Animal Care With 4H Turkeys

Three of our five kids are showing turkeys in the WNC Mountain State Fair this year.  This is a little introduction to what they have been learning caring for their birds.

Some wonderful folks in the Banyard Bandits 4H club are sharing their pens with us.  We currently live in a subdivision and cannot keep farm animals.   When we lived on the farm, we had large pens out on pasture where are animals were able to have free range grass and insects.  But now we live in a subdivision and we don’t have the resources we once had.  We are so thankful the 4H club offers this as it has allowed our kids to participate in raising animals without having to have the full resources and responsibilities of having a farm.

My 8 year old son wishes the turkeys could stay babies forever because they are much calmer and easier to hold than the grown turkeys.  I am sure he feels this way about lots of animals: puppies, cats, etc.  Animals do seem cuter when they are babies.

Each of the children learned how to pick up and carefully hold the baby turkeys.

Next, they learned about daily care of the birds.  The birds need a clean and safe pen to live in.   They need it clean to prevent disease, and they need it safe to prevent predators from killing and eating them.

The kids have their birds in four pens.  Each pen is made of concrete and is open with wire fencing on two sides, the top and the front.  The birds have a heat lamp to keep them warm while they are little, and a roost to get them up off the ground.  They have a natural instinct to want to roost up off the ground at night.

Here the children are removing the soiled wood shavings the birds have pooped on.

Once they get the pen cleaned, they apply new clean wood shavings to the floor.  The pens need cleaned and re-bedded about once a week.

Each day the waterers need removed and cleaned.  The waterers will grow algae if not kept clean and this can make the birds sick.

This is one of my favorite photos.  My 6 year old son’s arms were not long enough to reach deep into the bag without his head and neck going in to the bag also.   He was really proud of learning to do a good job and fill the feeders carefully without spilling the feed.

Each feeder is cleaned and re-filled each day.  Sometimes if they are not too dirty, just a few shavings may need removed and then you can re-use any feed left.  Other times, if the feed is unsalvageable, then you need to dump what is left and re-fill the feeders.  These red feeders were used when the birds were small, but once they were big, the feeders were changed to feeder on the wall that doesn’t get dirty.

Many days the kids worked together as a team to accomplish the chores. 

Even the younger two children have been able to participate.  I love this!  I don’t want any of the children to be left out, and I want all of them to learn things together. 

The younger children often work as a team too on the job that fits their abilities.  They think they have the greatest job anyway of re-filling the waterers.  I think they are right.

No job is too big or too small.  Here the youngest is learning how to open and close the gate while the older ones go in and out.

The birds are more of a challenge to hold as they get bigger.  Here the four year old is seeing just how much the birds have grown and how much heavier they are.  She needs dad’s help to hold the weight of the birds as they get bigger.

The 11 year old is always holding a bird.  He was like this when we lived on the farm too.  He would hold chickens, sheep, and goats all day if you let him.  Even though it has been three years since we left the farm, it seems to be a deep rooted part of him to nurture and care for animals.

The turkeys keep getting bigger and bigger everyday.

It is only a month longer until the kids will show their turkeys in the WNC Mountain State Fair.  They are so excited and learning
so much about responsibility, animal science and husbandry, and working together.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to do a turkey unit study with the kids and learn more about animal husbandry to expand on their learning.  They will also make a 4H project record book of their learning experience.

The kids are really looking forward to showing their animals in the fair.  In addition to the turkeys, the oldest son is also showing a goat.  He has been hard at work with dad going to the goat workshops and learning all he can.  The rest of the family has not gone with them to this and I don’t have any pictures of the him with the goats to share with you at this time.  Perhaps I can convince dad to take the camera along to the workshop tonight and capture some photos of what our son is learning.

Be sure to check out all of our 4H learning adventures listed here .

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers

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