I’ve started to let the turkeys run loose a bit in the evenings after I get home. Juggling their freedom is hard, because they are eating a 30% protein diet, and I don’t want the chickens to have unlimited access to that. It’s not good for them to eat too much of it, and it’s also a waste of money. So, for now, the turkeys stay penned during the day with their supercharged growth food. They love being out, though, and anxiously wait at their door to be set free each night.

I worked with them for a few days to make sure they’d go back into their A-frame at night to roost. The first time I let them out, it was only for  a few minutes before I herded them home. Then I let them out longer over the next few days. They are good about getting back on their roost at dusk now. So for the time being, they can run around unsupervised, and I can just close their house door at night like I do for the ducks and chickens.

I’m expecting that eventually they may decide to start roosting in their own chosen locations, like trees, and I’m not sure yet if I’m going to allow that. I may clip their wings. I worry that if they got too feral, we wouldn’t be able to catch them at butchering time, and would instead be turkey hunting! Already they are practicing flying and can get a good six feet of loft (for a brief moment), even with their immature feathers.

You’ll notice we are down from three turkeys to two! The third one came down sick last week, with respiratory distress. I know this is bad news for any poultry, so I put strong antibiotics in their water, hoping I might save him. But three days later he had expired. Ah, how familiar does the term “mortality rate” become when you have a lot of animals, especially more fragile species and young animals. I was musing that we are getting enough numbers now where having a sick animal is going to be a more common occurrence statistically. We have eighty-two animals on the farm, I think, and growing.

That was the broad-breasted white turkey which died. And you know, “they say" those aren’t nearly as disease resistant as the heritage breeds. So at least for this sample of three, that seemed to be the case, as the other two are hale and hardy. I will say I am breaking a rule by housing the turkeys near chickens. There is risk that they can contract black head disease that way. And the feed store where we got them was also breaking the rule. But it’s inconvenient to segregate them, so I’m not going to worry about it.

The other white turkey we have indeed looks like he is a Royal Palm, the black bars are starting to appear on his feathering. The third is a Bourbon Red, his coloring is more obvious. Sorry for the glare-ey picture, darn if I don’t have trouble with my camera in sunlight, the pictures are always over-exposed, and Photoshop can only do so much!