Last week we got another flock of baby turkeys - - - about 20,000 baby turkeys to be exact.
Lots of people ask questions about raising turkeys so I'm going to answer some of the most commonly asked questions. These pictures were taken in the brooder barn, where the baby turkeys are.
1. How long have you been raising turkeys? We bought our farm in February of 1998 and the turkey barns were on the farm when we bought it. So we've raised turkeys for nearly 13 years.
2. If turkeys look up in the rain will they drown? No, although our turkeys are raised inside and are only outside when we haul them in trailers from the brooder barn to the grow out barns.
3. What is the difference between a brooder barn and a grow out barn? The brooder barn is the barn where all the baby turkeys are delivered. All 20,000 turkeys we got last week are in this brooder barn, and they will remain in this barn until they are 6 or 7 weeks old. At that time, they will be moved to one of the three grow out barns on our farm. The grow out barns is where they will remain until they are shipped to the processing plant, somewhere between 15 and 18 weeks of age.
4. Where do the baby turkeys come from? The baby turkeys are delivered in refrigerated trucks and they come from the "hatchery." The chicks are between 24 and 36 hours old when they are delivered to us. No turkeys are "born" on our farm and our turkeys don't lay eggs.
5. What do the turkeys eat? Cargill delivers all of the feed and I can't honestly tell you exactly what is in it. I do know that the turkeys are fed different types of feed, depending on their age. For instance, the baby turkeys get a different type of feed delivered than the turkeys that are in the grow out barns. The feed is delivered in semi trucks and each turkey will eat approximately 60 pounds of feed during the 15 or 16 weeks that it is alive on our farm.
6. I've always heard turkeys are really stupid, are they? Yes, they are. Seriously.
7. Do turkeys stink? Yes, there are times that they do stink. The floor of the barns is covered with wood shavings and we run a piece of equipment called a "house cleaner" through the barns on a regular basis to remove manure and leave the shavings but, of course, anytime you have animals you are going to have some odor. There are days we can have our windows open, and days we can't.
8. Do you own the turkeys? No, we do not own the turkeys. We are paid to "babysit" or "raise" the turkeys and, in case you are wondering, we get paid for every live bird we deliver back to Cargill at the end of the 15, 16, or 17 weeks that they live on our farm. The turkeys that die on our farm -- we do not get paid for those, only the live birds.
9. What is the hardest thing about raising turkeys? My husband, who actually is the turkey farmer and does the real manual labor would probably tell you that cleaning out the barns between flocks and setting the brooder barn up for the baby turkeys is the hardest part. Or maybe cleaning up a water spill in one of the barns. Yuck. Since I don't actually do much of the turkey work, I think the hardest thing is not being able to get away from the farm. There is never a day that we don't have turkeys and we grow turkeys all year around, not just around Thanksgiving! While we can get away for a few hours to go out to eat or go to a ballgame, you can't leave the turkeys unattended for very long at all. The temperature in the barns has to be regulated, sometimes water lines break, feed lines break, all kinds of things can go wrong, and when things go wrong turkeys die. And when turkeys die, we don't get paid. If we want to be gone from the farm we have to pay someone to do the work and that makes getting away pretty expensive. In the nearly 13 years we have lived on our farm my husband has spent less than 30 nights away from our farm and I am not exaggerating.
10. Do you eat your own turkeys? Nope, we don't. Since we don't own the turkeys, to eat one would technically be stealing so if we are eating turkey we bought it at the grocery store. I like turkey for thanksgiving, and we eat turkey sandwiches, but other than that, we eat about as much turkey as any family. But we really appreciate it when all of YOU eat lots of turkey :0!!!!!
Hope you enjoyed this little bit of information about life here at Down On The Farm! It really isn't just the title of my blog, it is our way of life.