The Birds

Reader Contribution by Marlena Chestnut Shifflett
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This spring the bird population of Shifflett Farms grew exponentially! First with the addition of eight peeps, followed by 15 Road Island Red pullets, and now two Royal Palm Turkey poults! With each new set of birds, valuable lessons were learned.

First, with the peeps we learned that those cute and fuzzy little balls turn into “real” chickens fast. From the time I brought them home to the point of getting feathers was less than three weeks. At first the peeps were at home in a large plastic tub in my kitchen. With their heat lamp on and plenty of starter feed, chick grit and clean water, these little birds were very content. However, this arrangement was only temporary. After about two weeks, the peeps were no longer so small and fragile and began to require more space. Still needing the heat lamp, we moved them to a much larger crate in the basement. Within a couple of days, we figured out that this crate needed some form of a lid to keep the small chickens from free ranging in our basement. Gradually, they no longer needed the heat lamp and could be moved to the big chicken coop.

For several weeks, we kept them in their crate inside the coop. This allowed for the older chickens to get used to them without being able to peck at them. We maintained this arrangement for two weeks before turning them out with the other chickens. The other chickens did very well with their new coop mates and did not bully them at all. The new chickens were a little skittish, and I jokingly still refer to them as my “vampire chickens” because they refused to leave the inside of the coop and go into the run or out into the yard for several days; but now they are doing great and are just another “old hen” in the coop.

Next came the pullets. They were much easier to get accustomed to the coop. After bringing them home, we immediately turned them out with the other chickens. There was a little bullying, and I stayed close by for the first hour or so to make sure no one got out of hand, but by the next day it was like they had been there all along. The most difficult task with the pullets was catching each to put on the colored leg tag marking them for this year.

Finally, my most recent additions are two small Royal Palm Turkey poults. The turkeys have been a surprise from the beginning. Expecting two rather large (chicken-sized) poults when going to pick up the turkeys, what I got were two tiny little birds about the size of a robin. Of course, I couldn’t put such small birds in a crate in the coop, so I decided that they would also make a tub in my kitchen floor their home for a week or so. After the first night, I awoke to an empty tub. Panicked that two small turkeys had had free reign of my house for who knows how long, I began the search (with no success).

Finally, after giving up, I sat down to contemplate the situation. That’s when the “gobbling” began, and I was able to narrow down at least what floor they were on. I eventually found both, but with no lack of effort. I found out that turkeys are very smart, and will hold absolutely still in an effort to blend with their surroundings. Needless to say, the turkeys were then placed into the crate with the lid. Though the turkeys are still in the house as of now, they will be introduced to the coop the same as the peeps, first in the crate in the coop, and then free to range with the other birds.

Though each new set of birds was an adventure, I love never having a dull moment. After all the new additions, the coop is getting full, but I saved a little room for some guineas!

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