Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Turkeys, Y'all: Part One

As part of our commitment to consuming only meat that we know has been raised and killed in an ethical way, Josh and I have talked a lot about the goal of raising our own animals for meat and what that will entail. We're a ways off from being able to keep cattle, but pigs may be an option at some point and rabbits may be an option even sooner. This week we took a somewhat unexpected stride forward into learning to provide our own meat.

We're both in the habit of browsing craigslist fairly regularly, particularly the Farm and Garden section. Josh's consistent browsing is what got us an incredible deal ($35!!!) on a chicken coop plus two Rhode Island Red hens. This weekend I was poking around and came across a lady who was selling two turkeys for the amazing price of $15 each. We knew we both needed some experience processing (i.e. slaughtering and preparing the meat of) animals and this seemed like a good opportunity.

We have had issues with buying animals off craigslist before (our poor Silkies, RIP) so this time I went into it knowing that I'd have to back out of the sale if I got a bad feeling about the folks we were buying them from or the environment they were kept in (which I had felt the last time, with the Silkies). Before heading to see the turkeys I got some great advice from my friends Elizabeth and John from JEM Farm in Knoxville, who raise organic poultry (among other things!) and told me what to look for in a healthy bird. It's always good to check in with someone who knows what they're talking about.

 I figured from talking to the lady on the phone that the folks who raised the turkeys were good ol' country folks - not ones who would raise a turkey pastured on organic feed, but ones who would take decent care of it. Nothing worried me about the turkeys' environment when I arrived at the house. They had a good-sized dirt "run" surrounded with fencing where they were walking around freely. Both turkeys looked alert and healthy... and BIG. I'm used to being around 5 pound chickens, so to be around these huge, 20 pound, three-foot-tall turkeys was an adjustment.

The turkeys were caught and caged with hardly any trouble and they seemed fine with riding in the back of the truck in a dog crate. They are now happily contained in Josh's "chicken trampoline" creation, a building project he is pretty proud of (it's an old trampoline frame he got for free, plus a bunch of netting, hardware wire, tarps, and a makeshift wooden door).

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the trampoline is working out -- and the turkeys are ECSTATIC over being on fresh grass.  I don't think I've been around many turkeys and Maggie had never been around any. We have all been very entertained by them already. They are so different from chickens in their mannerisms and make the CRAZIEST noises. It's almost like chortling. Farming is fun - even if we know (and have even talked to Maggie about) what the end fate of these birds will be.

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