Raising Turkeys with Children

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by mistydbowen, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. mistydbowen

    mistydbowen In the Brooder

    Mar 7, 2012
    We are getting turkeys for the first time this year. It will be the first time we've raised animals to eat. We have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. How do I tell them? My 5 year old gets very attached to pets. We had a dead mouse in the house and he cried because I had to throw it out. I'm worried he's going to think I'm some kind of monster.

    We're also getting chickens and a couple ducks.

  2. nickie

    nickie Songster

    Jun 25, 2011
    north central KY
    I don't know how you tell them, but tell them you should. I've told my kids (3&4) from day 1 these are our pets and our food. The first time we ate one of the chickens my son was excited and checked the fridge every day to make sure we didn't eat it without him. I started teaching them about it from day 1 all the way until we ate him 8 months later.
  3. mistydbowen

    mistydbowen In the Brooder

    Mar 7, 2012
    Thanks for the reply [​IMG]
    I guess there's really no way to know how to react until we do it. We already talk about pork coming from pigs and that sort of thing. But a couple weeks ago we were having fish for supper, and he asked me "Is the the fish that swims around or the fish you eat?" I told him it's the fish you eat of course, because I wanted him to eat his supper.
    I think we just need to start right out saying they're thanksgiving dinner and not let him get attached. It will help that we're getting baby chickens at the same time (that we are not going to eat) so he'll be pretty excited about that.
  4. celestialdreamer

    celestialdreamer In the Brooder

    Jun 22, 2011
    We have 5 children, ages 8 and under and our oldest is a very sensitive girl. They LOVE animals so I was very worried about how they would react to us raising animals for our food. Surprisingly I think they've been much less upset by it than my husband and I have! We've made sure that we were very clear from the starting gate what our intentions are so that there was no surprise for them. I wasn't sure at first if it was okay for them to name any of our laying hens, etc. because I knew someday they'd end up in the soup pot.

    A good friend of mine raises meat animals and has children so I asked her advice. She told me that it was totally fine for us to name them and give them a good, happy life and to even be a bit sad when it is time for them to be butchered. So we focus on making sure our animals have a happy, healthy life and we care about them quite a bit, but we keep in mind that they will be food for our family eventually and we are grateful for the opportunity to raise animals in good conditions. I think honestly that most children will be okay with it if it is explained clearly from the beginning. It used to just be assumed before the invention of grocery stores, etc. that animals were food, but we have become so removed from that. I was a vegetarian for about a decade and I had a hard time with raising food animals at first, my kids on the other hand don't seem to mind at all. Good luck.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012

  5. mommyofthreewithchicks

    mommyofthreewithchicks Songster

    Jun 25, 2010
    I have explained that all meat was once an animal. Explaining pork comes from a pig, beef from a cow and chicken comes from chicken.

    It is ok to be sad when butcher time comes but I explain that we have loved and cared for this animal. They have had a great life on our farm and we can't keep everyone over the winter. I do let the kids have one poultry that is theirs and that animal won't be butchered. Right now those poultry are the silkies they take to the fair.

    I have a hard time with butcher time. The way it has gotten easier is taking the birds to the butcher and not being a part of that process. Although that being said I am glad I had my dad show me how to do it if the need arises.

    I think we all have a harder time when a bird dies suddenly.
  6. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    I was worried about it as well. My children both love animals and I told them from Day 1 that the extra roosters were going to be dinner. We even named them Dinner 1, Dinner 2, etc.

    When it came time to butcher the chickens, they weren't bothered by it in the least. I think it bothered DH and I more than it did them. You certainly gain a new appreciation for it when you have to kill it yourself.
  7. nickie

    nickie Songster

    Jun 25, 2011
    north central KY
    I agree, I worried about it. A lot. In fact, telling the kids about chicken coming from chicken the first time was so weird. Those two looked at me like I was crazy. They just couldn't believe that the happy little things in the yard were the same thing as I was serving for dinner. My son(4) said that's not a chicken it doesn't have feathers on it, that's chicken you eat. We had a nasty cockerel who particulary didn't like my son so I told the kids we were getting rid of big boy. He looked at me and said can we eat him? I said that's exactly how we were going to get rid of him. I took them to daycare and processed him. When my kids got home that day my son stood in the middle of the yard and said where's big boy I don't see him... You didn't eat him without us did you? My daughter (3) was sad for a bout 5 minutes. I didn't share the details, just said I had to get him ready to cook. When my son asked if I killed him I said yes. He seemed to take it all in stride. I felt I had to tell him I didn't enjoy killing him and I was sad he was dead, but he had a good life and he was just too nasty to everyone so I did what I thought was best.

    My daughter has a fascination with eggs and them turning into babies. For a while she got upset when I cracked eggs to cook with, but now its all a part of our daily lives.

    Honest and age appropriate explanations are the way to go, I think.

  8. Marengoite

    Marengoite Songster

    Mar 1, 2012
    There's a couple things we do. As a general rule we frequently talk about our food in terms of wear it comes from:

    "What's for dinner?"
    "Dead cow."

    "What did you fix to eat?"
    "Chopped up a dead chicken. Tossed in some noodles. Want some?"

    "Anybody want me to burn a dead pig on the grill this weekend?"

    Stuff like that. It sounds gross to people who don't know or appreciate where their food comes from, but all my kids have taken it in stride for more than 20 years. The most embarrassing thing was sitting in a restaurant with my oldest who was almost 4 at the time and when the waitress asked, "What would you like, honey?" and she said, "Dead cow." Not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from a cute little blue-eyed blond in frills and lace.

    The other thing you can do is make the children feed, water, and clean up after the turkeys. In all kinds of weather. In fact, don't let weather be an excuse to let them shirk their chores. Tell them, "You want to eat when it rains. So do the turkeys. And they can't get the feed from the bag themselves." Kids love feeding baby poults, chicks, ducklings, goslings. But when I say, "Here, I cleaned out all that old salad from the refrigerator. Take it out to the pen and give it to the turkeys," in the middle of a video game, it's not as much fun. That way, by the time August or September rolls around and you ask, "What do you think? Should we take them to get processed?" they are more than ready to say, "Please. Can we do it today? I don't want to have to clean one more drop of turkey poop off the back porch."

    Seriously, though, we have never once had a problem processing any of our turkeys. The very first year my daughter was in 4H for turkeys, she rode with a bunch of her middle school friends who also raised turkeys that year to the processor and watched the whole thing. By this time, they were tired of spending every day at the fair cleaning out cages, showing, pushing, pulling, hauling, cleaning and everything else. They were all tickled pink to have them in bags and ready to deliver.

    Another solution is to go with heritage birds that serve as your brood stock. Keep a tom and a hen or two over the winter and let them hatch out poults. Keep the older birds as the pets and the babies for market. To me, that's the best of both worlds.
  9. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Songster

    Jan 30, 2012
    Trinity, TX
    My nephew took it in stride. He was two when he first helped me pluck a chicken. Very curious and bright. The next year, I started having him helping me hatch. Even had him learn which pens were for breeding, which were for egg collection, etc. He helps me with all the chores to this day when he is here. He fell one day with an egg in his hand and crushed it, cried for a bit because he crushed the baby chick and it didn't have time to grow up to be a 'food bird!"

    Skylar definitely knows the difference. Of course, he has his favorites, but since I told him from day one what the birds were for... he understands it. When we go hunting, he gets to help process the animal for meat. Learns what the parts are. This year ( he will be six ) he's going to get to label a few of the freezer papers.

    I don't think there's any other way than to be straight from the get go. Once he realized that eggs were produced from the hens, he had ME up every morning to collect eggs... and every hour on the hour on days we're home all day. "Gummie, we need to go get the EGGS! They're going to eat OUR EGGS!" It's adorable, and awesome. Some of the kids from his school understand it, too. They've all grown up in farming communities, though. Skylar has his own pen to clean, and I inspect it. These days he lives with his mother again, so I don't see as much of him. But when he's here, he asks to help out and checks the fridge for fresh meat.

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