Friday, March 26, 2010

Building a turkey laying pen

Spent a good part of today building a turkey pen. I'm penning the turkeys because the red tailed hawk killed one earlier today and I'd like to be able to collect their eggs more efficiently. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the hawk long term -- I can't shoot them, they're federally protected migratory birds -- and I don't know what will be effective as a deterrent. Since I need to collect the eggs anyways, I'm going to pen the turkeys and see if the hawk doesn't find something better to do.

I've put down a layer of wood chips, and a bunch of old, rotted hay and stirred it all up. The turkeys will pick through this and scratch at it, and level it out, fertilizing it, and next year I'll plant part of my garden here. Sort of a turkey tractor.

The turkey pen will have two coops, one on either end. Both are built of recycled materials. I build the one in the picture above on a pair of cedar logs so that I could easily move it around with the tractor, or, in case of flood, rise with the flood waters. I'll chain it to one of the fence posts to the left. Those fence posts have 800lbs of cement at the bottom. Farming the flood plain makes for interesting challenges.

Inside the larger shed, all of the boards are intentionally spaced. This allows air circulation and keeps the structure dryer in my damp climate. It's tall, so that the birds can roost up near the roof, and so that I don't have to stoop when collecting the eggs or working in the building. The turkeys food and water will be in this shed. Turkeys like a pretty big nest box. I'll use 30 gallon garbage cans turned on their side, and provide a couple of other nest box choices. The goal is to get the turkeys to pick one of the boxes vs laying the eggs out in the yard somewhere, so I'll be creative and come up with different looks, hopefully to meet every hens preference.


Anonymous said...

As a blueberry farmer I put up bird netting over my entire field. It Keeps the birds out, is easy to work with and it's cheap. I support it with polywire strung between posts and connect the net lengthwise with wooden dowels that look like knitting needles. This will keep the hawk away from your turkeys

Anonymous said...

We've done two different things:

Plastic owls w/the bobble heads worked a loooong time before the hawks figured out they were fake.

Then we moved on to a few strands of polywire crisscrossed across the pen w/foil streamers tied every 3-4 inches. It's a pain to pick up and sort of duck under when walking around the pen, but it has also completely stopped our hawk strikes.

Marianne Reimers said...

Bruce, I've just discovered your blog. My husband and I are considering adding a few heritage turkeys to our small farm operation (longwool sheep, a llama, and chickens.) We are located about 30 miles west of Portland.

We are thinking Bourbon Reds, as I read about them in Barbara Kingsolver's book. We would like to try to have them breed naturally and hatch their eggs, but understand this can be quite a challenge. I see if you have several heritage breeds. Would this be a good one for beginners?

Our chickens are on pasture with a large coop built up off the ground on an old boat trailer. We surround them with Premier electronet to keep them in and predator's out. The roosters seem to be able to herd them under the coop each time a hawk flies over. In 2 years, we have not lost a chicken from a predator, but we do seem lucky in that.

Your help regarding the turkeys would be appreciated. Thank you, Marianne