From the country…
So for the past little bit I have been crazy busy sourcing heritage poultry, specifically various breeds of heritage turkeys. My search has led me to different parts of Ontario, which I now (more than ever) realize is probably one of the most beautiful places to live. The rolling hills of the Niagara Escarpment, the humble towns in Prince Edward/ Northumberland Counties with places tucked in here and there. With a google map in hand, I make the trek to finding these poultry places, where I find committed people who spend their time preserving heritage breeds.
My first day trip has led me to a woman named JoAnn in Meaford Ontario. Her place Cirrus Hills Farm breeds Chantecler chickens, Beltsville Small White turkeys, Silver Apple yard/ Saxony ducks, and White Roman Geese. Her passion for her chosen breeds, leads us in to discussions about the history of these winged wonders. She recites her knowledge of these breeds like an encyclopaedia as she shows us around her barns. I leave her farm with 25 Chantecler chicks, 12 Beltsville turkeys and a couple dozen eggs. Next it is on to Alliston where I meet Janet and her husband, Tom from Maple Lane Heritage Turkeys. There I pick up my 6 dozen of the largest turkey eggs I have ever seen. We chat for a while and I learn some new tricks for incubating eggs.
My last trip was just yesterday to Performance Poultry, in Carrying Place Ontario, where I met Jason. Jason is veterinary technologist who runs his operation by the book. We are not allowed to view the poultry for bio security reasons. His website reads like poultry porn where if you order early enough in the season, you can get anything you want for a price. I come home with 10 Buff Orpington chicks (for an Amish friend), 10 Black Australorp chicks, 12 Bourbon Red turkeys poults, and some turkey eggs.
My brooder is bursting with babies and the incubator full of turkey egg hopefuls. Heck, even the turkey hen in the barn is sitting on 18 eggs. I have taken it all in, every place I have been, learning new tricks and grilling people with questions toward my path to raising these breeds myself. I have been observant to how these turkeys were raised and how they were fed and see where there is room for change (at least for my own operation anyway…).
What’s next? Well there is brooder making, fencing and waiting to see how many babies will hatch. Then there is the best practice of animal husbandry I can muster. Making sure these animals are healthy, and grow to market weight for the Christmas table. A heritage pastured turkey, grown in the way nature intended it to be and cherished by people who want the true flavour and texture of a real turkey. Then there is keeping breeding stock for having my own eggs for incubating next year.
I want to look out my kitchen window and see Red Bourbon, Beltsville White, Narragansett, Royal Palm, and Black Spanish turkeys grazing in the paddock, in a pastoral setting they were made for.