Talking Turkey

Talking Turkey

What it all boils down to is that I didn’t expect to like them so much.

But hold on, let me back up a bit.

For years I’ve fantasized about raising our own turkey to eat for Thanksgiving Dinner. I don’t know where this idea came from, or why I held on to it instead of just letting it pass like a million other ideas, but it stuck.

And so, through local eating challenges and setting higher intentions about where our food comes from and how it is raised, the idea of raising our own bird has become a bit of challenge on its own for me.

You know, how cool would it be to purchase an itty bitty turkey, raise it up for several months, then share it with my family at my favorite holiday?

And so this year, with it’s move to a massive property and a coop split in two to keep both turkeys and chickens, afforded me the very first opportunity to actually put this idea into action.

We were told turkeys are stupid, so buy twice as many as you’d like to survive. So, we purchased four, thinking we’d be set with two (one for Thanksgiving and one to stash in the freezer for later).

Well, all four survived and have grown exponentially.

Being Broad Breasted Bronzes, they’re massive. ย It’s what they’re bred for…big breasts, lots of meat.

We were also then asked by some friends to raise a few for them in exchange for feed costs. We told them to purchase “just a few” because I was worried about space. ย They purchased eight (four for one couple, and four for the other).

Three of theirs have been taken out by predators.

Bourbon Reds, being a heritage bird, grow slower, leaving them more susceptible to predators for a longer period of time.

This has all left us with nine birds to harvest (kill…cull…) this coming Sunday in preparation for everyone’s Thanksgiving tables a week from today.

And I am so sad about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I will enjoy the meal I’ve waited years for and worked very hard for day in and day out…

And I trust that everyone else will enjoy it, too.

However, this is the first time we have raised an animal for the sole purpose of killing it for it’s meat. ย It’s new and different and hard and sad and requires, I think, some sort of beautiful ritual/prayer/acknowledgement beforehand.

But I’m at a loss.

See, I’ve found that I really like keeping turkeys.

They’re hilarious and sweet and fun and curious and gorgeous!

I enjoy their gobbles and sweet chirps and waddles.

And, in the beginning, I didn’t think I’d like them as much as I do.

(Yes, despite their massive, stinky poop and pain in my ass resistance to going inside at night, I really, really like them.)

And so, each morning when I let them out of their coop, I feel a twinge of sadness, because there are only so many of these mornings left.

And each evening when I lock them back up, I feel incredibly protective of them, because I really don’t want any nasty predator putting an end to them that I can’t control.

And I don’t want them to feel afraid.

And so, I’ll need to sit with this all over the next few days and figure out what will feel best to me as a way to honor them in their last hours and minutes because I am so very (really and truly) grateful for the experience these silly birds have given me.


Written by Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm


  1. Tonya

    You are more brave than me. I am far too attached to any animal. If I were to raise my own animal with the intent to “meat”, it would end up being pet and I would be vegetarian, haha. I like my meat in pretty little white packages. I know it is such a wussy stance. I just don’t think I have it in me to cull an animal.

    I admire those who are self sufficient. The reality for me is I will never make that transition. Yes I do want to know who is raising my food, so I buy local, organic processed meat. I feel it is dual purpose. I control my food source and support the local farm community. I have done things to reduce my carbon footprint and have adopted some self sufficient practices (canning, gardening,quilting, and baking bread).

    I know you didn’t make this decision lightly and I also know you will perform the cull with humane efficiency and respect. My great grandpa on my mother’s side was full blooded cherokee (and full German on my Dad’s side–what a combo). He worked his fields and culled his animals into his 70″s when he passed away. He would always say a traditional prayer, and do an offering of tobacco (gratitude) and sage (purity) before culling the animal to grandmother earth in return for the animals sacrifice. Maybe you could do something similar to honor your turkeys?
    Tonya recently posted…Nesting WeekendMy Profile

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      Tanya, thank you for your thoughtful response! It is such a hard thing, culling your own animal, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I love the prayer ritual you mentioned here. Thank you. I did some energy work/prayers with the turkeys yesterday and will do more today with each culling. Here we go…

  2. Barbie

    Have you thought about keeping a pair of heritage turkeys that you could then use to create each years succession? This way you can feel bonded and enjoy the experience of “pet’ and yet stay far enough removed from the young poults that you will be harvesting. I have done this with my ducks and it works very well for us. (a trio) Not that harvesting an animal that you have cared for is ever easy but it does help me compartmentalize the birds into food and friends. ๐Ÿ™‚
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    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      I love this idea! We did think about this year as we raised the bourbon reds for our friends, but haven’t come to a conclusion yet. I’d love to begin keeping poultry who bring us actual chicks to raise ๐Ÿ™‚ I think we’ll give ourselves some space and decide next spring what the way forward is ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank You for sharing your experience and perspective!

  3. Mary

    I like the idea of raising my own food–really I do. I like knowing what goes into my food, and how it was raised (or grown) and how it lived it’s life. All of that is wonderful, in theory. And I knew–absolutely, without a doubt–that when I got my three hens, the eggs they produced would be secondary to the role of a member of my clan that was primary. While I love going out each morning and gathering eggs and giving them breakfast, being greeting by their soft noises is an awesome way to start my days.

    I hold deep respect for those who can ‘harvest’ their own animals, I really, truly do. I just know that it’s a role I could not see myself in. It’s one that I don’t know I could ever do.

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and perspective! It really is such a balance and I truly am grateful for this journey.

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