Turkey Club on Grass, Please

Well this post is a great example of how we on the farm need to keep the perspective that this is an ever-changing and adapting process.

Now that the turkeys are all grown up, we’ve moved them out of the broiler shelters and given them a home that will accommodate their considerable stature until they make that final rotation from the pasture to the plate.  Because turkeys are such incredible foragers and are quickly outgrowing the threat from most predators, we have put them into a 1/8 acre paddock surrounded by an electrified net kept on a solar charger.  The paddock gets moved every 2-3 days depending on the amount of fresh greens there are inside the perimeter, and the turkeys have loved the considerable jump in their access to bugs and pasture.
I’ve been meaning to post pictures and talk about how great our $30 PVC and tarp shade/rain structure is, but as many of you probably read, the turkeys teamed up with the wind this week and trashed their house.  In terms of devastation, these turkeys had some kind of chip on their shoulder because they not only broke the PVC frame and tore up the tarp, but they then proceeded to defecate all over the ruins of our hard work.  While I’m not too keen on negotiating with violent uprisings on the farm, I have read my Orwell, so we decided to build them a new home.

The new shade/rain shelter is frankly awesome, though. I’m seriously proud of this structure, and I really think it can serve as a prototype for shading sheep and goats too (when that wonderful day comes).  The house, also referred to as the Turkey Club, is a simple A-frame structure made of 2x4s and recycled roofing.  What makes me so proud is that it’s built for rotational pasture life.  When assembled the structure is pretty darn heavy, but when it’s time to move the turkeys, we can quickly split the structure into its two main pieces and then reassemble it in less than 5 minutes in the new paddock.

The Turkey Club is made of two 5’x10’ frames with aluminum roofing.  These two frames essentially lean against each other and provide a dry and shady spot for the turkeys should the weather swing to either extreme.  To keep the frames from falling and crushing the turkeys we have attached a row of bolts on one frame and a corresponding row of eye-bolts on the other.  When these two frames come together the eye-bolts slide over the bolts and lock the frames in place.  On the bottom of the frames we also have two sets of woven wires that secure the bottom part of the structure so the legs don’t splay out.  Of course, the last structure looked pretty strong too.  However, this time I know I’m dealing with some seriously destructive turkeys, and I think this structure has what it takes.

All said, it’s pretty great and in total cost less than $50 with all the hardware.  This means it’s easily replicable, which is exactly what we were going for.  I think the best way to increase animal coverage would just be to build an additional structure.  Increasing the lengths of the frame would make them too heavy to move comfortably.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts (it’s amazing how well all of this connects) sustainability relies also on how farming treats the farmer.  We can’t forget that it’s not just the animals that have to be convinced to be moved regularly.  No matter how cute turkeys are when they are chasing grass hoppers and gorging on grass, farmers just won’t bother moving their animals if they get a back ache every time.