These turkeys aren’t gobbling yet, but they will make an excellent Thanksgiving dinner someday.
Davlin Farms was the perfect place for this week’s On the Job, as the cute baby turkeys arrived July 3 and were still small when I visited the farm July 7.
The family owned and operated farm is raising turkeys after a twenty-year hiatus. Tim Davlin and his father, Brian, thought they’d try again after vegetable sales dwindled some recently. Tim brought 100 baby birds back from a hatchery near Defiance, Ohio.
In just a few days, the turkeys had doubled in size. I couldn’t believe it.
Upon arrival, the young turkeys were housed in a trough, with wood shavings covering the bottom, two feeding trays and a water dispenser. Two heat lamps hovered over the chicks. It definitely didn’t seem like there were 100 running around.
“They’re just chicken nuggets,” he said, joking about their size. “They have a lot of growing left to do.”
He’s right. By late November, they should weigh about 25 pounds. Male turkeys (toms) usually reach 35 to 40 pounds, which is too much turkey for one family to eat. Davlin plans to start out with hens and raise toms sometime in the future.
Being low maintenance due to their size, not much can be done right now to take care of the turkeys.
Currently, they are fed twice daily and given water and warmth in their small makeshift home. The wood shavings at the bottom of the trough need to be changed . This week, Davlin plans to move the hens to an enclosed area near his barn. In the coming weeks, they will need more water and ground feed to satisfy their appetite.
Some readers may remember seeing Davlin Farms located where Meijer stands today on Route 250 in Sandusky. The Davlin’s moved out to their Route 4 location in 1994, when Tim was five years old.
Some little turkeys raced around their home, while others huddled together in comfort in different spots of the trough. Some seemed narcoleptic, plopping down to sleep at random. I watched some chicks walk over each other, some running around with pieces of wood shaving and some pecking at various objects and other chicks.
“They peck at everything,” Davlin explained. “They aren’t that smart.”
Though a screen covers the trough to prevent other animals from eating the chicks, Castor, Davlin’s dog, often checks on them and lies down next to the trough.
“He likes to stand guard and act as their protector,” he said. “I wonder if they’ll follow him around when they’re outside.”
After some time, I wanted to see what it felt like to hold one.
He handed me a poult and I carefully held her in my hand. To my surprise, she didn’t flinch or squirm when I pet her light, fluffy body. She only made a few peeps. To be honest, I didn’t want to put her down.
“I could take one home,” I said after finally setting the baby down, only half serious. “I would return it when it turns ugly.”
Davlin just laughed.
“Everyone thinks that they’re cute when they’re little,” he said.
Davlin grabbed a handful of their “starter food,” which is mostly grain with multiple nutrients to help the baby turkeys grow healthy and strong.
It’s going to take a few years for the turkey operation to raise the profit like the vegetables have in recent times, but it’s worth a try.
“It should be a pretty good project,” he said.
So far, 30 to 40 turkeys have been claimed for Thanksgiving while 70 to 75 are left to sell. The turkeys will be sold at market price and might be sold in stores next year, too.
“When people see that Davlin Farms has turkeys (to sell), it shouldn’t be a problem to sell (the rest of the turkeys),” he said.
Those interested can contact Davlin to claim their Thanksgiving turkey. He assured me that they will be fresh, not frozen turkeys.
At the end of my stay, I helped Davlin set the heavy screen cover back on the trough.
Just in case I decide to start my own turkey farm some day, I can say I have some experience.