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  • megantansey

It's Turkey Time!!

We have been raising fresh turkeys for close to 10 years. It all started when I was working and someone asked if I could raise a fresh turkey because they were hard to find. Of course agreed to try it, went home told Andy that we were going to raise turkeys. We found some poults (baby turkeys) on Craigslist and built a pen. Now we didn’t research the growing habits of turkeys very well, and maybe didn’t plan this out the way we should have. But I am known to do random things without much planning.

We did around 10 turkeys. We decided we would butcher them ourselves since it was pretty expensive to pay someone to do it. We had butchered chickens before, and we decided it wouldn’t be that much different. Luckily it wasn’t. The body cavity is much larger so it is actually easier to clean than a chicken.

Once we had a few clean we thought that they looked a little big. Out came the bathroom scale and these turkeys were up to 40# dressed!!! I didn’t even think they would fit in my oven. I ended up having to cut one in half on the kitchen table using pruning shears. No one really minded the giant turkeys but over the years we have gotten better about planning and now raise turkeys to dress out about 14-24 pounds. We now do two batches of babies a few weeks apart so we have some smaller ones and larger ones for people to pick from.

Cooking Fresh Turkey

We found that cooking fresh turkeys is faster than thawed turkeys. Maybe because we are starting from a slightly warmer internal temperature. I also like to brine my turkeys 24 hours for a deep flavor. I have tried many different recipes and enjoy doing different recipes every year. I will brine one to cook in the roaster and make another one in the oven with herb butter under the skin.

Cook your turkey at 325 until the thigh reaches 165 degrees. A 12-14 pound turkey will take around 3 ½ -4 hours, a 14-18 pound 4 to 4 ¼ hours and 18-20 pound 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperature so not to overcook. One year my turkey finished 1 ½ hours before the time I had figured. I feel they do tend to cook faster if a roaster than the oven but they don’t get that crispy skin.

Raising Turkeys

We buy our turkeys from a hatchery and they are mailed to us. We pick them up at the post office. Baby turkeys can go for 2-3 days without food or water once they hatch (as long as they are not given any food or water from the time they hatch). Once they start eating and drinking they must have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Our turkeys are raised inside in a “brooding pen” until they are feathered out and they can tolerate being outside. They are blocked from any drafts and kept with heat lamps on to keep their body temperature maintained.

Once they are old enough to tolerate being outside, we move them out to pasture with large covered sheds they can use to get out of the weather. This year we had issues with the turkeys getting over the fencing and were free ranging all over the farm. This can be a problem since turkeys are not the smartest of animals and they are in danger of killing themselves or being killed by predators. After some reinforcements of the fence we were able to keep them in place and safe from predators.

It takes around 16 weeks to raise a turkey to be ready for your Thanksgiving table. They have full choice feed as babies and once outside are fed twice a day. We raise broad breasted whites, they are a mixed breed turkey and they grow very quickly. If they are given free access to grain they can grow to fast and end up with leg problems. This breed of turkey as been bred completely for meat and their health will start to deteriorate if they are raised much past their prime growth.

We still have few fresh turkeys available for Thanksgiving. Contact us to learn more and reserve your fresh turkey!

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