Wednesday was moving day. The turkeys have been living in a movable pen along with the first batch of broilers we hatched this spring. Those chickens got butchered last week, and now it was time to move the turkeys to some fresh grazing.
The “house” is a very simple structure we built just for raising meat birds during nice weather from spring through fall. It’s a bottomless box with two large openings, one on each long side. There is a floor in the center section between the “doors” and perches in both ends. The center provides a protected place where we hang a feeder. The plan is to put 4 wheels on it so it can simply be pulled to a new location, but that part hasn’t happened yet, so we just set it up on cinder blocks & use the tractor to move it.
For fencing for the pen, we ordered electric poultry netting. It has fiberglass posts woven right into it to make moving & set up easy. It will fence approximately a 40′ x 40′ area. We just have to place it so that we can clip it to the electric pasture fence to charge it. The shelter & a waterer are placed inside the fence far enough that they don’t get used as take-off platforms for flying over the fence. Of course, I make sure to clip wings, too, to discourage this!
The plan is to use this set-up to pasture-raise our meat birds & let them do some work for us while they’re out there. We are working hard toward getting a rotational grazing system going for the horses & cattle, and this is part of the scheme to help with fly & parasite control. After the large animals are moved out of a paddock, we will move the poultry in for clean-up. It will be their job to rake through the manure plops & eat any fly larvae they find. This will also get the piles spread out in a thin layer so they dry out & are not such a nice environment for the flies & parasites. Manure will break down faster & fertilize a larger spot, hopefully eliminating those “repugnance zones” where the animals won’t eat forever because it smells like poo.
Since the pasture system isn’t quite rotating yet, we had temporarily set up the portable pen just behind the old horse barn in a grassy/weedy area of the horse pasture. And since moving the shelter is at this point a big, involved job, it stayed there about 2 months until the area was fairly well eaten down. Now we were moving it outside of the pasture fence, around the back side of the barn, where there’s plenty more grass & some nice shade for this really HOT weather.
The first step was to catch all the turkeys & get them out of the pen, which wasn’t too hard because they are still fairly tame & friendly. Since we knew it would take awhile to get everything moved, we decided to put them in the horse trailer where they’d have room to move about. Once the birds were contained, Jeff & the boys took down the netting, folding it neatly as they went. At that point the horses found it necessary to thoroughly examine the area…and did find some spilled feed to nibble at.
We took the fencing to the new spot & got it put in place, leaving the front side open to get the shelter in. Then it was time to move the shelter, which meant backing in the tractor, strapping the shelter onto the fork & lifting it off the blocks….and hoping nothing fell or broke. Brenton carefully drove it through the gate & around the other side of the barn, then backed it into place & set it down on the blocks in the new location.
The front section of fencing was then completed and we were ready for the turkeys again. I re-clipped wings before taking them back out of the trailer, as their feathers had grown out a good bit & some of them were getting airborne fairly well again. Finally, the turkeys were released into their new home and were soon settled in, delightedly chortling to themselves. Moving day was done!