A 10.85 pound heritage turkey on the left and a 34.78 pound broad-breasted bronze turkey on the right -- You can see how the breast bone on the heritage turkey sticks out in the middle of the turkey's chest, whereas the broad-breasted turkey has so much breast meat, there is an indentation in the middle of the turkey's chest. We'll be grinding up the meat on the big one and using it to make sausage, burgers, and chili.
Raising turkeys on a small scale is quite a challenge. Most years we take reservations until all but two turkeys are reserved. But since we've had trouble in recent years with not having enough big turkeys, this year I decided to have reservations only in March, and I said that we would keep whatever was left for ourselves. I doubled the number of reservations, and ordered the turkey poults in May because our turkeys had not provided us with poults by then. First mistake -- I should have known that the odds of having poults by April or May were ridiculously low. I think I've written on here in past years that it is almost impossible to have decent-sized Thanksgiving turkeys that were incubated, hatched, and raised in Illinois. The hens don't start laying early enough for it to happen. Our own home-hatched turkeys this year hatched in July, and right now, they're probably about six or seven pounds each.
Then there is the issue of ordering the poults at just the right time. Order them too soon, and the boys will reach sexual maturity and start trying to kill each other before Thanksgiving. Order too late, and they just don't get very big. Order too early, and more will die from hypothermia en route from the hatchery. But if they don't get big enough by Thanksgiving, people aren't happy. But those are the typical issues we deal with every year -- and it's enough for me to say almost every year that I'm never selling turkeys again.
This year, something new happened. Mike and I were both teaching Thursday afternoon and evening, so our teenage children had to catch the turkeys and put them in the pick-up for the drive to the processor Friday morning. Unfortunately, they arrived home after dark, so several turkeys had already decided to roost in the trees. Since Mike had to leave before dawn, there was no chance they would come down before he left. When the kids tried to get them down, they just went up higher. That means several turkeys did not get processed. Of course, only heritage turkeys can fly, so it was heritage turkeys that went up into the tree. So, we didn't have enough heritage turkeys for our customers, and the ones we did have were smaller than normal. I couldn't believe those big Spanish blacks were only 12 pounds!
I was ready to throw in the towel last night for good! I didn't want to deal with unhappy customers. I sent emails to everyone explaining the situation, and asking if people could take smaller turkeys or broad-breasted turkeys. One person responded immediately (a new customer) with a short response that merely said to cancel her reservation. I went to bed thinking that today was going to be terrible. However, when I started calling people, most of them laughed when I told them about the turkeys flying up into the tree, and they were happy to revise their orders. So, maybe I'll do this again next year.