Go big or go home.

I’ve always loved that expression. It suits me, or it once did. I have always taken on more than I could chew (much more, as it turns out), and have fallen flat on my face more times than I can count. I have also had a spectacular victory, here and there. “Go big or go home”; “Fortune favours the bold”; and, my personal favourite…”Life is like a dog sled: unless you’re the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

I mention this because I need reminding sometimes.

Those of you following our turkey adventures may recall that The Man and I had A Plan: buy 15 poults of three different breeds from Porter’s Heritage Turkeys (the minimum order allowed, with 2-3 extras included for body heat and to replace potential losses during transit), decide which of the three breeds we want to perpetuate going forward, keep a trio over the winter for spring breeding, slaughtering the rest for Christmas orders. That was The Plan.

Was.

You might also recall that I was harbouring my own variation on that plan: to keep birds both of the Slates/Self Blues and the Holland Whites, gradually introducing The Man to the idea, so gradually, in fact, that he would barely notice that we were wintering six birds, rather than three.

I needn’t have bothered, as my guile was completely wasted; The Man, as in many things, was way ahead of me. He completely took the wind out of me yesterday when he suggested that we keep all the turkeys over the winter.

Wait…what?!

Whoa, big fella; that’s obviously impractical. The Man persisted. Rather than starting off our breeding program next spring with one stag and two hens, why not be serious about it right off the bat? Why not keep a stag and three hens from the Slates/Self Blues (which can be bred together), and a breeding trio, at a minimum, from the White Hollands? He would like to see us keep 6-8 turkeys over the winter, getting our breeding program off to a much faster start. Poultapalooza!

This complicates things, naturally. Housing requirements change, obviously, and feed costs will be trebled, but I’m planning on implementing fermented feed for the turkeys, via the brilliant Aoxa’s suggestion. Then there’s the breeding. If we keep more than one breed, they are likely to interbreed, all higglety pigglety humpy hump, unless separated during the mating season, a not inconsiderable pain in the ass. My ass, to be precise.

He waived off my concerns about increased feed costs (I’ll file that away for later). As for breeding, we could separate them, but…what if we didn’t, I asked? Surely, the birds of mixed parentage would make themselves known upon hatching, and those birds could be set aside for slaughter in the fall. There would be somewhere in the nieghbourhood of 50% purebred birds. Right?

Free love! Free love, I say!!

Which leaves housing. We toyed, briefly, with this little bit of ingenuity, as we have an expired trampoline that requires repurposing:

405622_440773155992575_722023361_n

Very clever, but insufficient housing for more than a few turkeys. Our trampoline will be repurposed, but as a movable tractor pen, so, the above, roughly, without the housing on top. More bouncy bounce room for the goats, as Jillian pointed out.

The Man had thought, from the beginning, that we’d use the very back of the barn, the northern wall, to build a small coop for wintering the turkeys. That area is full of storage at the moment, most of which is junkyard bound. Just when I thought I knew what was going on in his head, he blew my mind again.

Our barn is very large, in the shape of a “T”, the front door being at the top of the “T”. The showroom (where all the various improptu, ad hoc nests are, is the top crosspiece, and not relevant to this discussion. The chicken coop, and potential lodgings for turkeys and goats are in the “stem” of the “T”, if you will. In order to go further, visual aids will be required:

Barn now

Above is a very rough floor plan of the first floor of the back section of the barn. It is eyeballed and not remotely to scale. As you can see, there’s lots of space to work with, including pre-made pony stalls, all ready for goat babies. There is plenty of space (once cleaned out, power washed and silkwood showered) for supplies and equipment. The eastern exterior door will lead to their pasture area. Simples!

The Plan for wintering three turkeys was something along the lines of this:

Barn old plan

Something like that. Ish. Simple construction, more than adequate space, as turkeys require approximately 5 square feet of coop space per bird, exit through the now-unused northern exit. Retains human access to the feed bin and tube on the exterior of the chicken coop.

Here’s the part where The Man blew my mind. His New Plan goes a little something like this:

Barn new plan

Ummm…wow, baby. That’s some turkey coop. Construction simplified even further, with a shorter wall using the chicken coop wall as part of the plan. Just welded wire with a strong structural skeleton for support, and a reinforced floor for predator protection. This is a very old barn and solid.

I’m not convinced we can spare all that storage space, but The Man is. This plan means I’ll need to enter the turkey coop to load up the chickens’ feed tube, but that’s okay. Please note that, under the new plan, the turkeys get their very own pop door to the run, appropriately scaled, of course.

It’s a huge space. Roosts and nests will be kept along one wall, and the turkeys will likely use only a fraction of it.

He never stops surprising me…

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6 thoughts on “Go big or go home.

  1. Wait.. Are you sharing the run between the chickens and turkeys?

    If chickens can’t get away from turkeys, there can be big issues. My turkey hen just recently killed one of my roosters. He was not fairing well, and was weak – so it’s understandable, but she still did. I have to house them separately now.

    • You have alerted me, yet again, to a problem before it happens, Aoxa. What would I do without you?! I feel terrible about your rooster! I’m sure I’m much too relaxed about chickens living with turkeys. So, no sharing housing, but they share pasture okay?

      • Yes they can share free ranging space. It’s just when they are bothering the chickens (they mostly bother with roosters not so much hens) the chickens need to be able to get away, which they can on pasture. When they are in a pen or a confined space, they can corner them and really do damage.

        I let my turkeys share housing at night. They are subdued at that point. I had to confine them during the winter because the ground was too frozen for electric fencing. The rooster was in there with them because I thought they would never do such a thing. So far they’ve also injured another rooster, who is okay and separate now.


        Here is Betty harassing her favourite (or mortal enemy) rooster out on free range.


        But Tom.. well he’s a doll. He has never bothered a chicken. Here he is strutting for the silkies.

        I have never seen any of my turkeys bother the hens. Just the roosters. Almost every rooster has been chased by my turkey hen Betty. She is the head turkey hen.

        Also, I definitely recommend more than 5 square feet per turkey. They get really big.. Especially when they are strutting. They need space for winter.

        My 4 turkeys have a pen that is 20 feet by 16 feet, though they hop over and visit the sheep often so there is more space than that. Each bird has 80 square feet. You can see in the picture how it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room even for 4 birds. If they have a covered run you could get by with 10 square feet per bird at night.. But turkeys do need way more space than chickens. Especially heritage breeds. They like to fly around.

        Sorry for this very long post. I love talking turkeys :)

      • This is invaluable information, Aoxa! Don’t you ever apologise about talking turkeys here; I’m in the home stretch and need all the intel I can get.I am fascinated that it is your HENS who are attacking roosters. Do/did your roosters ever try to mount them? Cuz that shit gets annoying. And your toms are sweet. That’s so refreshing to hear after all the tom horror stories.

        So, your enclosure is about the size of the one The Man is proposing; that’s good to know.

  2. My roosters never try to mount the turkeys. But the turkeys don’t like it when they mount the chickens… http://youtu.be/I04PFDkq0Cw Here Betty is in action trying to intimidate our rooster Gigi. It does seem that they do it to the more horny roosters… They leave my silkie roosters alone. The mortal enemy is the randiest rooster I have ever had, and that’s the one they bother the most.

    Now the rooster that they killed.. I do believe there was something wrong with him. Which could have put them into kill mode.. I have seen my chickens peck an ailing chicken almost to death (and I had to finish it off she was so bad :( )


    Here’s how well my turkey hens can fly without their wings clipped.

    No Tom is sweet <3 He's gorgeous. I could not clip his wings. I just hoped the hens would keep him close by. I nearly cried clipping the hens (it doesn't hurt, but it was such a shame!)

    One of my favourite things is watching how Tom communicates with his snood and colour…

    To go from this (neutral)


    To this (intrigued)


    To this (excited)


    and even to this – Mega excited (they start to turn white in the face!)

    They make the coolest sounds. The gobbles are really loud. He gobbles often. It's louder than a crow.

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