So for the past 6 months or so we’ve had a turkey dilemma…how to keep them in the yard. As a last resort, I think we found the solution. When we first got the heritage turkeys we set up an indoor pen in the barn connected to an outside fenced area where they could graze. As soon as they got their wing feathers they were easily scaling the 5 foot fence and roaming the entire property just like the chickens. They seemed to be doing fine, staying in the yard and enjoying the limits of our property. But unlike our chickens (to a certain extent) our turkeys like to follow us around.
One day, we walked across the street to the neighbors and the turkeys, (much to our dismay) followed. For them, this whole new world was irresistible and ever since, have been fascinated with wandering in the road.
Even though we live on a dirt road, the speed limit is unmarked which means in Michigan it is legal to travel at 45 miles an hour. Which in my opinion is WAY too fast for this area. People love to walk their dogs, children ride bikes and not to mention the pot holes will shake your car apart if you drive at that speed. But none-the-less, we not only have people who come roaring down at 45 mph, but at speeds much faster.
It was only a matter of time before the turkeys would be hit by a car, and I also didn’t think it was right for our animals to be wandering into other people’s yards.
So we moved the turkeys to the goat’s large area, and hoped that perhaps the sheer amount of grazing pasture might detour them from hopping the fence…nope.
So we built them another run with an even higher fence…scaled that too. In fact, they also proved the ability to fly to the top of our two story barn and enjoyed roosting up there at night while we did everything we could to try and get them to come down and go back in their pen.
In our last attempt we built them a covered run with fencing even on the roof and that seemed to hold them for the time.
But honestly, I’m not a fan of covered, enclosed runs when it can be avoided. If that’s your only choice, by all means go for the all enclosed chicken coop. But we have 14 acres and it seemed a shame to close in 4 healthy turkeys to a chicken wire pen.
With enclosed runs, you can only make them so large, and turkeys are big animals who deserve a good amount of room to explore and BE turkeys! It was only a matter of days before the grass all died and their “pasture” was rendered a depressing dirt/mud square. No interesting vegetation. No exploring. Blah!
One night we visited our friends who have a pair of parakeets. I noticed that the parakeet’s wings were different looking, sort of blunt and short. She explained that they trim the wing feathers to stop the parakeets from landing on the fans when they let them out in their living room.
This struck a note with our turkeys. Perhaps the solution to letting our turkeys graze was not in the fence height, but in the turkeys themselves.
Now I don’t recommend willy nilly chopping off turkey or chicken feathers just for convenience sake. We considered the fact that a bird’s ability to fly is its number one defense against predation. But in this circumstance, I feel like the benefits outweigh the risks. Each person needs to evaluate their own circumstances and find what’s right for their birds.
If you do decide to trim your turkey or chicken’s feathers, the process is very simple and if done correctly, is a painless process to the bird. You need a friend to help you hold and calm the bird and a good pair of scissors. I found kitchen sheers meant for small bones work great.
Here is the underside of one of our hen’s wings.
Here is the top of the wing. We’re going to be working with this side.
The yellow arrow in this photo shows the primary feathers. These feathers are the longest section of feathers and are more stiff and rigid. Behind them is a section of shorter feathers called the secondary feathers.
The blue arrow shows the primary covert feathers. These feathers will act as a guide to show how far to cut into the wing.
The red line shows the approximate shape that should be our goal.
Starting with the primary feathers, I pull her wing out so it is extended as if in flight.
These feathers have a very rigid shaft. The shaft is the main stem where the soft hairlike feather plumes branch off from. I found it easier to cut these one at a time, staying about a half inch from the covert feathers. Follow a nice curve, like a half circle down the wing. Some say the secondary feathers are not necessary to cut but our turkeys are such flyers that I didn’t want to take any chances.
Here is the finished wing.
So far the turkeys are enjoying their new look. I was a bit sad to trim our beautiful Tom’s feathers, but I’d rather him be safe than fancy.
They don’t seem to notice that they can’t fly (as there wasn’t much room for flying in their enclosed run anyway). They get to explore the large fenced in area that we originally set up for them, with plenty of space and vegetation for 4 turkeys.
They can still hover and get a bit of a lift off, but the flying feats to the top of the barn and 6 foot fences have stopped and they now stay in their area, safe from the road. We had to lower their indoor sleeping roosts and will have to re-evaluate the feathers after they molt, but for the time, it’s working wonderfully!
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