Gobble, gobble everybody! It's almost turkey time.
In July, we decided we'd like to try to raise our own turkey for Thanksgiving this year. We researched how long it would take to grow a bird to butcher weight, and found that we were just in the knick of time! Or, so we thought....
When we researched turkey breeds, we were drawn to many of the heritage breeds (not really surprising). The Royal Palms, Blue Slates, Narragansetts, and Kentucky Bourbons... All, slightly more unique color variations than that of your regular brown/bronze breasted or white breasted turkey.
We stumbled across some available Kentucky Bourbons and jumped at the opportunity, but now, nearing the month of November, our birds still appear to be rather jouvenile in size. Even though the timeline suggested that by now, they'd be basically ready for stuffing.
As it turns out, something we failed to realize when we fell for the heritage turkey breeds, was that they are naturally slower growers. They don't fatten up as quick as a production/industrial turkey, and we allow them to free range, which means that in general, they are more lean.
Diving deeper into the research, it turns out that it takes approximately 7 months for a heritage turkey to get to butcher weight, which means that our birds are likely not going to be ready until January, but that's still on the earlier side. Our birds may end up being Easter turkeys instead! In the end, it isn't that big a deal because we'll still end up with a full freezer, and a roast turkey on a cold winter day is a delicious thought. However, if we are keeping them that long, we may decide to keep one breeding pair and keep our fingers crossed for future turkey poults!
Now that we know better, we'll plan futher ahead to ensure we have a turkey in time for Thanksgiving. There is actually not much in the way of printed knowledge about raising heritage breeds, compared to the amount of available information there is for raising standard bronze or white broad breasted turkeys, so it is easy to see why we would have missed this timeline note. White broad breasted turkeys are typically what you purchase from the grocery store. They are popular because of their wide breast meat, making for the best turkey carving. The white ones in particular are popular, as there are less marks in the skin on the bird, from the dark pinfeathers of the bronze variety, so most consumers find them more appealing. However, heritage turkeys are saught after as they are pasture raised, they are not injected with hormones (unlike many grocery store turkeys), and contain less fat.
In the future, we may consider raising a production breed for the larger size, to feed a bigger crowd on Thanksgiving, but for a regular family dinner, one of our heritage turkeys will be something I look forward to. In the meantime, we are enjoying seeing the free-range flock of turkeys scurry around the yard. They know no bounds - when we arrive home at the end of the work day, they will usually greet us in the driveway, and gobble a hello. Quint, our largest tom (male) turkey, loves to show off, and will immediately puff right up so we can get a good look at his big chest and feathers. The rest of the crew can often be found playing on top of the mountain-like pile of dirt that came out of the pond - king of the hill is a big hit around here.
Sometimes I feel like all I do is write about different mishaps... The reality is that while you try new things, and learn, and grow, these mistakes happen. So we keep trying, and trying again. We look at each opportunity as something to learn from, whether it goes well or goes in a more unexpected direction. For as many challenges that we meet, we also have equally as many successes, and nothing could ever be gained, if nothing was ever lost.