Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Well! Debbie came home from her broody sabbatical with three little white peeps this morning. We never did figure out where her nest was, so there is no telling how many eggs she actually hatched and how many babies she may have lost on the way back to the barn from her nest site. At this point she is three times better than Dawn on her first go and she blew out Audrey, who hatched two and came back with none.

Here are two of them with proud mama.

While I was out there, I caught a quick updated photo of Mickie and Dawn's remaining peeps. There are still five and they all fly now. That will make it exponentially harder to round them up and re-home them. :( But I think it's time for them to go. We don't need so many guineas and we have already arranged a trade for a future turkey processing.

And speaking of turkeys... We lost two of the poults. :( One, um, kind of, well...walked into our dog's mouth. Ahem. And one went completely AWOL. We quickly re-settled the other two in the coop whereupon one started to look really gimpy. To say I panicked is an understatement. I mean - one needs to make it to Thanksgiving. It was a freakin' wedding present. I briefly considered sending a photo of a dead turkey with a note, "I am sorry, but your turkey died. Take this as a lesson. If you do not properly care for your marriage, it too will die." But that seemed bad even for me. So we ordered 15 more that will be mailed out next week. Just in case.

Yes. 15.

Why, you ask? Good question. It's crazy, huh? Well, it is really the minimum order. They can't mail you just one or two - they need to fill a box to provide warmth and cushioning. That's why we get them at the feed store. They order in bulk and we can pick up as many as we want.

So anyway, the feed store is done now. I had to get serious. On 7/29 the hatchery will put 15 day-old heritage breed turkeys in a box and send them our way. I elected the "Hatchery Choice" option, meaning they can send us any kind they have on hand. We may get 15 of one kind or we may get 3-4 each of four kinds. I have no idea. I only hope they will tell us what they sent.

Our plan is to get them past the critical do or die point (6 weeks or so) and then sell all but maybe five on craigslist. And we're building a mobile coop - or turkey tractor - to avoid any more losses to our bad house dog, Max.

Ugh. Have I ever mentioned that we are NOT a poultry farm? You wouldn't really know it these days.

8 comments: said...

Do NOT sell them on Craig's List. Ahem. Do you or do you not have access to some fabulous farmer's markets in Houston? Do you or do you not sell fabulous artisanal cheeses? Put up a dang sign that says "Reserve your naturally raised Thanksgiving Turkey today, 5.50 per pound or 6.00 per pound" or something like that. Folks will reserve them a turkey. And not at Craig's list prices either. a 30 pound bird will fetch you a nice profit. Doesnt even have to be a heritage breed. Heritage breeds dont gain weight for nothin'.

Put up a SIGN! You dont have to be a poultry farm to sell good pastured or free range turkeys.


See what you get. I bet you sell out the first week. No kiddin'. Folks already trust you for your cheeses and know you. Turkeys bring a nice profit.

And raise the prices on your cheese. Make it worth your while. said...

You can freeze your turkeys or have them picked up at the farmer's market before Turkey Day. Folks will buy them. If you have any mortality with your poults, you can always go out and buy a free range turkey from somewhere else and its a wash. You can always feed the turkeys to the dogs if you cant sell them.

Blue Heron Farm said...

A few things on that --

1. Since you do not go to farmers markets, I will let you know that that is not how they work. You can't just come and sell whatever you have - especially not things other people already are approved to sell.

I would be awfully discouraged if every farmer who owned a goat could come with cheese any time they had extra milk.

2. To get them fat, we'd need to feed them. Something we are totally not interested in. We allow our birds to fend for themselves like wild turkeys do.

3. I don't believe in the awful BB varieties. Completely against our idea of sustainable farming to raise animals that are not even capable of natural breeding. WTH? Crazy. Gross. Wrong.

4. Who the heck would process them? Not us. We have neither legal means nor desire.

Here's the thing about making money on animals. It would be way more profitable for me to turn these guys around in a week for double the price than put in labor, let some die, etc. We have learned this with the baby ducks and guineas we have sold. I can probably sell my $8 birds for $20 each a week after I get them. If I sell 10, the $200 now seriously beats raising 10 extra turkeys for a year (Or five if we lose half - or none if we lose them all in a year's time) and then paying to get them processed and to market them.

Rule 1 of farming: Know what business yo are in. I ain't a meat farmer. The exception is our pigs, who cost us nothing to raise.

...and never wander into the dog's mouth.

Blue Heron Farm said...

Oh-- and I don't t

hink they'll be ready in time for T-giving. :( If the original wedding turkey dies, we'll probably have to give them two new ones to have enough meat.

But in good news, Little Turkey Lan looks great. And his friend has lost her gimpy look. Yay! said...

At our farmer's markets, its cut throat. You sell what you have. If you want to sell meat and veggies and everyone else is selling them, no one cares. Everyone has the same stuff. Multiple vendors sell the same things.

Its ugly. The good thing is that nobody in Maryland is doing goat milk cheeses or sheeps milk cheeses. Maybe 2 farms total in the state.

As long as you are abiding by county and state health codes, you can sell anything. Unless the market specifically has to approve your goods. Its all county health code stuff, or you have to produce it yourself. If you make value added goods, you can sell it as long as you made it. If you have a freezer or refrigeration, you can sell meats that were inspected.

You can always sell them off of the farm.

And the BB turkeys arent normal, but they are what folks expect. I have some ordered simply because they are easy. Its hard to explain to the most forgiving locavores that the turkey only weighs 9 pounds because its a heritage bird and its still going to cost you 70 bucks and have enough breast meat for 3 adults, maybe.

We need better variety for turkey production in this country. The heritage breeds of turkeys are lousy, in general. Small, tasty, but S L O W growing.

Culturally we are programmed to expect a plump turkey at Thanksgiving. Folks want that, even when they say they want a heritage bird, they want a big turkey. If they are willing to shell out more than 100 bucks for a bird, it better be able to feed 16 people at Aunt Betty's house.

Im getting some BB white turkeys and we will see how they do. Its not the turkey's Ill try some heritage breeds next year, like the Narraganset or the Slate, or perhaps one of the Spanish varieties. I wasnt ready for this year.

Ive got the French color ranger chickens on pasture now. They look pretty nice, meaty birds and are very active on pasture. I also have a batch of cornish cross. Im going to process them at 6 weeks, I think.

The customers understand about heritage breeds, but they look at you crosseyed when you hand them one and its tiny with no breast meat. They arent returning for more.

Blue Heron Farm said...

Our American Bronze turkeys were quite large. Dory dressed out at 25 pounds? But we waited too long and he was larger than he should have been. TOD was 18, tI think.

But I totally understand why production farmers need the BB varieties. It's just not something I am interested in since we are not meat farmers. They do not fit my idea of sustainability. And I am lucky to be able to be an idealist about my birds.

Interesting difference in markets. Here you cannot bring a single thing that was not on your original application. You can submit a new app, but if there are enough vendors selling that item already you won't likely be approved. We have two to three poultry people at each market I go to already. I can't even bring my dang yellow squash. many dang squash.... said...

You will like this too. In Maryland, you cant sell poultry at the farmer's markets if they were not processed at an inspected facility. Im allowed to sell my 1000 birds per the federal exemption off of the farm. I can take orders at the farmer's market and then later "deliver" the bird to the customer. That delivery can be in 10 seconds. So, technically, I could take the order for the bird and then "deliver" the bird to the customer. In a few seconds. So, there are rules, and then there are rules...

Miriam said...

Sorry about your squash:( I just made a really easy, quick and yummy gratin with squash. Let me know if you want the recipe. By the way, I love your blog and reading about what's going on at the farm. Keep the posts coming. See you either at the next market, or whenever we finally make that trip up to visit!