Thursday, February 2, 2006

Turkey conundrum

On today's "to do" list: make soap, update the Web site's turkey page, make beans, post a monthly message to the farm's Yahoo group, vacuum and clean the foyer. So far, I've vacuumed and cleaned the foyer.

Two days ago, I called the poultry processor to check out the dreadful rumor that they would no longer be processing poultry for small producers. I'm glad to report that the rumor is false! Woo hoo! I was having a hard time picturing the family outside in November butchering 20 turkeys, which is what I had already determined would be the maximum we'd grow if we had to butcher them ourselves. We do butcher our own chickens and turkeys for our dinner, but it takes us a dreadfully long time. We're down to about 45 minutes for a chicken, and no one even looked at the clock when we butchered the turkey last November, but I think it was probably somewhere between an hour and two -- and there were three of us plucking at the same time. It's really inconceivable how it can take us so long.

One thing that struck me yesterday at the Smithsonian exhibit ... they had a quote from someone local who was talking about butchering day. They said they'd have neighbors come over to help. That makes sense. I am also sure that practice makes it go a lot faster. So maybe we just need to do a lot more butchering to get really fast at it. The plucking is the time-consuming part, and the kids and I just pluck, pluck, pluck while Mike handles everything else. And the plucking is such a time-consuming part of it that he even winds up plucking too!

Even knowing that we have the poultry processor available, I am not terribly excited about raising turkeys this year. Prior to 2005, it was the most successful thing we did every year. But last year, we started with 100 turkey poults, and only 35 made it to Thanksgiving. Then, for some odd reason, most of them were very small. In the past, the bourbon reds were 10-16 pounds, but last year, they were 7 to 12 pounds! There are so many variables when you are not growing animals in "scientifically-controlled environments," so it's really impossible to figure out why they didn't get bigger. The broad-breasted bronze all grew to the expected sizes, which leads me to think that it wasn't anything in the feed or the environment. It was just something about this particular line of bourbon reds. Sadly, this led to some very unhappy customers who called and informed me that their Thanksgiving was ruined. One woman sounded like she was on the verge of tears. This was not what I had in mind when I wanted to raise turkeys. Frankly, I'd have been happy to keep most of the turkeys, because we were left with only three. I'd love to have turkey every month, and a 7-pound turkey would be perfect for us! We still have a month left before we start making concrete plans for the turkeys, so hopefully we'll figure out what we want to do by then.

What we really need to do today is ... get those baby chicks ordered, as well as all the supplies we need to restock the kidding/lambing box!


cedarvalleyfarm said...


If you don't have them already get yourself a scalder and a plucker.

We have a 20 gallon scalder and a table top plucker. Both purchased from SD Poultry HQ for $465 total.

With them and two killing cones and two eviscerating shackles ($140 total), two of us can process 12-15 chickens an hour. With a third helper we bump that up to 17-20.

Deborah said...

Thanks for the information! I've never seen pluckers that cheap. With the proper equipment, I know we could get a lot faster. A plucker was on my wish list! Now maybe I'll be able to get it a little sooner.


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