When Feathers Fly


When Feathers Fly

Want some fresh turkey to cook for Christmas dinner, not frozen? Really fresh, like alive? Megg Miller has some tips you ought to read before you sharpen the axe.


What’s on the menu for the oncoming Christmas celebrations? Some species of poultry have ‘festive season’ written all over them. Centuries ago peacocks were the popular party bird; today a turkey or goose is chosen for serious festivities to feed a crowd. You could try pheasant or partridge but they may be hard to come by.

If you’re planning to buy a live turkey or goose and do the dastardly deed yourself, we can offer some hard-won advice.


Festive Fred

You usually have to collect your bird a few weeks ahead. That means you will need a clean, predator-safe pen in which to house Festive Fred.

Turkeys don’t mix well with fowl, they can pick up a serious disease from them but, in addition, Festive Fred may actually feel frisky and become amorous with the hens. So it’s better for Fred to be lonely than the hens to be squashed.


Loose goose

Geese also don’t make successful pen mates with fowls, either. Their serrated bill is perfect for grabbing feathers and even lacerating a hen’s back. Generally though all they do is void mountains of squishy manure and foul the communal water container with dirt and debris. It is healthier to keep fowls and geese separate.


Chickening out

The major obstacle to buying your bird live instead of in a cryvac bag is one that has nothing to do with housing or management or belting up the backyard flock. Unwary buyers become ensnared by Festive Fred’s big brown eyes and beguiling behaviour and decide they cannot eat him. He’s too nice.

An unanticipated problem can arise when Fred turns out to be Francesca. Inexperienced breeders or auctioneers can get bird genders wrong and suddenly your whole family joins in to defend the lucky bird’s right to a long and cosy life. This is a common scenario with the turkey or goose becoming a treasured family pet.


Just desserts

In principle it’s a great idea to embrace paddock to plate but it might be a case of giving too little notice for your family at the moment, if they’re not used to the feathers flying. The best introduction to DIY poultry meat is the rooster that chases everyone. There is usually a celebration in that bully’s demise.

And the peacock? They were once roasted and presented in all the glory of their colourful plumage. Thank goodness for cryvac, it’s impersonal and easy.