August 2020 – Cranberry

With forest farming, we do our best to live harmoniously with the environment around us, but sometimes instincts takes over and force our hand to intervene. Sometimes what you know is inevitable, is just not acceptable.

Previously, I had hatched out hundreds of chicks of various chicken breeds, but I thought I would try something new. I purchased some turkey hatching eggs to start my very own turkey flock. Turkeys are much more capricious and require exact humidity, ventilation, time and temperature levels for a successful hatch.

At two weeks in, I candled the eggs by putting a bright flashlight behind them one at a time and found out most of them were not fertilized. I was still hopeful to get a few baby turkeys though, so I kept the few that looked like there were possibilities.

Two weeks later, a total of 28 days, I heard my first pip! It was so loud – much louder than chickens – and it went on for hours. Until about 12 hours passed, and the pipping stopped. Turkeys can take up to 24 hours from first pip to hatch, but something didn’t seem right.

Now the general rule of thumb is that you never open the incubator, and you most certainly never help a chick hatch out of the shell. They say if it is not strong enough to hatch, there is usually something else wrong with it – bad genetics. The business part of farming has no flexibility for weak livestock, but our compassion comes first with all of our animals.

After another 2 hours of no pipping, I could not stand to wait any longer. I realized that there would be no other hatches, and as much as I wanted it to hatch on its own, I did not want this little life suffering unnecessarily.

Torn between what you are supposed to do, and what I felt I had to do, I picked up the egg, and realized that it had dried to its shell and there would be no chance of escape. The poor thing was exhausted. It was breathing, but barely. Slowly, I picked pieces off the shell, trying to give it some relief. It started pipping like crazy, like I was setting it free. Finally, the little turkey had hatched! Unfortunately it looked injured with crooked legs and toes.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if my intervention was causing more harm than good. I didn’t want to give up, but I did not want any life to suffer. It would lie on its back and kick its legs, but would not stand up. The breeder told me that it usually takes 2-3 hours before they are walking around. The internet unanimously stated that it should walk in a maximum of 24 hours, and over 40 hours had passed. Despite my trying to stand it up and make it stronger, the little turkey would always flop onto its back with crooked toes kicking the air. The verdict was grim.

Feeling responsible for this little life in front of us, we spent the following two days teaching that little tiny turkey how to stand and how to walk. We showed it how to eat, and by the end of the second day, its toes had straightened and it could run in a straight line! It actually comes when you call it now, and it will jump into your hand for a cuddle. Happy and healthy as can be, it is growing and running around so fast!

Just when we thought the only option was to let nature take its course and give up, we persevered and beat the odds. So humbling to be gifted an experience to remind us how fortunate we are. Meet Cranberry, the newest addition to the Van Isle Wild family.

Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild

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