Looking over the flock it was great to see my hens maintaining their size, with Toms continuing to downsize. I have one tom that is the size of my biggest hen; who will be used later this year and next in hopes of fixing this size trait in my toms. Looking towards the 2012 holidays and filling turkey orders, I have created four nests of twenty eggs, each. Two of which, have already been taken over by two very determined mommas. Last year I raised 15 Guelph Beltsville Whites to see if they possessed any genetics l wanted to cross into my pixies. Appearance and temperament wise, one can see striking contrasts. The belts are flighty, rounded over the back, small headpieces with small eyes-the Toms are devoid of the blue to purplish coloration tending more towards red. However, they do have wider backs and more breast fleshing. They reach processing weight about two weeks earlier. Keeping two hens, I have crossed them with a fourth generation pixie tom. Can't wait to see what this cross produces and what pixie traits show through. One can always eat ones mistakes!
UPDATE: All broody hens with eggs have been moved to the nursery, safe from the coons and other predators that like to snatch a baby poult from under their momma's wings. It won't be long now before babies are pushing their heads up between their momma's feathers.
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.
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.
Due to an aggressive culling of my breeding hens, I am down to seven hens originating from last year poults This means, I am later than usual with my first hatch. But it is worth the wait. Last year, I thought the poults were slow to seperate from the egg after making the first shell crack. The aggressive culling was my attempt to work towards solving this problem.
I want the use of the poult's yolk sac energy to be for the twenty four hours after leaving the shell, and not for getting out of it. This year, once poults have cracked the shell, they take shorter rests and appear to be more determined to exit the egg. I left this morning to go shopping, after having identified three eggs, and came back three hours later with five poults, out and dry.
Nor am I having to babysit these poults to ensure that they stay near the water, food, and heat. So far, no "roller" poults that flip up on their backs and often die as they are able to right themselves due to lack of energy, food, water, or chilled.
These poults are also showing more bone frame than last year poults, with a wider leg stance. Neat!
I can't wait until I let my Pixie White hens begin raising their own poults to see if my incubating experience carries over to them. The goal is for the Pixie White to be a self sustaining turkey and not a "needy bird."
Just a reminder for those of you raising poults for the first time, poults must be fed a game feed that is a least 24 percent protein. (28 percent is better for the first month-I feed Kent game feed) if you feed chicken feed, the poults will fail to thrive and start developing leg problems.
The first operational phase of the Pixie White breeding program is based upon the following Mendel principles that: 1) each parent contributes one half of the genetic material to the progeny; 2) this genetic material affects the appearance of the progeny; 3) some undesirable genes are dominate over desirable, and when the dominate and recessive genes are in the same parent, only the dominant will show; 4) if each parent contributes a recessive desirable gene trait to a given offspring, then these turkeys are purebred for the recessive trait; and,5) each parent can only contribute that recessive gene to the next generation. But if the next generation receives an undesirable dominate trait from the other parent, the recessive gene is “hidden” but can skip a generation and be recovered.
The Pixie White has two foundation toms.One tom (King) is as close as I could get to the purebred genetics of the Midget Whites dispersed to avian fanciers in 2005; while the other, (Tut) is a small white tom of excellent breast fleshing but unknown origin. (As it turns out, Tut has become the backbone of my flock, producing hens/toms exhibiting exceptional breast quality at 35 weeks, while King is relied upon to keep sufficient bone structure, vigor, and hen broodiness) However, he also is the "wildcard" in my breeding program, not knowing his origins. The seven small white hens were likewise of unknown origin. Thru the use of lights, separation pens, incubation, trap nesting, and heated facilities, I began aggressively raising two separate lines of breeding stock a year. These crossbreds were then subjected to a selection pressure that bases the next generation breeding bird on genetic traits of:small size, good breast fleshing, vigor, structural bone balance, and calm-friendly temperament; while, retaining the attributes and cultural significance of a heritage turkey suitable to a range-based small acreage production system.In June of each year, I permit each breeding hen to raise her own clutch so as to assess not only broodiness but maternal skills.
My focus is to identify PURE dominant genes of a tom and hen by working within the frame work of Mendel’s formulas to determine which turkeys are homozygous for the most number of identified traits.By November of each year, toms and hens are sold either as seed breeders to like minded individuals, or butchered.I cull my flock down to the next years breeding turkeys with the hope that I retain stock that cannot give their offspring anything but the desired gene for that trait, because that is all they have. Working on the premise that most of the desired traits are associated with the X sex chromosome, my yearly selection pressure focus is on the next generation’s breeding hens and is based upon the number of desirable traits exhibited by the hen so as to fix similar genes within my flock.Finally, I am able to pair these hens to toms from outstanding mother hens; the result of which in 2010, was an increase in egg production and yield of edible hen breast meat.
My hope is that as I continue to identify desirable traits that I believe to be beneficial but recessive in nature and work towards fixing this recessive trait by planning mating where both parents possess the recessive gene through the X sex chromosome, via record keeping, I will be able to select breeding pairs that demonstrate an ability to produce progeny that throw the highest number of the desired traits.
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.