Rise&Shine Urban Farm

  (White Pigeon, Michigan)
Pixie White, a Turkey for the Small Acreage Farmer
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Summertime is Turkey Time--Get that Roaster Out!!


Summertime is the perfect time for turkey.  Pictured is a Tom hatched in July 2010 and overwintered.  The cut on the top of the breast was deliberate to show the "layer" of basting fat a tom of this age should have.    Because hens and toms between 6 to 9 months of age do not have this fat layer , I will brine the bird but no need to brine or hover over an older Tom.  This layer of fat also makes for a wonderful smoked turkey.  (Note: hens should be processed either prior to sexual maturity or when egg laying has stopped  for the season with enough time to get weight back on the breast)

To keep the kitchen cool, I use the table top turkey roaster, set at 375 degrees.  I rub the turkey with a little oil to hold my selection of herbs, salt, and pepper the walk away until the temp. probe tells me the dark thigh meat is 165 degrees. 

Take turkey out of roaster and cover with tin foil and a towel and let set for at least fifteen minutes before carving.  I totally carve the bird because the next step is to take the carcuss and boil in the roaster to release the remaining meat and broth for soup, casseroles, and so on. 




Cleo, Cher, and their babies

Just thought I would let everyone see the newest arrivals at the farm.  Both Cleo and Cher have at least twelve babies each.  I say at least twelve because I have not been able to count the fast moving darlings yet.

This is what a heritage turkey is all about, the ability to naturally mate, brood and raise their own poults. 


HENS, 4-Her’s and POULTS

  4-Her’s, HENS, and POULTS 



4-Her’s:  Last year, I sold poults to a local Cass county 4-Her, Jacob Lee Temple, to show in the “breeding pair” class.  Jacob Lee’s hard work garnered the championship.  Unfortunately, due to the economy, the State of Michigan decided not to hold the State Fair. But that doesn’t really matter to Jacob Lee who simply loves his birds.  While Jacob Lee will never take the “market classes” dominated by the commercial broad breasted turkey, Jacob Lee can breed his own poults for the following year’s exhibition.  Jacob Lee’s poults were hatched in January.  Many adults who purchased my poults in the winter were not as dedicated as Jacob Lee in seeing that the babies were kept warm and provided clean bedding, water, and food. They experienced a high death rate.  Pictures sent to me by Jacob Lee showed me that he was able to keep his little flock healthy and thriving by giving them the intense attention they need until they were completely feathered out. 

This year, some of my poults went to home of 4-H’er Emma, located in Minn.   Emma’s brother is a dedicated turkey exhibitor in the commercial pen classes.  Emma, on the other hand, desires to exhibit in the breeding pair class.  She requires a heritage turkey.  Emma and her family arrived yesterday to pick out her poults that were hatched the first week of April, 2011.  It is clear that this family loves their turkeys and a pleasure to see some of my hard work get into such committed hands. 

Before selecting her poults, the family took the time to look over and put their hands on my small flock.   Emma immediately began cuddling “Diehard” a tom I selected last year to cross with next years breeding hens out of “King” and “Tut.”   Diehard is named because of his ability to survive events that would kill a lesser turkey.  He loves attention and “soaked up” Emma’s by using his head to “hug” her. 

 Unlike her brother, who can comfortably handle the bigger commercial white broad breasted turkeys in the showmanship classes, Emma wanted a small, calm, showy turkey that she can hold in order to demonstrate her showmanship abilities to a judge.    Emma used her own money to purchase her poults and will be the one responsible to feed, care as well as sing to them.  I suspect Emma’s effort, time, and commitment to her little flock will be acknowledged within the show-ring.  Unlike a commercial broad breasted white, Emma can build her own little “niche” market for other 4-Her’s or process and sell the intensely flavored meat that a heritage turkey’s slow growth rate can develop over a six-nine month period. 

HENS:  Currently,  I have five (of last year’s) hens, sitting between 12-15 eggs.  Yesterday, the first of the batch began hatching.  Those of you experienced with turkeys,  know they are communal in nature. Meaning, the hens will lay their eggs on top of a brooding hen.   If you watch closely, the last laid eggs will be kept tightly between her legs and the older, darker eggs, will be kept outside her body heat.  Whether it’s the difference in smell or weight of the developing poults, it is unclear but the hen knows.  And will take steps, to ensure her babies will hatch together.   When candling these eggs, amazingly; by “slight of beak” the majority of the eggs will be close to the same stage of development.   

When I first started, an “old-timer” told me that he would sell as well as mail turkey eggs that had been brooded for up to twenty days.  I had no reason to doubt him but I was doubtful.  Living with turkeys and incubating eggs when electricity is lost, while observing their behavior, you start to learn that more is possible then before.  Turkeys are challenging to incubate for the first time and often disheartening.  But once you master the skill and mimic a hen’s behavior, your hatching rate will increase.   

For example:  close to hatching my hens flatten themselves on their eggs, this clamping down keeps their body heat and sweat on the eggs.  When I incubate, I have observed that during pipping, the humidity within the incubator will drastically increase, as the body heat from the poult(s) are released into the incubator.  If you need to top off your water pans, do it now then “keep that door shut” and let nature take it’s course.  This is the time when I am glad that I paid extra money for the plexiglass door on my cabinet incubator. 

 POULTS:  In my garage right now, I have eight Beltsville White poults  sired from the Canada Guelph flock.  These poults are very slight of bone, flighty in temperment  and by feel one immediately recognizes they need improvement not only in frame structure but breast quality.  I am hopeful that their egg production/fertility will be superior to my flock as I personally observed these poults hatching and they were very vigorous.     

As soon as I can, I will be wing banding these birds for future identification.  I hope to obtain eggs from an identified Ames line in order to maintain a line of purebred Beltsville White.  I suspect that the Ames line of poults will be superior to the Guelph line I currently have, as my conversations with this breeder shows a dedicated to quality versus quantity.

My Pixie Whites carry the bloodlines of Midget White, and White Holland turkeys.  Should they starting getting too big, I will add in some of these Beltsville white genes.  But my main goal is to see how far I can go in creating a flock of purebred Beltsville White turkeys, next year. 


Time For the Hens to Begin Raising Their Own Babies!

With my last tray hatching next week, I am looking forward towards the hens doing all the work, while I just record their broodiness.  Besides, I have enough to do raising the poults I hatched.  I recently saw a hen I sold last year, and opps, I would love to have her back in my breeding program.  She is being bred to one of my Toms so perhaps I can get some eggs back for my incubator.   I hate it that I can't keep them all until they mature before making my next generation breeding selections. 

In my brooder, I have twenty poults I am keeping out of my main tom, Tut and King's daughters.  From these poults, I will select next year's hens to breed to Die Hard, Tut's son. 

I also have bred Tut's daughter's  to King.  These hens will be permitted to raise their own clutches so I can evaluate their broodiness.  From these poults, I will also select hens to breed to Die Hard.  From those not selected, some will go to market and others purchased as seed producers for other small acreage farmers. 

If that is not enough to keep me occupied, I am in the process of building a new turkey pen so that I can keep the market birds seperate from my breeding birds.   To lessen my work load, I have decided it is time to learn how to wing band.  Food dye on poults and leg bands work fine on a small flock but as the brood expands wing bands are a must.

If anyone has any internet articles on how to wing band, please email me.





The Start of a Turkey Blog

March 30, 2011    Based upon the Midget White breeding program, my Pixie Whites are compact turkeys that I have been breeding for the past three years specifically for the small acreage farmer; who requires a naturally breeding, compact, white friendly turkey who can be relied on to breed true. The foundation TOM is a Midget White turkey from as close as I could get to the 2007 Wisconsin dispersed flock. My initial foundation hens were advertised as Midget Whites but I put no stock in that.
Over the past three years, I have aggressively culled my flock down to the best seven hens every year and the top two Toms for the sole purpose of recreating as best I could a "dinner table" turkey possessing quality breast fleshing and high egg production; while retaining the qualities of a heritage fowl.
I am doing this because the advertised Midget Whites  I purchased, had lost their "midget" size.  Via lights, isolated breeding pens and heated barn, I am currently on my fourth generation of line-breeding for consistent traits.  Plus, I love the science behind structured pedigrees based upon genetics!
My "lofty" goal is to produce seed breeders that past on the above stated desired traits. Last year was the first time I sold my poults to a local 4-her who won the championship breeding pair at the 2010 Cass Co County Fair. It is no small feat for a heritage bird to gain enough quality breast fleshing in six months to beat out a commercial white.

In 2010, my Toms processed out between 15-18 lbs, with hens around 6-8 lbs. around sexual maturity, six - seven months.  When I get time, I am going to start blogging details about my trapped nest breeding program. 

Rise&Shine Urban Farm



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