During the midwinter this year, my little Suzanna surprised me one night as she was saying her evening prayers.
At the end of her “now I lay me”, I heard an earnest whisper: “and dear God, would you please bring us some baby turkeys this year, and one of them that I can keep forever as my own that won’t get eaten? I would love it, and take such good care of it.”
Because this gentle little one so rarely asks for anything, (and the few times she has, the requests have been so small and sensible), her unusual prayer stayed with me.
I myself had thought more than once, that adding a few turkeys along with the chicken flock might be a prudent idea. So after a conversation with my husband, we decided to see what we could do about finding some young turkeys once the summer season came.
Just on the edges of town, we have a wonderful midwife who attends to many of the women here. In fact, she was with me when our little Susanna was born, 7 years ago. I knew that she kept turkeys, so decided to inquire with her.
Just this last week, dear Mrs. Westwood came by with a little basket–from which kept emerging the sweetest little peeping sounds. I could hardly contain myself, as I called Susanna over to peek under the cloth covering the basket, to see what was inside.
Baby turkeys! Four soft, little cheeping bundles of fluff.
While the children cuddled the precious little “darlings”, I listened and took notes on every bit of advice Mrs. Westwood could offer, about how to most successfully raise them.
Spying my bookshelf, she quickly spotted a particular volume, and pulled it out. “This book has a good little bit of advice about raising turkeys, and if you just follow this, you should be all right.”
The book was The Farm and Household Cyclopaedia, and it is one I refer to often. In fact, I had already read the section on turkeys so many times, I could probably recite it from memory. What a comfort to know that Mrs. Westwood, with all her many years of experience raising turkeys, agreed with its recommendations:
“The difficulty of raising turkeys is a serious drawback to the profits of the business, but the exercise of care will obviate the difficulty. At first, and for about six weeks, turkey chicks are very delicate, so much so that even a warm shower will finish them. If they can be kept alive for about two months, they begin to assume a more robust character, and will soon become the very hardiest of poultry. The chicks, therefore, should be provided with shelter, and the shed which furnishes this would be all the better if it had a wooden floor. The best feed for the first week is hard boiled eggs, mixed with minced dandelion. It is thought the dandelion serves to keep the bowels in order. At all events the young birds prefer dandelion to all other green food. At the end of the first week, add gradually to the boiled eggs bread crumbs and barley meal, constantly lessening the amount of egg until at the end of three weeks it may be entirely discontinued. Now give boiled potatoes as a part of the food, and a small portion of some small grain may be added, in fact making the food very much like that of other poultry. If fed in this way and kept dry, they will come along all right.”
~ THE FARM AND GARDEN CYCLOPAEDIA, 1888
Little Susannah has made it her special charge to prepare the boiled eggs and minced dandelion for the chicks. She often enlists her little brothers to help with gathering the dandelion for the mixture. They so capably undertake the task of keeping the young turkeys well fed, that I truly think they could feed a hundred chicks if we had them!
So far, the little ones seem strong and hearty, and are growing beautifully. We all find them to be the most charming little creatures, and I’m so glad that our little girl’s uncommon prayer provided the encouragement I needed to try raising them.