We bought this farm with its one big flaw, it is on a fairly busy highway. We decided it had far more to offer than we could walk away from because of the traffic. That was decision one and we have not regretted it for a second. This farm is perfect for us and we find more and more to love about it every day. Even these past few frosty days when we deal with ice and frozen water. It was the right decision.
We decided to get the poultry in the fall to get a head start on raising the birds we want and getting them to laying age and the table. We knew this would entail more feed than getting them in the spring. It was the right decision and we love how the poultry is doing. We have the time to observe them grow and decide which ones we want to keep.
We also decided we wanted pastured free- range poultry. We want the poultry to live as close to natural as possible. They will be healthier, we will have better quality meat and eggs and the added joy of having them with us gives us mental well being far more than penned chickens would. This was a conscious decision we took and we have had to face the consequence of that decision for the first time.
The day before yesterday the three biggest Tom turkeys were hit by a truck on the road in front of the house. We went out to get firewood and there were feathers everywhere and we could see one of the Slate carcasses on the center line. It was horrible. Ralph got the three birds off the road and we decided to salvage what we could, they were still warm and the accident must have just occurred. A Chocolate Tom was out by the garden and he had obviously been hurt but was walking toward the yard. We had heard the Guinea hens screeching like crazy but they do that quite a bit so we had not paid much attention. I cannot say I was stoic and did not cry because I did. I love my animals a lot and enjoy their antics. My very favorite Tom "Black Feather" was killed and he was going to be our breeding tom. He would sit on my lap and always seemed to show up to gobble at us. He was an excellent specimen, with good heavy bone and clear true Blue Slate Color, he was going to be a big bird and that is what we were looking for.
The man who hit them came back to apologize, he had been pulling a trailer and was simply unable to stop. He was white faced and you could tell he felt terrible but there was nothing he could have done.
Ralph and I saved the meat we could and now I can say that it will be nice to butcher one of these birds properly because even as salvage there was a lot of beautiful home raised turkey meat from these birds. It is beautiful quality meat, rich in color and so much nicer than anything we have gotten from a store. We know it has no chemicals, hormones or injected water...it is as turkey should be, natural.
The rest of the turkey's were simply lost yesterday and wandered around most mournfully. Then late in the afternoon the remaining Tom's started to work on the dominance thing. Today they are more normal and seem to be out in a group as before. The injured bird after we washed his wounds is feeling better to day and is eating and drinking on his own.
We talked about the accident a lot and we knew it was a risk we would take when we did not fence the front yard. The poultry is going out front less and less as we transition them from the Utility building to the Tobacco barn, the tobacco barn housing lets them go out to the back of the farm and the large pasture there. Once they are fully installed in the barn they will have little need for the front yard at all and we notice this already as fewer and fewer birds come out toward the house.
Are we going to fence the front of the farm? Are we going to change our plan for truly pasture raised poultry, no we are not. We love to see them go where they want. They ramble as they please and eat what they want. They get exercise and and have unlimited access to grass and old bales of hay. Lots of shelter and patches of Johnson grass to hide in. They are healthy and vigorous, just what we expect of poultry that is not confined during the day and can forage much as wild birds do.
We want our birds to have a full and happy life...for so many reasons. They are happier, way healthier and they will be better eating. Healthier for us. The anguish we felt at this accident was not totally unexpected, it was a risk we were willing to take. The birds that were killed had a marvelous life. Maybe short but it was full of bug hunting, treats like squash, cabbage, cracked corn, canning leftovers and the odd cookie that they snatched! They loved the chives and dill and ate all the peppermint plants that nothing will kill.
We have made our decision and are sticking to it. It is the right way for us to have our poultry. As the flock ages and the chickens start having chicks and the turkeys have their first poults their lives will be more out toward the back of the farm and yes its own set of hazzards. We can deal with the consequence.
God bless you all and be well and safe.