CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Country Smallholding today CLICK HERE

Kate Humble: Time for turkey

PUBLISHED: 14:13 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:32 10 October 2014

Putting on weight for Christmas...

Putting on weight for Christmas...

Archant

Kate Humble always looks forward to the day her box of turkey chicks arrives

Kate and pigletKate and piglet

I have to confess I’ve never been a fan of turkey; so often dry, tasteless and unappetising and served up in an atmosphere of fraught, forced jollity. However, thanks to Liz Shankland, I have become rather fond the birds themselves and look forward to the weekend in late July when Liz appears at the farm clutching a box of cheeping chicks. Domesticated turkeys look very much like their wild descendants and the chicks look correspondingly wild too, with their striped down that would camouflage them beautifully had they been born in their natural woodland habitat.

It’s hard to believe that these little chicks, no bigger than those of a hen, grow into a bird that people struggle every Christmas morning to fit in their ovens. Our first year we only bought half a dozen, just to see how we would get on and knowing there were enough willing takers for them when the time came. We put them in a sheltered corner of a barn, in a lambing pen with a heat lamp in the corner. We have the solid recycled plastic lambing pens, and they have proved very useful for keeping young birds until they are big enough to go outside.

It became immediately obvious that turkeys are not blessed with much in the way of a brain. They are quite the most extraordinarily dim birds I have ever had any dealings with, except, perhaps, from ostrich, which really do have eyes bigger than their than brains. Turkey chicks think nothing of smothering themselves or drowning themselves and will prove ruthless if there is one weakling in the clutch, pecking at it ceaselessly and without mercy. With just six chicks this death wish was less apparent. When, the following year, we got braver and ordered two dozen, we realised very quickly not to promise turkeys to people too far in advance. Somehow, about half of them had managed to jump in the top of the feed hopper, get stuck and three of them had suffocated before we discovered them and came to their rescue.

They grow astonishingly quickly and are incredibly agile. We were nervous about putting them out when they were still quite small, but it was only very few weeks before they had outgrown the sheep pen and could jump out of it and find perches all over the barn. It was at about this stage that I also discovered what wonderful characters they are. They have a sort of teenage belligerence which is funny and infuriating in equal measure. A little later we took the plunge and decided to let them out into a field, with a large garden shed for shelter and electric netting to keep them in. We needn’t have bothered with the netting. ‘The turkeys have taken over the farm!’ Tim announced cheerfully when I arrived one morning, and sure enough they were strutting across the yard, looking for all the world as if they owned the place. If you are familiar with the artist Beryl Cook’s work, you will be able to picture her unmistakable portrayals of women; big and blowsy with a lascivious look about them. Our turkeys looked just like that - a clutch of women on a night out, brassy, brazen and emboldened by too many Bacardi Breezers. At least we can say they are genuinely free range!

The day came when the turkeys’ reign over the farm had to come to an end. They went to their new homes plucked, and oven ready and received rave reviews. However, we, somewhat unexpectedly, missed them and since that first year have looked forward to the summer days when the birds that are so synonymous with Christmas return to the farm.

--------------------------

Kate’s book about her smallholding life, ‘Humble by Nature’, is published by Headline.

It is priced £8.99 in paperback and £16.99 in hardback.

This article by Kate Humble is from the November 2014 issue of Country Smallholding.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Country Smallholding visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Country Smallholding staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Country Smallholding account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Interact with other smallholders and post your questions

Visit our forums


More from Land

Friday, September 7, 2018

Although Britain’s record-breaking heatwave has now been broken by rain storms, the impact of the prolonged tinderbox dry summer following a longer than usual winter is likely to continue throughout this year and into next, writes Kim Stoddart

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ask the experts: during the hot weather, here’s how to preserve dwindling water supplies

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Debbie Kingsley outlines what smallholders-in-waiting need to consider when buying their first property

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Liz Shankland continues her guide to improving herd productivity, this time investigating the importance

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The long run of sunshine and dry days of summer 2018 is impacting smallholders and their livestock and crops

Read more
August 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

Our guide to getting your lice and mite treatment up to scratch

Read more
July 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

Debbie Kingsley outlines the rules and regulations for smallholdings. This month: medicine records and fallen stock

Read more
July 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

The countryside is not immune to crime - in fact, it’s increasing

Read more
July 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Jack Smellie looks at what to do when lambing and kidding doesn’t go to plan

Read more
April 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Smallholder Tim Tyne advises on the treatment of lambs which are hypothermic

Read more
April 2018

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Country Smallholding monthly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

This Year’s Shows

Country Smallholding cover image

Don’t miss our comprehensive guide to rural events

Find out more

Like us on Facebook


Follow us on Twitter