Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Many Lives Does a Turkey Have?

I think one of our turkey poults heard that (tom) cats have nine lives and decided he does, as well, since he's a Tom, too!

When Herb got up Friday morning, he went to check on the babies, and one had flown out of the box and was sitting on the dryer.  When he saw Herb, he tried to get away and fell down behind the dryer.  So when I got up we had to pull out the dryer and rescue the adventurous bird.  Eight lives left!

We had swept the brooder house and sprayed it with a bleach solution Thursday evening and left it to air overnight.  It's tightly screened with hardware mesh to keep predators out, and it has a latch and a hook to secure the door so no handy raccoons can get in.

On Friday morning, we replaced the tarp that we use to cover the floor and weighted it down with pieces of 2x4 lumber to keep it from moving.

In one corner is the brooder box which is very useful while the birds are young.  It's much easier to heat the inside of a small box than a large, screened room!

Zooming in closer you can see that the top of the brooder box is a handy metal piece which we found laying in the hay barn after we moved in.  It's got a hole that's perfect for dropping in a heat lamp without it touching anything flammable.  It can be raised or lowered according to the amount of heat needed for the birds.  The bungie strap is adjustable and supports the weight of the lamp so it's not hanging by its cord.

Peeking through the hole, you can see the birds below, basking in the warmth of the heat lamp.  It was just our luck that the night we moved them into the brooder house, the temperature dropped into the 30's!  Turkey poults and keets are both fragile and need to be kept very warm, so obviously something more was needed.

First I covered most of the hole on top with a few pieces of spare lumber to help hold the heat in.  Next I got a thrift store throw that we usually use to protect plants in the garden, and I folded it over the opening of the brooder box, weighting it on top to hold it in place.

The birds had already huddled in the far corner to stay warm.  I set their waterer up on a block of wood to keep it out of the shavings and moved it close to the heat lamp so the water would stay warm enough for the turkeys.  I also moved a feeding tray full of chick starter in where the birds could reach it.

The final thing I did was to hang the brooder thermometer under the heat lamp so I could monitor the temperature.  Then I dropped the blanket back in place and left.

When Herb went out to shut up the hens and put Misty in with her charges for the night, he came back and told me it had gotten really cold outside.  "I think I better just go check on the babies," I said.  On a whim I grabbed two more garden throws from the garage, got a flashlight, and headed out to the brooder house.

I added an extra throw in front of the opening, and then I noticed red light escaping from the back of the brooder box.  I took the second throw and went back to cover up the gaps that were letting heat escape.  As I tucked the throw in well so it would stay, I happened to look down between the side of the box and the side of the brooder room.  In the dim flashlight glow I saw a dark lump that I hadn't seen when I laid the 2x4's down to hold the tarp.

Sure enough, it was a turkey!  He had gotten out from under the blanket and gone exploring, then couldn't find his way back, and there he sat in a huddled heap.  I scooped him up, and he didn't even struggle, but as soon as I set him back under the heat, he got up and moved to join his buddies.  I was so thankful I had gone out to check because he would certainly have died from the cold.  Before I left, I grabbed another piece of 2x4 and weighted both blankets down in front of the brooder box so no one else could escape.  Seven lives left!

Saturday night I decided to make another bedtime check on the birds to be sure they were warm enough.  My system was working well, and despite the cold the thermometer was staying at a toasty 85°--but there was another problem.

Since some of the keets seemed to have a hard time with the concept of sticking their heads inside the holes of the red plastic feeder, I had replaced it with a more open metal feeder.  The strip of metal down the middle, which I call a "vane" is made to rotate if the birds try to perch on it.  It spins and tips them off so they can't roost there pooping in their food!

Somehow, this suicidal turkey (I'm assuming it's the same one, although they could be taking turns) had gotten himself UNDER the metal vane.  Only one wing was free, and he was laying on his side with his legs splayed out.  He was wedged in there so tightly that I had to pry the ends of the feeder apart and remove the vane before I could get him out.  He hopped right up and ran off, but I doubt he would have made it all night.  Six lives left!

I've heard people say turkeys are hard to raise.  I'm beginning to see why the hatcheries make you buy 15--they want to be sure you have one left by Thanksgiving!  I'm also beginning to think that, as curious and friendly as they are compared to the keets, turkeys must be pretty stupid!  After all, you've never heard of a Thanksgiving chicken, have you?   

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