In the 12 years since the original edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys was published, the backyard poultry movement has undergone a revolution. There’s been a surge in small-scale poultry farming in response to consumer demand for the best flavors, new organic standards, the lifting of local ordinances, locavore activism, and a deep enthusiasm for heritage breeds.
Turkeys are at the center of this revolution. Don Schrider’s all-new edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys includes detailed information on everything today’s turkey farmer needs to know: the characteristics of various heritage breeds, humane raising practices, buildings and equipment, pastured feeding methods, protection from predators, incubation and breeding, organic certification standards, on-farm processing guidelines, backyard raising techniques, and the most up-to-date medical and care procedures. Marketing information, profiles of turkey farmers, and detailed illustrations complete this comprehensive reference book.
This important new edition is a highly valuable addition to Storey’s best-selling series. With over 1.9 million copies in print, the Storey’s Guide to Raising series is the most trusted source of essential animal husbandry information. With this new edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, the next generation of turkey farmers has all the information required to raise birds — naturally and profitably.
Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys helps bring the American Poultry Association Standard Bred turkeys back from the brink of extinction and restore their presence on the family farm. Without everyone’s efforts, these birds will become simply a memory. With the wonderful help of a book like this, these magnificent varieties of turkeys, which are of great value to agriculture, have the best possible chance of survival.
— Frank R. Reese, Jr., Good Shepherd Poultry
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Schrider is a poultry aficionado and has written on the topic for many publications, including Mother Earth News, Backyard Poultry, Chickens, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, and Poultry Press. He is a master breeder of Brown Leghorn and Buckeye chickens and has worked with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy on various projects.
Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, 3rd Edition
Storey Publishing, February 2013
Illustrations throughout, 320 pages, 6" x 9"
$19.95 paper, ISBN 978-1-61212-149-9
$29.95 hardcover, ISBN 978-1-61212-150-5
We have been keeping chickens for several years, but have always bought sexed chicks so we have never had any roosters. Then this past spring, we hatched our own brood and out of 17 chicks, ten ended up being roosters. We obviously couldn't keep them all - the neighbors would have organized a lynch mob to protest all the crowing and our hens would have had something to say about it too - but I fortunately was able to find good homes for all but an Olive Egger named John Quincy Adams.
In the ten months we have had him, I have learned a lot about roosters and how they interact with the rest of the flock. Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
1. You don't need a rooster to get eggs. I actually already knew that, but it bears emphasizing because it's an oft-asked question on our Facebook page. Hens happily lay eggs without a rooster in residence. The only difference is that the eggs won't be fertile. But fertile or not, they look and taste the same, contain the same nutritional content and both are fine for eating. The only difference is the 'bulls-eye' on the yolk of a fertilized egg which is the rooster's DNA material. An unfertilized egg will have only a tiny white pinhead dot which is the hen's DNA material. A blood spot on the yolk does NOT indicate fertility, it's merely a broken blood vessel. I had never seen the bull's eye in an egg in person before and it's pretty neat - and unmistakable.
2. The rooster is not always at the top of the pecking order. Our alpha hen, Orange Chicken, and a few others have made it clear that they aren't going to give up their place in the pecking order. So John Quincy is somewhere in the upper middle - and even sleeps a few rungs down on the roost each night.
3. Roosters don't only crow in the morning....they crow all afternoon and into the evening too. I have heard that some roosters even crow in the dark! Fortunately John Quincy only crows during daylight hours. But the notion of hearing a roosters crow at sunup and then not again for the rest of the day is hogwash. He crows pretty much all day long.
4. Roosters really do work to protect the flock. When I let the hens out into the pasture, John Quincy roams the perimeter very vigilantly and sounds an alarm if he senses danger. A hawk swooping by recently caused him to round up the hens and herd them under a bush where they stayed while he ran into the middle of the pasture, as if offering himself up to the hawk. Fortunately the hawk decided it was no match for me, our dog plus John Quincy and moved on. Then JQ gave the girls the 'all clear' signal once he had determined it was safe to emerge. I still won't free range our flock unsupervised, despite his presence, because many a rooster has lost his life protecting hens and that's not a sacrifice I am willing to let the little guy take. He is no match for a determined hawk, fox or dog.
5. Roosters are gorgeously regal. I think a hen with glossy feathers, bright legs and feet and shiny eyes is beautiful. But roosters take the cake. With their long tail feathers, proud erect poses and air of authority, a well-cared for rooster is a sight to behold.
6. Roosters can be mean. But so can hens. And the rooster isn't being mean for the sake of being mean. He takes his job seriously, and at times, even you are a threat to his flock. Having hand-raised my roosters, I think they trusted and accepted me a lot more than they would had I acquired them as pullets, but there have been a few times when John Quincy has pecked me or gone at me, spurs first. The latest was when I was trying to squirt saline into one of our hen's eyes. She was blinking and I wanted to rinse out any dust. She was squawking and putting up a fuss and John Quincy came right over and basically attacked me. But in his mind, I was hurting one of 'his' girls.
7. Roosters will protect the smaller and weaker members of the flock. John Quincy will routinely break up squabbles between the hens. He steps right in whether two hens are fighting over a treat or space under a bush. He also pecks any hens who pick on our smaller, younger pullets, who have taken to hanging around him for 'protection'. Like a typical man, he can't stand female 'drama' and makes sure there isn't any in our his run.
8. Roosters delight in finding 'treasures' and calling the hens over. I had heard about this but never seen it first hand. When they are out free ranging or I toss treats in their yard, John Quincy will make a high pitched, excited sound and then pick up a treat and drop it at the feet of the hen who he wants to have it. It's very sweet.
9. Roosters don't need as much food as hens and won't touch free-choice crushed oyster- or egg-shell. Because they lay eggs, hens expend a lot of energy and nutrients and therefore have a higher calorie requirement than roosters or non-laying hens. Layers also need supplemental calcium to ensure strong egg shells. The calcium should always be served free-choice in a separate bowl and not mixed into the feed so each hen can eat what she needs, and the roosters and non-layers won't eat any of it. If they ingest too much calcium, it can lead to kidney damage, and somehow they know that.
10. Roosters often flap their wings before crowing to push oxygen into their lungs. Because they have very small lungs and a complicated respiratory system, and because crowing takes a lot of lung power, often a rooster will flap his wings just prior to crowing to push as much oxygen into his lungs as possible so his crowing will be as long - and as loud - as possible Now aren't you glad they have learned to do that!
Last month I wrote about Godwinks, and I’ve written about my dog Chase many times. You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact after we returned home to Virginia and Minnesota. God winked one day when “Fred” caught my eye as I viewed Sarah’s rescue website, www.lostfantasystables.com. Despite his unhappy expression, the little guy was cute. He had the sable coloring and white ruff of a collie, with red and white speckles on his chest and legs. I felt an immediate connection.
Sarah rescued “Fred” from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. Fred had a strong herding instinct and was probably just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and threatened to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved the terrified little guy, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew the fate he had just escaped.
Seeing that Fred was described as a “red heeler mix” and wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts in an impoverished area of rural Virginia, I followed up. My Australian Cattle Dog Bandit, who had recently lost his best dog pal and playmate, needed a new friend. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit for my family. With much planning and the help of many volunteers who transported him, Fred made the long journey from Virginia to Minnesota over Memorial weekend in 2006. He enjoyed the adventure and his series of chauffeurs commented on what a handsome and loving dog he was. He arrived with a beautiful greeting card chronicling his journey and wishing him a happy new life, signed by Sarah and everyone who had met him along the way.
I called him Fred for a while. I could say fun things like, “It’s time for bed Fred!” But eventually he became “Chase”, claiming the name. After living with and observing him for a while, I decided that he’s most likely a Smooth Coated Collie - Australian Cattle Dog mix. He is long in body with the thick undercoat, narrow ears and muzzle, and beautiful coloring of a smooth coated collie. He has a collie’s shrieky bark and likes to patrol perimeters like a collie. But he is stockier and lower to the ground like a cattle dog. He has a dose of cattle dog chutzpah and cattle dog speckles on his legs, belly, and running down his chin like spilled milk.
Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me. I later learned that the violent man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours, the worst kind of punishment for him.
Bandit and Chase enjoyed playing ball, running in the woods and fields, and bobbing for fallen apples in the kiddie pool. Chase and I went to obedience and agility classes, learned to track together, and enjoyed herding sheep and ducks. No matter what, Chase always gave love.
Early on, Chase appeared to have some flashbacks to the violence he’d been subjected to before being rescued, but he knows he’s safe now and seems to have fully recovered. By the end of the day, his back is usually sore and stiff, probably from being stuffed into that tiny chicken crate back in Virginia.
Chase taught me that another man’s trash could be my treasure. He is the sweetest, handsomest, most sensitive dog who used to worry about making a mistake, because he knew that the “mistake” of acting on his herding instinct could have cost him his life. He trusts me now and we have learned to work together to herd sheep and ducks so he can express this wonderful talent without fearing for his life. He taught me that you can start over again and recover from abuse and violence to be who you were meant to be.
Chase has created some interesting jobs for himself. Herding dogs are especially alert to anything that’s out of order because they’re used to watching over their flock. Chase likes to notify me when anything is different. He lets me know when the garbage truck and snowplow are coming long before I hear them. He lets out a special bark when the feral cat is around. When we go outside, Chase patrols the perimeter as a collie will. He follows his nose, which tells him what other creatures have passed through. He spots birds way up in the sky and has alerted me to a bald eagle soaring high above.
In spite of his past, Chase is very loving and friendly. He loves to meet people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he’s bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. He’d probably make a fantastic greeter at Wal-Mart! After his difficult beginning in life, he may be trying to make up for lost time on the love front.
Chase intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He reads people’s moods and seems to know just what they need. At home, he goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did this because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does this when he senses that I need a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.
I’ve felt for a long time that part of Chase’s calling in life is to be a therapy dog. Last spring we completed Delta Pet Partners training (Chase: Why Dog is Love, http://www.omegafields.com/blog/chase-why-dog-is-love/). I looked into starting a reading dog program at our local library, which has suffered from budget cuts, but I got sidetracked.
God winked again when I received an e-mail message from a local librarian who was determined to start a “Dog Gone Reading” program. Now Chase and I volunteer at our small local library for two hours per month. Kids read to Chase, developing their reading abilities in a supportive environment. Chase listens intently while each child reads him a story. He enjoys any story, is great company and isn’t judgmental. While reading out loud to Chase, kids build confidence and gain a friend. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to connect with a dog. Chase, who doesn’t have a kid at home, gets to bond with kids and fulfill his purpose to give love. The kids get to know the local library and all that it offers. Chase and I teach them how to approach a dog, to pet him gently, and to be kind and respectful to animals. Chase is a natural! He knows how important it is to be kind.
Chase, now about 7 ½ years old, has been waiting for years for me to give him this opportunity to reach his potential. I’m so excited that he’s fulfilling his purpose of sharing love, helping kids develop their reading abilities, and supporting our local library. As an author who loves to read, I don’t want the joy of reading real books to be lost. I want kids to know the pleasure of reading from a printed book held in their hands.
I’m very grateful to Sarah for saving Chase’s life and for the long journey that brought him home to Minnesota. I’m also grateful to Omega Fields for providing the Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets that boost Chase’s good health and make his coat so soft, shiny and wonderful to snuggle up to.
Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is wide open; he is an open book.
We have already discussed two of the fat soluble vitamins in a horse’s diet. This month we continue with a closer look at vitamin E, a vitamin which is commonly supplemented to horses for a variety of reasons. It is often used for aging horses, horses which have muscle disorders and horses which undergo strenuous exercise. But how do you know if your own horse needs more vitamin E in its diet?
First, let’s explore the role of vitamin E in your horse’s body. Vitamin E occurs in a variety of forms (both tocopherols and tocotrienols). Of these, there are then four subgroups, α, γ, β and δ. While γ is the most common in the natural diet, the alpha form is the most potent in activity, the most supplemented and the subject of most studies. In their natural diet, horses receive the most vitamin E as γ tocopherol from growing forages or harvested forage that was cut at an immature state. As the plant ages, vitamin E decreases in content. Vitamin E concentration also decays over time in harvested forages, as much as 50% over one month. Therefore, older hays which have been stored for some time will have little activity. If you also feed non-processed concentrates to your horse (such as oats, barley, corn etc.) they will also be low in vitamin E. However, most commercial equine feeds will be supplemented vitamin E, usually as α tocopherol acetate. It can be provided as either natural α tocopherol or synthetic, with natural forms having 36% more biological activity than synthetic. The natural form has been shown to increase plasma α tocopherol concenrations greater than its synthetic counterpart but both are effective supplements.
(This is the structure of alpha tocopherol.)
Despite its form, vitamin E’s function is most frequently thought of as an anti-oxidant. Vitamin E can work to eliminate free radicals which are formed through the incomplete oxidation of oxygen or other molecules. During normal metabolism some amount of free radicals are always formed. However, stress, work, aging, poor nutrition etc can increase the amount of free radicals in the body. These are essentially molecules which are missing an electron, making them highly reactive. This is an unstable condition and the free radical can remove electrons from other cell components, such as lipids, cell membranes etc. Vitamin E, along with other anti-oxidants donates an electron to the free radical, thus stabilizing it and preventing further damage. One oxidized, vitamin E itself must be reduced back to its active form. This is usually accomplished through the action of other anti-oxidants in the body such as ascorbic acid or glutathione peroxidase. As the cells of the immune system have a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are quite susceptible to damage by free radicals, vitamin E plays a vital role in the optimization of the immune system. Furthermore, vitamin E plays a role in reproduction, gene transcription and platelet aggregation.
(Traditional concentrates such as just corn and oats may be relatively low in vitamin E content.)
Currently, vitamin E is recommended to be fed to maintenance horses and breeding horses at 1 IU/kg of body weight (not sure if your horse is a maintenance horse, see Energy Requirements). Growing horses and lactating mares are suggested to need more vitamin E in their diet, at double the rate of maintenance horses or 2 IU/kg body weight. Vitamin E intake for the working horse may need to be a bit higher. While the current recommendation for working horses is 1.8 IU/kg body weight for moderate work and 2 IU per kg body weight for heavy work, many research studies have provided Vitamin E at higher levels. Supplementation rates from 150-250 IU/kg DM, 300 IU /kg DM or even as high as 11.1 IU kg/body weight (in a simulated endurance race) have been found to be necessary to maintain blood and muscle concentration of vitamin E in more rigorously exercised horses. To make these values seem more familiar, if we assume we are feeding a 500 kg horse 2% of its body weight, than the range of vitamin E would be between 1500 – 5500 IU of vitamin E per day in these studies.
Therefore, Vitamin E is often part of the suggested management protocols for horses which are heavily exercising or may have muscle disorders. In fact, in a study looking at endurance horses and supplementation of Vitamin E, the authors were unable to create a control group as no riders were willing to not supplement their horses! However,i t has been difficult to prove the effectiveness of supplementation for the enhancement of the horse’s health. In exercised horses receiving 300 IU/kg DM of vitamin E compared to 80 IU/kg DM, or no supplementation of vitamin E, the higher rate of supplementation did increase the muscle concentration of vitamin E. However, it did not affect the indicators of oxidative stress in the muscle following a submaximal exercise test. Perhaps a difference would have been observed with a more aggressive exercise regimen. More recently, horses supplemented at a rate of 3000 IU per day of vitamin E compared to 80 IU/kg DM, underwent a training protocol. The anti-oxidant capacity of all the horses increased following training, which is a natural adaptation to exercise. There were no differences in reduced or oxidized glutathione peroxidase at rest, or total glutathione peroxidase. However after a standard exercise test, the horses receiving 3000 IU vitamin E did have more reduced gluthathione peroxidase, suggesting a greater anti-oxidant capacity. Horses exercised to fatigue following 8 weeks of supplementation of 3000 IU of vitamin E had less muscle oxidation as measured by myofibril carbonylation( a measure of protein oxidation).
(Heavily exercised horses may need more vitamin E in their diet than maintenance horses or lightly worked horses.)
Determining if your horse has a vitamin E deficiency may not be as straight forward as taking a blood sample. It has been shown that the concentration of vitamin E in the horse’s blood varies irrespective of diet. In one study, the variation within an individual horse in a 72 hr period would have shown the same horse as more than adequate in vitamin E, to marginal as well as deficient. Therefore, it may be more important to look at your feeding regimen and the feedstuffs your horse consumes to determine whether or not they may have a deficiency. The diet your horse is on may also affect his vitamin E needs. Vitamin E is protective against the peroxidation of lipids in the body, especially the polyunsaturated fatty acids. Horses which consume diets higher in PUFAs, which is certainly recommended in many cases, may increase the need for anti-oxidants in the body to prevent lipid perodixation. Thankfully, many sources of PUFAs may be higher in vitamin E content.
If your horse is older, they may also be a candidate for vitamin E supplementation. As horses’ age, their body systems may not function at the same level seen in their younger years. As in people, the immune system of our aged horses may begin to fail. When horses over 20 years of age were vaccinated for influenza, they were unable to mount the same immune response as their younger counterparts. Therefore, older horses may be prime candidates for supplements which are known to complement the immune system. In older horses fed vitamin E at 15 IU/kg of body weight, the bacterial killing ability of specific immune cells was increased, along with an increase in some, but not all, of the specific types of immunoglobins (or antibody). However, in this study, the horses were previously on a marginally deficient amount of vitamin E. Therefore, it is not known whether it was the correction of the deficiency or the over supplementation that yielded positive effects.
Horses are fairly tolerant of relatively high amounts of vitamin E in the diet. The upper range of vitamin E intake has been set at 1,000 IU/kg of DM. To think of this in more common terms, we will do a brief example using an 1100 lb horse that consumes 2% of its body weight. Thus this horse would typically consume 22 lbs of feed per day. We will convert this to kg to look at our total amount of vitamin E the horse should ever safely consume. 22 lbs of feed is equivalent to 10 kg of feed. Thus, the upper range of safe intake of vitamin E is 10,000 IU per day for a 500 kg horse.
However, vitamin E should not be used without caution. In human medicine supplementation of vitamin E has not always yielded positive results, and if fact can actually enhance the disease state. In humans undergoing heavy exercise, vitamin E supplementation actually decreased some of the positive adaptations to exercise. In addition, heavy supplementation has been actually linked to mortality. As always, supplementation is never the answer for a properly balanced diet. Overzealous supplementation may actually work against your horse’s health! But if your horse is older, more heavily worked or has added poly-unsaturated fatty acids in its diet, you might want to examine your diet for its Vitamin E content.
Next month we will finish our discussion of the fat soluble vitamins with vitamin K.