Every year, our son AJ likes to remind us of the year we raised our own turkeys. Before I tell you the story, let me remind you to make turkey soup from your leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcass.
Over the years in addition to turkeys we’ve raised steer, geese, pigs, lambs, ducks and guinea fowl. We got our first chickens in December of 2002 just about six months after we moved to our acreage. In March 2003 we got our first goats, and then lambs, steer and in March 2005 we brought home cute baby turkeys from the feed store.
Having been city folk all our lives it was a stark contrast to our decades long experience of owning pets. When you raise livestock, you have to get into a completely different mindset otherwise you’ll go broke feeding them. Ask me how I know. Livestock are meant for two things… procreating and producing food, or being eaten. In the livestock world the females are much more important, as long as they produce. Once they are past their prime they usually go into the freezer. This is a hard lesson for city folk to learn.
Mr. A and I had experience with raising dogs and cats, and other domesticated pets, but not livestock so it was our habit to buy a new Storey’s book for every critter we acquired, usually after bringing home the new livestock from the feed store. I think only one time we bought the book prior to the critter, and this habit sometimes led to incidents such as growing super-size turkeys.
The feed store had turkeys for sale in March, so we bought several. We’d grow enough for everyone in our extended family! We figured we would feed and grow them until about a week before Thanksgiving and then commence to butchering. And so that’s what we did. The hens were huge, but the toms were even bigger. What should have happened is we should have butchered them in July or August, but we wanted home raised “fresh, never frozen” turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. So we waited and waited until the week before Thanksgiving.
As a result, we ended up with some really huge turkeys. Mr. A’s aunt found out that we had one that weighed over fifty pounds and she bought it for a friend of hers that had access to a professional kitchen. And this was when we learned something else about raising turkeys… it’s really best to raise the white feathered ones. You see, there’s a right time and a wrong time to butcher fowl. One thing to watch for is when the pinfeathers have disappeared. I don’t know exactly when this magic happens, but let me tell you, you don’t want to pluck a turkey that has active pinfeathers. Especially black pinfeathers. Since we were selling this bird to a professional cook, who was planning to serve it to her family and friends, we couldn’t let it go without doing our best to remove all the pinfeathers. Mr. A began plucking earlier in the day and when four hours had passed he couldn’t continue any longer. When I got home from work we set up on the table and with tweezers we both worked for two more hours plucking pin feathers. We vowed never again would we raise our own turkeys. In the photos below you will see how this super turkey dwarfs a smaller hen turkey. The tom was about twice the size.
He was about 17 inches across the breast. See the lovely black pinfeathers?
20″ from drumstick to neck.
About 9″ from back to the top of the breast. This was one big turkey.
This was also the year my mother-in-law and her sister, my husband’s aunt joined us for Thanksgiving Dinner. Our son could not eat one bite of turkey this year due to having helped to butcher the birds.
We’ve never raised turkeys ever since. Even though they were organic and fresh, it’s much cheaper and less time consuming to buy one from the grocery store.
Have you ever raised any of your own food?