Hi, this is Brianna, Preston, Val and Brenna. We are a part of the Willmar chapter of Minnesota Future Farmers of America Association (FFA) and we are proud to be a part of this turkey raising opportunity. We were selected to participate in this project by our high school agriculture teacher, Mr. Neil Pearson. We all attend Willmar High school.
At our first meeting, we met the project leaders from Willmar Poultry Company and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. They taught us how to care for the turkeys and explained biosecurity, which means that we have to use special boots and smocks when we’re around the turkeys so that we’re not bringing any germs into the barn. We also can’t be in contact with other birds before we enter the barn.
The turkey move went great. We first had to go to one of Willmar Poultry’s turkey barns to pick out turkeys that fit our criteria. All of the birds are toms, or male turkeys. They will eventually grow to between 30 and 40 pounds! The day of the move, everyone got a chance to transport a turkey into the trailer. At first, the girls were kind of leery about lifting the birds and moving them into and out of the trailer, but once the guys helped, everyone did their part. Loading the turkeys was a lot harder then unloading them. They now live in an environment that is set up similar to any traditional turkey barn you might see. The birds have plenty of space to move around and have access to food and clean water 24-7. The only difference is these birds are getting a little spoiled because they need to have a lot of human interaction, to help prepare them for the possible trip to the White House!
We check on the turkeys and handle them almost every day. Before we go in to do our chores for the day, we peek through a window to see what the turkeys do when people are not around. For instance, one day the toms were “dust bathing” or rubbing their feathers in the wood shavings, which is what turkeys do to help keep themselves clean. (Other animals do this too – like when horses roll around in the grass.) It is quite entertaining to see how much their personalities change when we are around, but they are starting to become less timid around us. For chores, we clean the drinkers, fix the shavings, stir the feed and sweep. We also spray down the floors with cleaner when we leave.
This project is a great learning experience for all of us. Since we have been working with the turkeys, they have grown bigger and more mature. We have also noticed that they are getting used to us being around and they don’t watch us so much as they used to. They have started eating when we’re in the pens and sometimes even fall asleep when we are around.
We split up the hours fairly when we take care of them. The guys go on Mondays and Wednesdays. And the girls go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Someone from Willmar Poultry Company also goes out every day to supervise them and make sure that they are all healthy and cared for. If we have the chance, we visit them on the weekends. This week, the guys noticed that the turkeys were gobbling. We still have a lot of work to do to tame them and get them ready for the big day, but it is going very well so far. We play music from our cell phones for them and hope to start bringing new sounds into the area soon. You can learn more about the turkeys in our upcoming blogs.
Thanks for reading!