Tag Archives: farm animals

Day 7 – Who is the Turkey at Bedtime?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of 'let's put the turkeys to bed'?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of ‘let’s put the turkeys to bed’? These chumps had put themselves to bed out on the goat fence. By the time I found them it was pitch dark and herding was impossible. One by one I had to catch them, carry them off, and tuck them in. Because, you know, I have nothing better to do with my evenings.

Every evening shortly before dusk I steel myself for a series of humiliations at the hands (talons?) of my turkeys. I know I am supposed to be smarter than they are, but if this is the case, how is it possible that the score is so lopsided when it comes to me trying to put them to bed and the turkeys figuring out ways to stay up just a little longer?

They are just like unruly kids who pull out all the anti-bedtime stops with an unsuspecting babysitter! The turkey kids pretend like they are heading in the right direction only to be distracted by some very important blade of grass. One will pluck said piece of grass and, leaving enough dangling from its beak so the others can see, will sprint off across the field. The other turkeys, convinced this particular blade of grass must be the tastiest in all the land, thunder after the trouble-maker who is, no doubt, chuckling under his snood because he knows very well the human caretaker can’t possibly keep up no matter how fast she sprints.

Occasionally, the turkeys are calm and cooperative and I’m able to herd them into their overnight huts with relatively little trouble, using two long bamboo sticks to help guide them in the right direction. Even on nights like these, though, several will decide they need to scale the shelters to roost on top rather than inside. As I am persuading these birds to jump back to the ground, they protest and scrabble around on the top of the shelters, which upsets the birds already inside. The inside birds sprint out looking very indignant just as I’m rounding the corner trying to herd in their wayward companions. Do you think the roof-hoppers quietly sit inside the shelters while I retrieve the sprinters? Of course not! There’s often a series of one goes in, two come out exchanges before, finally, everyone is wrangled into place.

The worst game they play is ring around the turkey hut. In this variation of the bedtime-avoidance game, one or two wily birds will sneak around behind the hut and hide. They are experts at matching their speed to mine, always keeping just out of sight on the other side of the hut. I try to sneak after them using tricky human maneuvers like changing direction when they least expect it. Except, usually they have already changed direction so I come around the corner saying stupid things like, “Hah! Fooled you!” except, there’s no turkey there because, hah! they fooled me and have sneaked up behind me. When I turn around, there they will be staring up at me with their beady reptilian eyes as if to say, “Are you looking for someone?” When two or three birds gang up on me to play a team version of this lame game it sometimes results in me sinking to my knees and pleading with them to, “Just go to bed, already!!!” This plea is often followed by some rude words that include references to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Sometimes the birds pretend like they have never been herded anywhere ever before and each bird will head in a different compass direction when they see me coming. At times like this they are completely oblivious to my efforts to keep them all together. The exception to this general state of chaos will be a couple of goody-two-shoes birds that head straight for the shelters when they see me. Only when I have finally gathered the rest of the flock and we are almost at the shelters do the early-to-bedders decide they have had enough of being good and sprint back out of the shelters heading for the turkey waterers because, you know, they are dying of thirst and just need to get one more drink before they can settle down for the night.

The worst part of all this is that the main turkey field is overlooked by neighbours on three sides. I see them in their windows watching the Nikki vs the Turkeys Comedy Show each evening.

Yesterday when I went down to the field ready for a lengthy battle I was greeted by a completely empty field. Not a single turkey was anywhere to be seen. I felt sick. Raccoons. Stray dogs. Eagles. A cougar. Some irresponsible jokester neighbourhood kid let them all out. A foody thief stole them all. How would I report the theft to the police? How did I know they had been stolen and not eaten? How did I know they hadn’t got a bit confused and tried to fly off with the Canada geese? I figured I’d better have my evidence in order before I called 911, so I entered the field, steeling myself in case I had to pick up turkey bits and sweep up piles of feathers. Which is when I heard the distinctive soft chatter of turkeys settling in for the night. Every last bird had put itself to bed. They had evenly distributed themselves between the three shelters. They were all on perches and, eyes half closed, were talking quietly among themselves, no doubt wondering what was taking the human so long to close and lock their doors. Or, more likely, plotting what devious trick they were going to play on me next time.

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!

Day 6 – Living and Dying by Lists

It doesn't take long for critters around here to figure out the formula human + bucket = food

It doesn’t take long for critters around here to figure out the formula:
human + bucket = food

I don’t know where I would be without my lists. The TO-DO lists on the farm are endless – chores to do, things to fix, build, plant, harvest, clean, paint, scrape, haul, lug, prune, empty, fill…  I also have lists relating to current writing projects, and always have a list going of what things I need to pick up when I’m next in town.

Wednesdays are a painful list day as that’s the day each week I go to the feed store to stock up. Well, going to the feed store isn’t painful per se – I actually love checking in with everyone there, it’s quite the social event to see how everyone is doing — it’s the paying part that hurts. Right at the moment the turkeys are eating up a storm, the piglets (two litters on the verge of being weaned) have fully understood what their mothers get so excited about when I show up with the feed buckets, and this year’s pullets are full size and just starting to lay. Not that the girls are laying many eggs given the time of year, but still, everyone seems to be needing huge amounts of food these days!

Today, the feed store list looks like this:

5 bags organic hog mash
4 bags organic turkey mash
4 bags organic layer mash
4 bags timothy-alfalfa cubes
1 bag sheep feed
1 bag horse pellets
1 salt block (for the horses)
granulated salt (for the goats and sheep)
crushed oyster shell (for the layers)
shavings (for bedding in the various poultry houses)
garden stakes (not for the garden, but for the last bit of framing for the new chicken run)
Lunch Cart

At an average of 25.00 for a bag of organic feed, you can see why my hand shakes a bit each week when I pull the feed-needed list out of my pocket and start to give my order! I know these numbers would make a larger scale farmer laugh, but at the end of the year, if I lose a single litter of piglets to predation, a careless mother squishing them, or if a sow fails to get pregnant in the first place, poof – there goes whatever little profit I might have hoped to make with my modest hog operation! Meanwhile, the sows and the boar keep eating… and eating, and eating!

While I’m out I’ll also swing by a couple of local farm markets to pick up veggie scraps and two big sacks of feed carrots. Soon I’ll also be able to get feed apples, right about the time my friends have stopped dropping off boxes and bags of too-small, too-bruised windfalls they can’t use. Getting gas is also on the list (more pain – the truck is big!) as is picking up the newly repaired lawn tractor tire. There’s a list associated with that, too – all the little jobs I need to do once the tractor is back in operation.

Then, I’ll grab 15 bales of hay from the barn a couple of miles away from my place where I still have a couple of hundred bales stored for use through the winter. With the truck groaning and the dogs looking very uncomfortable perched together on the front seat of the truck (the feed bags completely fill the back seat of the cab but the dogs have been scolded so often for riding up front they look awfully guilty on feed days when they have to ride up front), I’ll make my way back to the farm to unload everything. (On the plus side, hauling all those hay bales and sacks of feed completely eliminates the need for a gym membership!) For a day or two I”ll feel wealthy, indeed – the cupboards full to bursting. Too soon, the empty feed bags will start to accumulate and I’ll start another list with:

Take empty feed bags to recycling depot.

How many of you are also list makers? What’s at the top of your To-Do list today?

Meanwhile, over on Facebook…

1376395_604582706254508_123268518_n riding hog to work courtesy bibliotheque nationale de France… we have been speculating as to whether or not one can actually ride a decent-sized pig. Apparently, yes… Thanks to Andrea Spalding for digging this one out of the archives! (Image courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France)