This Post is Not Intended for Vegetarians. (or those who won’t eat named poultry)
Oh, my sweet Martha… actually she’s not very sweet, she doesn’t attack but she most certainly holds her ground, otherwise known as the top roost and pecks if you get too close. Since mid-summer Martha has marched back and forth on the roost in the coop, guarding the laying boxes, so I thought. She doesn’t move for anyone who tries to collect the day’s eggs and I’m not sure that she would move if one of the Ladies tried to get into a box. That has all changed.
I have been planning to keep George and Martha as a breeding pair. I received an incubator for Christmas and have plans to put it to good use hatching, turkeys, peafowl, chickens and who knows what else I will find. Unfortunately George has turned out to be a pansy and a jerk all at once. He either allows himself to be picked on by the chickens or is giving everyone in the coop a good run-around. As for Martha, she was caught in the act. Martha is not going to get the privilege of a mustard filled egg. She was caught with a mouthful of fresh egg and the shell still hanging from her beak. (More than once!)
Since the Ladies began laying last fall, egg production is dismal at best. We started with roughly 30 hens (I should probably do a head count again) and at the height of laying we were collecting a dozen a day. That quickly dropped off to average three to four eggs. I thought maybe the turkeys were intimidating the hens. George is loud and always causes a ruckus. Martha kept her place on the roost, so I figured maybe she was scaring them off. Now we know, Martha has been eating her fill of fresh eggs. For the cost of feed in the winter, when there is no fresh grazing for the birds, the input to output ratio is not even close! I haven’t had to buy eggs for home this winter, but I also haven’t had any to sell either.
Martha’s time had come. The hope of a breeding pair of turkeys has been set aside for now. I have had my two best knives in the coop ever since the last cleaning (Well, S#!*) and today had already been a busy one. But it was nap time for the kids and my husband was on his way to town for some new screws for my latest dream come true (I now own an antique wood fire cook stove!). I put everyone down for a nap (twice), grabbed the canning pot and headed to the coop.
It’s a good thing that some of the things that happen around here are done when no one is around or its dark out.
I made my way into the coop and of course George and Martha headed outside. So back out I went and high stepped my way through the drifts in the run, shoed them back in and locked the door behind them. Once we were all back in the coop the chase was on. George was to be first because he was the one that caught my attention. His large wing span and flying in small spaces is hard to miss.
From what I have learned the best way to catch a bird is by grabbing both legs and tucking their head under your arm. This keeps them much calmer and easier to handle; their legs can flail, toes aren’t going to scratch and their wings aren’t flapping about. Unfortunately, this was not the method I ended up using. Instead I took the sneak approach. I tried to sneak up on George who was completely aware that I was there and after him. Once I finally got him cornered, I realized I was not going to be able to grab his legs, so I grabbed him by the neck.
This fifty pound turkey was flapping his wings so hard we could have both flew. I might be exaggerating… a little… 20 pounds or so. He was flapping and clawing and putting up a very respectable fight. In the midst of all the flying feathers, the chickens were going nuts and I look at the door, which I of course left open and there stands my trusty chicken eating dog. Even he was overwhelmed with all the commotion. He knows darn well he’s not allowed in the coop but this time I think he was more afraid of the birds than of me. George and I struggled our way out the door, flailing and clawing the whole way.
After some fancy turkey wrestling moves behind the coop the hard part was done. When we butcher chickens there are these really nice stainless steel cones that get screwed to the fence. The chicken goes in head first so the throat can be cut and the chicken will stay in one place. Without this handy little invention the bird either needs to be held down until all the muscle spasms are done or let loose and then you have to go find your headless chicken when it has finished running and flopping about. Neither situation is pretty but the cone is most certainly preferred and of course not the method used today. I held him down with my eyes closed. I don’t like to see it and there was a fair amount of blood in the air as well. The same methods were used for Martha. Her fight was a little easier to manage though. She was smaller but still feisty.
The cleaning process took longer than I had expected but by the time I was I had both birds cleaned, quartered and ready for the roaster and freezer. One bird will give us four meals with leftovers. The process isn’t a pretty one but we sure are thankful for the food.
**Update: Two days later we were getting a dozen eggs a day and counting!**