you sure you have enough space for them?” Sure I do. You can easily raise 6 sheep on one acre using rotation and set your lawnmower free. I only had 3, 2 most of the season. Sheep are super easy to keep and they are fun to play with. It was a lovely added adventure. I learned that sheep like goats will eat clothing. Well ok to be fair I was chasing them and it wasn’t so much eat,but grab my clean shirt sleeve, pull it off the line, and take off down the yard. So with two sheep, a huge garden and at 20+ chickens I got comments like “Oh my gosh, how do you do it all?” oh did I mention I make almost every meal we eat from scratch?? Yeah once they found that out I was like a God to them or something. I kept telling them it’s easy when your home all day and you actually WANT to do that stuff. Is it hard for me to go outside weed my garden, throw the weeds to the sheep to eat, all the while talking to my chicken girls? No. Is it hard for me to hang laundry outside and take every few minutes to chase a lamb around the tree? No.
This year we are adding 5 turkeys along with more chicks. I have been reading all I can on pasture raised turkeys. It is fascinating. My husband thinks I am crazy and when I mentioned more rotation on the animals he looked at me with those concerned eyes and said, “Your not going to put them in the front yard are you?” My reply was “Yes, I want to retire the lawnmower this year and they wont be there if we have people over. Just when we absolutely need to keep the grass down. Besides I’ll do it while you are at work.” *smile sweetly and kiss the hubby*
When I mentioned keeping turkeys the first word out of my sisters, and others mouths who have raised turkeys was “Do you know how much they EAT!!???” Yes, yes I do.. a lot. The problem with all said people who asked is they did not raise their turkeys on pasture rotation at all. They cooped them up in a small area which had no bugs, grass,or weeds and then fed them solely feed. That is NOT my plan. Heritage turkeys can get up to 50% of their diet from the outdoors. It is all in how you raise them. Wild turkeys don’t buy bags of feed to eat..they roam through the fields, woods, and yards to find their food. If I had a nice woods I don’t think I would buy hardly any feed. I am prepared to feed them at night before they go to bed, but other than that, they are free to forage all day for food, just as my chickens do. I will feed them more feed when they are babies of course to get them to the size no hawk will some swooping down and take any, but they will be weaned onto pasture like all the other animals and given supplemental feed as needed. I also am not going to raise them fast and fat to slaughter..they will grow naturally slow like they are suppose to.
My only dilemma is what breed to get. I only have two choices as to where I buy my chicks. I have Smiths Ace Hardware who only sell the Big Breasted Bronze turkeys..a non heritage breed and Tractor Supply who sell heritage breeds but on their order form it says minimum of 25. Yeah..I want 5..no more, no less. So at this point I have to hope and pray that our local TSC will get the two heritage varieties I am leaning towards as a store stock so I can buy 5. I will probably go in and talk to them about it and see if they can combine orders with someone who wants those as well or see if they will be able to get some into the store and call me. I am leaning towards either Narragansett or Bourbon Red. I read that Narragansetts are very docile and friendly birds, but the same article did not say about the Bourbon Reds which is what I’d like to raise this year. I guess it’s God’s plan. 🙂
This year we will have 4 lambs, 40+ chickens, and 5 turkeys. How much will my acre hold?? Only the Lord knows, but I plan on stretching the land as far as it will go this year to see!
Happy Homesteading!! 😀