My uncles recently reminded me that when my grandpa was raising turkeys, he'd keep three flocks of 5,000 birds a piece.
I'm an English major who can barely count, but I'm pretty sure that still equals about 15,000 birds.
It makes our 21 chickens seem a little measly in comparison, but as I reminded the nice Ace Hardware man who sold me a lightbulb for the heat lamp, you have to get back in the game somehow.
First year, 21 chickens.
Next year, we'll be back to 100.
By year 3, 15,000 birds will be a drop in the, uh, chicken waterer?
Our meat birds arrived at the post office this morning at 5:30 a.m., and I picked them up soon after. We ordered them from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa, a company kind enough to include an exotic bird in each one of their shipments.
Chris named him Horace.
Or maybe Horace-ina.
We'll get back to you on that. In the meantime, here are the essentials:
Traveling can be hard on birds, so once I got them home, I filled their waterer with a little sugar and some electrolytes (you can get a mix called QuikChick that will do the trick) and dipped their beaks in the water so they'd know where to find it. It can take chicks some time to bounce back from their trip, but these little busters hopped right on up to the waterer and haven't looked back.
They also have access to chick starter, which they've been nibbling away at all day. Medicated chick starter is available, but if your birds have been vaccinated, check to see if the medicated feed can undo the work of the vaccine during the first few days. Some will.
When the birds first arrived this morning, they huddled under the heat lamp in one tight group. As their core temperature warmed up, they started to spread out, and they're now lounging comfortably under the lamp, which is keeping their little nook a cozy 90-05 degrees.
If the birds are huddled up, it's too cold. If they're spread out to the edges of their brooder, spritzing themselves with water bottles and waving tiny fans, raise the heat lamp.
Thanks to water, chick starter and heat [and as the birds get bigger, plenty of fresh air, feed and delectable insects plucked out of the ground], these meat birds will be ready to be processed in about six to eight weeks.
Well, maybe not Horace. We're still trying to figure out if he is a he. Or a she. And what kind of bird he or she really is.
But there will come a day in July when these chickens will, in a very real sense, be what the psalmist speaks about: "The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (Ps. 145:15-16).
Are we raising 15,000 turkeys right out of the shoot?
No. But there is some satisfaction in knowing that we are raising chickens just like my parents did and their parents did, that we'll get to gather around a table filled with food that we raised ourselves, that we remember that there is an order to creation and that we give thanks that these birds really are . . . when it comes right down to it . . . the "daily bread" our Lord promises to give, whether there's 21 one of them or three flocks of 5,000.