The Turkey and the Hen, pt 1

You can check back and read the first post on this little adventure, A Surrogate Mother, if you want more background info.  At this point we have a turkey hen who STILL wants to lay her eggs and sit on them.

Sitting on them long enough, is the real issue.  She does very well for a few days and then will leave.  Those eggs need to be kept pretty consistent at 99.8 degrees F to actually hatch, for 28 days. I mean, I’m sure they can tolerate some lower temps, when mom goes to eat/drink… but they cannot end up being stone cold before she gets back.

ERGO, my broody hen was called in to help out. She, who is content to “sit”, almost forever (one time for close to 60 days).  That time we brought HER food and water to make sure she was getting enough, she was so dedicated to her egg-sitting.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, we took the hen’s eggs that she was sitting on and put them in the incubator.  We took the turkey eggs and put them under the hen.  Turkey chicks are pretty fragile and do much better being raised by a hen, then by ME.

Now, the latest. This Midget White Turkey is obsessed.  She keeps wanting to sit on some eggs.. but unfortunately, she’s not exactly dedicated to the job.  She also likes to “flirt” with the guys… so will take off, forgetting all about her eggs.  When she remembers and heads back to the nest… she looks around for the eggs.

Bunk-bed sitting hens

On discovering that the HEN had eggs, she promptly set on the hen. I mean, actually climbed on top of the hen, and was sitting on her. Our broody hen would NOT budge. (did I mention the word dedicated????).

They did finally share side by side, with each keeping eggs warm. I hope the embryo’s are pretty sturdy to handle all the “action” they have been getting.

The turkey’s last visit back to the sitting area, she created a new nest and laid more eggs. Now we have way too many eggs for that little hen to sit on, plus the timing was going to be all off.

We took these newest turkey eggs, marked them, and put them in the incubator, to see if we could save them.  Maybe I’ll have another hen go broody (we’re certainly having spring like weather)… and can slip them under her before they hatch, and she can raise them.

Milking Chocolate

Henry, at 2 weeks old, waiting while mom gets milked today.

At two full weeks, Chocolate was still leaking milk from her udder.  Obviously she still had much more milk than the calf could use so we decided to go ahead and start milking her.

The first time she was not too thrilled… until she saw some GRAIN.  Then she willingly went into the milking trailer. She fussed a little bit (we put a hobble on so she could not kick), but after the first milking she got into the rhythm of it… and no longer tried to kick.

I guess we were taking a little toooo long, the first time. When she was DONE, she was DONE. Uh, never mind that WE WERE NOT. She backed herself right out of the stall with the milking equipment still attached. Our poor intern was thunder struck. All I could do was laugh; it had happened to me in the past. Go with the flow. BUT, have to get the head stall bar put back in, so she could not back out of her own free will.

Portable Milker attached

In the picture you can see the silver Inflaters, on the teats, which pulsate with a light rhythmic vacuum, and milks the cow out in about 10 minutes, into the large bucket. It is suspended from a back-strap… and goes with the cow when she moves around in the stall. The time consuming part is the cleaning of the udder and the teats to insure they do not contaminate the milk.  The bucket is taken directly back to the house, filtered, and refrigerated.

COMMERCIAL DAIRIES have it backwards!

I was shocked at another dairy, impressively spic and span (sterile almost), to see them do virtually no cleaning of the udder/teats. What they did do, left drainage on the teat that would be pulled into the milking lines.  Now I KNOW why they MUST pasteurize their milk. I would never drink raw milk from such an operation.

We also pay extraordinary attention to the proper cleaning of the equipment, after use, to prevent any source of contamination building up. Understanding  clean aseptic technique is critical. It reduces the transference of organisms, rather than killing every living thing.

Why don’t I keep a pristine clean milking stall? Because 99.9% of microbes are either beneficial or benign (i.e. don’t cause a problem).  If I kill them off all the time (with chemicals, etc.) I am providing a petri dish to grow bad bugs. Those bugs that can survive my killing chemicals!  In nature, there is NO such thing as an empty niche. Odds are, over time, it will be a bad bug we can’t kill off.

With good “aseptic technique” we prevent contamination in the first place.  Any milk that is questionable goes immediately to the pigs… nothing is wasted and there is no urgency to preserve every drop for our personal use. We err on the side of caution… something the industrial business model does not always follow, sad to say.


Interestingly, during Chocolate’s pregnancy she had NO interest in grain. Now remember, she is an “Old World Jersey”, a heritage breed that has not been quite as domesticated as standard jerseys.  Her body mass is fuller (standard jersey’s can look emaciated as they put all their energy into the udder/milk process). She has more reserves (more meat on her bones).  She does NOT produce as much milk as a standard jersey.  She does well on pasture and has not been bred to need grain.

During her pregnancy she was quite uninterested in any grain, but now that she is producing milk, she has developed a distinct “LIKE” for grain.  She’ll get a small amount, a scoop (couple of cups) each day along with hay, with her milking. I’m guessing that  with the extra milk production she needs more “energy” to provide it. Or, if not needing it precisely, she likes it.

We also add in some kelp meal & D.E. (diatomaceous earth) to her daily ration.  They provide her with micro nutrients that might be missing in the soil the hay was grown in.  The D.E. also functions as a natural dewormer that we use with all our livestock.

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