Thirty years as a turkey farmer

Thirty years as a turkey farmer

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I love working with poultry and look forward every year to when our young Kelly Bronze turkeys arrive at Badgers Mead Farm. Farming is in my blood – it’s hard work but I really do enjoy it.

How it started

Turkeys are believed to have first been brought to Britain in 1526 by Yorkshireman William Strickland.

He acquired six birds from American Indian traders on his travels, and sold them for tuppence in Bristol.

We were the very first Kelly Bronze franchise and have been proud to care for these amazing birds over the years.  

As well as looking after my turkeys for the latter part of the year, the team and I have 28,000 laying hens to look after.  

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About the author

Nev Champion and his family have been farming at Badgers Mead Farm in East Sussex for nearly 30 years.

Paul Kelly, founder of KellyBronze, describes Nev as a 'Hero Farmer'.

The farm supplies supermarkets, local restaurants, pubs, shops, schools, and you can buy direct from them as well.

The hens are also free range but on a different part of the farm.

We sell eggs all year round to shops and supermarkets and from our farm gate store. 

What do turkeys eat?

Making sure all the poultry are well fed, watered, clean and safe from other animals is a busy job for me and the team.

We feed them on a mix of cereal which includes high protein maize.

Feeding is what we call ‘ad lib’ and the birds can help themselves from automatic feeders. There is always food and water available. 

How do you stop them getting bored?

We play music to the turkeys and one of my team members is convinced that they really like certain tunes.  

She says anything by The Beatles gets a good response. I am not convinced!

Turkeys do not have ears like ours, but have very good hearing. Turkeys can see in colour, although they do not see well at night.

But the most important thing is that all my birds are relaxed and as happy as they can be.

We give them things to play with too like toys and shiny CDs which we hang around the unit.

Roaming free

The secret of great tasting turkey is slow growth and being totally free range. 

We have large tunnels which let in plenty of natural light and, when the gates are opened up during the daytime, the turkeys can explore open ground and woodland.

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Turkeys were originally forest dwellers. In the wild they perch and roost in trees at night. They are highly motivated to forage, so providing a habitat which encourages them to do this is important.

Towards Christmas time the turkeys start looking really beautiful as their shiny feathers develop along with their brightly coloured snoods and wattles. They are very characterful and will respond when I talk to them and make a gobbling sound which is quite entertaining.

It’s a commercial operation so you don’t get attached to the animals, but every raffle - the collective noun for a group of turkeys - has its own characteristics and I do miss them when they go.

Date: 27 Nov 2018