Thanksgiving arrives in June

You know how the grocery store puts things like M&Ms and People magazine right near the checkout? This is to maximize the chance that, after you’ve made the carefully considered decision to buy green beans and The Economist, you have one last chance to be undone.

Our local feed store, Cape Cod Feed and Supply, employs the same strategy. Yesterday, we went in for chicken feed. We told Anita, the woman who sold us our chicks last year, and has been listening to our stories ever since, that we needed a fifty-pound bag of layer pellets. She rang it up, and told us we could pick it up on the dock.

And then we turned around, and there they were. The feed-store version of People. Cute, fuzzy, baby chicks.

There were two brooders of them. On the right were chickens, and on the left were turkeys.

Turkeys! Standard bronze, straight run. $14.99 each.

Kevin and I have talked about turkeys. We even thought about having them this spring, but we’ve adopted a rule that Kate of Living of the Frugal Life uses – one new species per year. This year, we got bees, as did Kate. Turkeys were to be considered next year, as were pigs, which we will probably consider every year from now until Doomsday.

But there they were, cute little mottled brown chicks a little over a week old. They looked very small and low-maintenance. Besides, I’d just read Kate’s post about how a friend of hers offered her a turkey poult which she, of course, accepted – thereby violating her own rule and leaving me without a leg to stand on.

I thought, when I read Kate’s account, that this was an excellent way to acquire livestock. No considering, no debate, no endless lists of reasons pro and con. Someone just shows up at your door with a bird, you take it, and you figure it out as you go along. People have been raising poultry for millennia; it’s not that hard.

We bought four.

We dragged the brooder we’d used for the chickens out from behind the garage and washed out a spare waterer. We had half a bag of pine shavings leftover from when we changed the litter in the chicken coop, and an old cast-iron pot we could use as a feeder. We had our turkey set-up set up in the garage in about ten minutes.

They’ll probably outgrow the brooder in about three or four weeks, which means we have three or four weeks to figure out what to do next. At the moment, we have no idea, but we’ve solved much harder problems in much less time.

The chicks have gotten the lay of the land in their new brooder, and all four are eating and drinking. One managed to escape through a hole in the chicken wire which we had misjudged to be smaller than a 10-day old turkey, but we caught him and closed up the hole. The chickens wandered into the garage and cocked their heads at the sounds of baby-chick peeps, but didn’t seem to notice the big cage with the turkeys in it.

So far, so good, but I have a feeling it’s just a matter of time before this turns out to be a mistake. If there were an award for Worst Impulse Buy Ever, livestock would definitely be in the running, and I’m not at all sure we can expect to get away with this.

15 people are having a conversation about “Thanksgiving arrives in June

  1. Lisa, the sister-in-law says:

    It’s excruciating that we missed the opportunity to visit with adorable little turkey chicks by ONE MEASLY weekend! You’re doing this just to taunt us, aren’t you? (First the Bluefish, now turkey chicks, what next– actual Lobsters?)

    When’s the next train to Providence? We wuz robbed!

  2. Lisa — While I believe you have a legitimate complaint, that was a cheap shot about the lobsters. I can assure you that we didn’t plan to do a bunch of interesting stuff the moment you left — it just worked out that way. Now you have to come back while the turkey chicks are still little and cute. If you wait until Thanksgiving, they’ll take a different form entirely.

  3. Hi Tamar,

    I was just thinking that you may want to read Jenna’s post today over there at Cold Antler Farm. She mentioned turkeys and chickens and Sharks and Jets, so looks as though there could be a rumble down the line for you.

    The impulse purchase is completely understandable to me. I feel it every time I stop in my local pet store and notice the bunnies/parakeets/gerbils “on special” this week. I have so far resisted the urge, but it’s just a matter of time. I have been plotting to try to get my community garden to agree to a rabbit hutch and wondering how I would fit them into my tiny nyc apartment for the winter.

  4. Life would be so boring if every purchase was pre-planned. Sometimes you just have to go with it and see what happens. Not quite sure what Andy would say if I turned up with livestock … but some of my best buys have been things I bought on the spur of the moment and I’ve never regretted one yet.

  5. I LOVE that you bought them and THEN worried about cobbling a pen together when you got home, and that you STILL have 4 weeks before you’ll worry about where to put them when they outgrow the brooder. Make do and worry later – that’s going to be my new life’s philosophy.

    You can already do chickens, turkeys will be a breeze. There’s no such thing as failure because if it doesn’t work out, you can simply eat your mistake. Who’ll know??

    Can we expect Kevin to begin work on the ultimate turkey palace soon? I’ll inform Bob Villa.

  6. Alison — Our current plan is to process them ourselves. In for a penny, in for a pound. I’m certainly not looking forward to it, but it’s a necessary part of raising animals for food, and I’m bound and determined to do it.

    Susan — I saw Jenna’s post. We have no idea how our chickens will take to our turkeys, or vice versa, but it’ll be a while until the turkeys are big enough to free-range. We’ll make sure they have some kind of fenced-in area all to themselves, though, so we should be able to avoid the rumble.

    Now, as for rabbits in your apartment — there’s a story I can’t wait for you to tell.

    Fiona — You’re right that buying livestock on impulse keeps things interesting. Interesting, of course, isn’t always good. We’ll see how we do.

    Jen — Thanks for the vote of confidence! The wheels in Kevin’s brain are turning, designing the best turkey pen for the least labor and the lowest price. We’re going into this enterprise in a much more tentative way, so I don’t think we’ll have the turkey Taj Mahal, but then again I don’t think turkeys need a Taj Mahal.

  7. Turkeys really aren’t much different from chickens. We raised both, when I was a kid. For the last month, Dad would switch them from turkey feed to straight cracked corn. Yum! The only challenge is that unlike the wild ones, the domestic ones really can be dumb. We had one that forgot how to eat, once, and another that drowned trying to figure out where the rain was coming from. As God is my witness. Which is why we always got more chicks than we were going to need. But for the most part, they’re easy! My job was plucking, until Dad’s co-workers decided it was “cool” to come to our house and pluck their own. At that point, I graduated to running herd on their children (usually younger than I was) and let them deal with the pinfeathers!

    And Susan? Bunnies are litter-box trainable. They make perfectly fine housepets, though they do like to chew.

  8. Saralee Perel says:

    Bunnies get rather territorial. My rabbit wouldn’t let anyone in our bathroom. She’d hiss and bite people until they left.

    Tamar – this story was wonderful! So close to the day we got 4 tiny ducklings from the Barnstable County Fair. Did I tell you the remaining duck is now 25? Khaki Campbells have an average life span of 5-7 years. Ours is blind, arthritic, yet living the life of Riley. (I think.)

    We go all the way to Yarmouth for duck food/shavings. Where do you get your chicken supplies?

    I got off my point. Your point-of-purchase story about how you came about to bring home turkeys was just grand. And – – a good fit for a humor magazine 🙂 especially if you incorporate readers’ comments above mine. Just a ‘someday’ thought.

  9. Oh, man. I am SO busted! I may have to forgo a new species next year in atonement. The next candidates for us are dwarf milk goats and quail. We’d love to do pigs, but I just don’t see where we’d put them. I think we’ve scratched rabbits off the list after considering how many wild ones we’ve got around here.

    Our four-week old poult spent the days outdoors over the last week, right alongside the chicken pen. It seems to want company, and I’m hoping that proximity will help the girls and the poult get used to each other, in anticipation of co-housing them, for a time anyway, at some point. The poult still sleeps indoors in the brooder box, right underneath the heat lamp. But it seems to like going back in the box less and less each evening.

    Let’s hope both of us have good experiences with our unplanned turkey raising. I’m going to have to get right on turkey housing construction as well. It should get done this week, and maybe it even will. But what are you going to do with four fully grown turkeys? Thanksgiving, Christmas? And two more big meals? Or sell them? Gift them? Charity? Or are your holiday gatherings large enough to require two birds?

  10. Stephanie — I’ve heard stories of how dumb turkeys are, and I guess we’ll see for ourselves. So far, I have to say that they seem more engaged than the chickens did at that age. They’re a heritage breed, and not the broad-breasted kind — I wonder if that makes a difference.

    Saralee — There must be something about you, that you end up with a rabbit that won’t let anyone in the bathroom and a duck that lives to 25. My mother always says, “You get the pet you deserve.” As for the humor magazine — I’m working on it.

    Paula — That’s the spirit! I’m going to make a concerted effort to remember that these are food. We hope they’re not charming.

    Kate — Busted, you are. But I won’t be blaming you if this whole turkey thing blows up in my face. We take full responsibility.

    Our poults are about 2 weeks younger than yours, and we anticipate having them in the brooder full-time for 2-3 weeks more, or until they outgrow it. Then they’ll need some kind of a pen, but we’re not planning to put them in with the chickens. After seeing what one of our chickens did to a squirrel who got in their pen, we’re figuring they don’t take kindly to non-chicken intruders. (Although, now that I think about it, they didn’t seem to mind when the cat wandered in.)

    We’re figuring that the odds of ending up with four full-grown, edible birds are slim. We anticipate losses to predators, mismanagement, or plain bad luck. If we end up with one for our Thanksgiving, and another for a few weeks later, we’ll count ourselves lucky. If we have enough to share with friends, even luckier.

    Will yours be Thanksgiving?

    • Thanksgiving is the plan if it survives. Though if ours turns out to be a hen or a very small tom, we may let it grow another few weeks and have it for Christmas. I’d prefer it plump up nicely for Thanksgiving as our Christmas tradition is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It would be hard for me to give up that once-a-year treat, especially for a once-a-year treat we just had a month before.

  11. Oh no. I came across your blog because I was surfing for chicken information. Now we have 10 we’re quite fond of although the sheer volume of eggs is staggering. The neighbors have 10 layers & 6 broilers but he told me yesterday they’re expecting a delivery of 9 (!) turkey poults and I thought. . .hmmmmmmmmm. We’ll have to see how you do with yours before I commit. Plus with 2 kids I may end up with a pet turkey instead of a dinner.

  12. Marilyn Baker says:

    Believe me, ALL feed stores know about the impulse purchase at the check-out counter. My sister-in-law, who can’t kill anything, spent a fortune on incubating duck eggs found out in their field, then gave all the little hatchlings to the local feed store to sell: “A Buck a Duck”.

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