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

Holland-hen-poults

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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And God laughed. Naming my chickens before they’re hatched edition.

One of my greatest challenges in life is that I’m a thinker, an incorrigible thinker, and I have a very difficult time turning it off. This leads to worrying, and, worse yet, planning.

I have been warned against planning all my life. Planning leads to expectation. Expectation leads to disappointment. Planning makes God laugh. I can’t help it. I’ve tried.

Looking ahead to the spring, I have two major poultry projects, one as sure as it can be (heritage turkeys) and one highly speculative (broody hatch of Blue Copper Marans chicks by Abby). And my little hamster brain works on these two things. This is why I don’t sleep.

We won’t be naming the turkeys, for obvious reasons. I have ordered five blue slates (which Porter’s calls “slates”), five lavenders (which Porter’s calls “self blue”), and five White Hollands. I will be choosing a breed with which to go forward (blue slates and lavenders go together, and can be part of the same breeding program), at some point before slaughter time. This year, slaughter is likely to be for Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving, as I’m not getting my poults until late May, and heritage turkeys are slow growing.

The Man and I decided, at the outset, to keep a breeding trio and slaughter the rest. These three birds will be the foundation of our breeding program, and will be named. Until then, I’m thinking it’s likely we’ll be referring to them as “white jenny”, “blue jake”, etc. When adolescence reveals the qualities I’m looking for (size, colour, temperament), I’ll decide which way we’re going to go.

But, what to call the jake and two jennies we keep? (No, I can’t wait. We covered this. Pay attention.)

We’re huge Doctor Who fans here, The Man, myself, and The Stepdaughters, so we’ve decided to name the male “Captain Jack”, and the hens “Rose” and “Martha”. If you are with us in the microscopic overlap in the Venn diagram of poultry enthusiasts and science fiction fans, you may get a kick out of that. I think that’s probably about three of you. Hard cheese. I’m in this to amuse myself. (Sidenote: I don’t like naming animals after food. Your mileage, as always, may vary.)

Now, what if I can’t choose a breed? I’ve wanted blue slates from the very beginning, but the White Hollands are so prettyyyyyy…

I haven’t even mentioned this possibility to The Man. We planned to winter three turkeys and sell the rest; this is the information he has. But…what if I just can’t choose?! It may not surprise you to know that I have a plan.

I may call an audible and keep a male and a hen of the other breed, as well, and name them Rory and Amy. Which, again, will tickle precisely three of you. There are several flaws with this plan, of course. Two males to three hens is an undesirable and possibly untenable ratio, and I’d have to keep them separated by breed during egg laying season. I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it. That’s how I roll.

You may be wondering why I keep referring to the toms as “males”; that’s because The Man and I are delighted with the UK tradition of calling male turkeys “stags” rather than “toms”. It’s so butch! So…we’ll be calling our male, our “stag”.

Now, unless the turkey gods really don’t want me to have turkeys or the whole thing goes pear-shaped, that particular plan is likely to come to fruition. The other…?

If Abby goes reliably broody, and if I’m able to find Blue Copper Marans hatching eggs, and if they arrive in good condition, and if nothing goes wrong, I might end up with some Blue Copper Marans babies. I will only be keeping pullets. Or will I…?

Long-time readers of this blog know we have had a “no roo” policy; in fact, two wrongly-sexed roos have been rehomed. If I want Olive Eggers, though, I’m going to need a Marans roo.

Will my neighbours tolerate a rooster? Will my family? More pertinently, can I overcome my resistance to eating chick zygote? This all remains to be seen, and I’ll…jump off that bridge when I come to it.

But I have them all named! Not only am I science fiction fan, I’m also a big fan of some fantasy shows, and I thought to name my highly-theoretical Marans brood, in honour and in memory of Buffy, after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This might be a slightly larger overlapping slice of the Venn diagram, with me being the only occupant of the tiny area where all three niches converge. I’m okay with that.

Depending on how many girls we have, the names could be: Willow, Darla, Druscilla, Faith, Tara, Anya, Dawn…I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but that’ll be more than enough. Now, what to name the roo? I know Angel is the logical choice, but it’s just not working for me. I might feel differently when I meet said roo. My gut instinct is that the roo should be Spike. I could name him Giles, I suppose, but the thought of Giles doing the humpy-hump with Willow is just…wrong.

So, now that I’ve planned this all out, the universe can feel free to shit all over it. To all of you who read through all of this without getting it, thank you for humouring me. To the three of you who get it, you’re welcome.

The trigger, she is pulled.

Okay. Turkeys. Really. I mean it this time. She said.

For those who are a bit late to my turkey party, heritage turkeys are, for the most part, endangered. These turkeys, which, seventy years ago, were all Americans knew of turkey, are now rare. The development of the Broad-Breasted Turkey in the 1950s appealed (and continues to appeal) to the desire for a bird which matures more quickly (read: more cheaply), with an unnaturally-high percentage of breast meat. This bird can’t fly or mate, can have difficulty even walking, and its popularity pushed the Heritage breeds to the brink of extinction.

You can read more about the differences between Heritage Turkeys and what you buy in the store here.

Let’s look at the math. An endangered breed has, by definition, a small breeding pool, and a small breeding pool lacks genetic diversity. Getting a good hatch, ergo, can be challenging. After my hopes were dashed by two poor hatches from two different sources this past spring, I decided to place my fragile turkey dreams in the hands of the specialists: Porter’s Heritage Turkeys.

Turkey poults are shipped April through August from Porter’s, but these poults are limited in number, and must be ordered (and paid for) well before they are born. Order-taking for 2013 poults began in August, and I wanted to have mine next May, when the nights warm up a bit, and in time for my birthday on the 9th. If I waited too long to place my order (and pay for it), I wasn’t going to get my poults until June, or even later.

But the money just hasn’t been there. I’ve thought it would be there, a number of times, and then it would evaporate, as money does. When I turned to the Porter’s Turkeys ordering page today, and saw they are now taking orders for poults to be delivered in mid- to late-May, something in me snapped. Hard.

Some gut-wrenching financial finagling later, I have now ordered (and paid for) fifteen poults from Porter’s Turkeys, to be delivered mid- to late-May. I may be sorry for the next week or two, but it is done. Selah. The trigger, she is pulled.

One must order a minumum of fifteen poults from Porter’s, because that is the minimum number that can keep each other warm in transit, to maximise survival at the other end of shipping. I have had my heart set on Slate/Self-Blue Turkeys (the latter also known as Lavender), and was fully prepared to commit myself to this line as a breeder, until I saw these:

Above is a White Holland tom and hen, respectively. Are they not sublime, gentle reader?! I must have.

The White Holland was instrumental in the development of the White Broad-Breasted turkey, the one that 99.99% of Americans now find in grocery stores. Sadly, it, too, is now endangered.

Some people fear raising white birds because they are highly visible, and, it is said, more vulnerable to predation. We have hawks here, but they have not yet taken any of our girls, even when they’ve been free-ranging dawn to dusk from the age of eight weeks. We do have some white birds, and I’ve always said that the hawk who can pick up Tallulah and fly away with her has earned his dinner. She’s big girl.

So, this change of plan is not without risk. The Man wanted me to choose a breed right off and settle on it, but we’re married now, so I can do what ever the damn hell I want, right, honey? That’s what I thought.

Und, so. I ordered ten poults from the Slate/Self-Blue combo, and five of the White Holland. I’ll see how it goes, and call an audible some time before Thanksgiving 2013. Because that’s how I roll.

Those of you who are paying attention might have noticed that Porter’s asks you to include a breed you might accept as a substitution, if the hatch rates do not allow them to complete your entire shipment as ordered. I selected Lilac, which is an related breed to the Slate:

So, stay tuned, chickeneers and turkeynauts. The turkeys are coming…