The Turkish are coming! The Turkish are coming!

I have just received notification from Porter’s Heritage Turkeys that my poults are on the way!

I have been disappointed by bad hatches so many times (a common occurrence with birds from a small gene pool) that I didn’t dare expect the shipping notice. I half-expected an email explaining that my order couldn’t be filled due to yet another bad hatch.

But, oh, they are coming, gentle reader!

I ordered ten of the Self-Blue/Slate turkeys, and am getting eight. I ordered five White Holland turkeys, and am getting seven. One must needs be flexible in the world of conserving rare and endangered creatures. These poults were ordered and paid for way back in September. That’s how hard it is to get these birds.

I have never ordered live babies before, not directly. I’ve purchased them through Chicken Debbie at Agway, who had them shipped from a large hatchery, but these are coming directly to me. I will drive to the post office at dawn, open the box and hold my breath to see if there were any losses during shipping. I will be responsible for their immediate care, making sure each and every one receives water immediately (with molasses for energy), and ensures each one knows how to eat and drink. I am nervous.

That may sound silly, but all reports are that poults are much slower to learn these essential skills than chicks are. Many people suggest putting a chick or two in with poults, to teach them. I thought to do this, but Chicken Debbie is no longer offering chicks, C3.0 is too big (and have now been exposed to the Great Outdoors), and C3.1 is three weeks too young. I shall have to be extremely diligent to ensure each and every poult is eating and drinking. Yes, they are that dim.

Here’s what I hope to find when I open the box:

Self-Blue (AKA Lavender)

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Slate (AKA Blue Slate)

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White Holland

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I have been notified that the White Holland poults will be marked with yellow on their heads to distinguish them from the Self-Blue poults.

And as if that weren’t enough, I have also received notification that my BBS Orpington eggs are on their way from Wisconsin, and my Plymouth Barred Rock eggs are headed north from Kentucky. I will be receiving packages very early Thursday morning, very early Friday morning, or both.

Tomorrow, I will be bringing Heedley’s Hens eggs to the post office peeps as a token of appreciation/bribe, along with a heads up.

Fingers crossed, y’all…

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I have a plan. A chicken plan.

(That sound you hear is God laughing.)

As you cannot possibly help but know, I am getting 15-18 heritage turkeys in the spring. These will be my first turkeys, my first meat animals, and it will be a learning curve. I just don’t have the time or the personal resources to raise chicks this spring, too.

But, that doesn’t mean I can’t have chicks.

This is the spring I am going to try an old-fashioned broody hatch. By all accounts, a good broody will take excellent care of her babies, and make sure they are protected from (and integrated into) the flock. This plan hit a major bump in the road when Buffy was killed. She was my hard-core, go-to broody girl. I spent half of last summer dunking her in cold water.

But, in the immortal words of Yoda…there is another.

Abby may not have been broody as frequently as Buffy, or as belligerently so, but she did go broody, twice. and the first time was a pretty spectacular display of will. What say you, more-experienced-chickeneers-than-me? Once a broody, always a broody? Can I count on a repeat from Abby this coming spring?

Let’s say I can, just for fun. What to put under her? No roosters here at Heedley’s Hens, so I’d need to bring in some fertile eggs. I had originally thought to give my broody some of Gregory Peck’s eggs, and hatch more Easter Eggers. Farmer Tony owes me a solid for Gregory, and that would be an easy, local, free transaction. Then, I started, as I do, to get ambitious.

There’s definitely a pattern here at Heedley’s Hens, when it comes to our animals. Billie is black. All four of our cats are some combination of black, white and grey. Of our fifteen chickens, fully ten are black and white. Some of this is coincidence, but I just like the white/black spectrum.

Losing Buffy made me want more Orpingtons, and, if I’m getting hatching eggs, I can get proper breeder-quality Orps, which look like feathered basketballs. And, as it turns out, Orpingtons come in my favourite of all animal colours…blue. Which is to say, gun-metal grey. Here’s a Blue Orpington hen:

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Ain’t she purdy?! I love the look of this breed. Just one problem: they lay your basic brown egg, which does not increase the beauty of my egg carton. Well, if one wanted to make that a priority, there’s always the Black Copper Marans, who lay chocolate-coloured eggs:

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WOW. But the hen, herself?

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Ehn. She’s pretty, but I have three black girls. I was in a quandary. Then I learned about this:

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This, gentle reader, is an uncommon Blue Copper Marans, and she lays eggs as gorgeous as her black sisters’:

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But she’s BLUE.

Oh, it’s on.

This would be my first hatch, broody or otherwise, and I will have to face realities from which I have been protected, hithertofore, by hatcheries. Not all of the eggs will hatch, especially with shipped eggs. Some of the chicks that do hatch may be weak or deformed and need to be culled. And there will be boys.

But now that I’ve done my research on the porta-kill guys, I could have unwanted, unadoptable roos butchered when I have the turkeys done in the fall. But…let’s say, just for kicks, that I keep a roo from the hatch? I mean, they’re purdy (if not strictly monochromatic):

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PLUS…y’all know what happens when you breed a chocolate egger to a blue-egg layer, right? Unless I’m wrong (and I could very well be wrong; I frequently am), you get…

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Olive Eggers.

So, there you have it, the beginnings of A Plan.

Abby willing.