Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The living room brooder and importance of toys

The living room brooder surrounded by Valhalla's extensive
library of cookbooks. The poults are currently restricted to the
compartment on the left; they will be granted access to the
middle compartment when they're a little bigger, then have full run
of all three compartments before they are finally moved outside.
All four turkey poults have been moved into the living room brooder with their heat lamp. Raising turkeys inside the house makes it easier to control temperature, monitor their food and water, and stay on top of cleaning tasks. If there's any smell at all then fresh shavings are immediately added, ensuring that the poults have a perfectly clean environment. Nobody wants to live in a smelly house so we're highly motivated to keep the brooder absolutely clean at all times!

From left to right: Penguin, M4, Sarah, and MLSquare
inside the living room brooder.
Watching people constantly walking through the house and stopping to talk with them also reduces the problem of boredom, which can lead to fighting and other behavioral problems. With this same thought in mind the poults are provided with various interactive toys that they can peck, scratch, and perch on. At this age they particularly like their "funhouse" (that is, the Earlyears Curiosity Cube designed for human babies) - they spend hours flipping the mirror panel, pecking at the sliding disks, spinning the rattle, and just sitting inside or on top of it.

The Narragansett hen with
her favorite hanging toy.
Valhalla's main turkey flock was raised in this same living room brooder, and to this day all turkeys on the property have access to various toys. Toys designed for large parrots hang above the roosts in the Turkey Chalet so they have something interesting to do while confined inside close quarters at night. 

This has dramatically reduced fighting within the flock - although there are still some squabbles over who gets to roost by which toy! One Narragansett hen in particular won't let any other turkey sleep next to her favorite toy, and quite often she'll come back to play with it by herself during the day.

Another big favorite turns out to be music - when the poults get too hyperactive in the brooder we'll simply turn the electronic keyboard on to "Demo" to play dozens of different songs; they'll almost always stop in their tracks to listen, so it is a very effective method for calming them down.

Many of the adult turkey hens really enjoy playing piano, although the Toms seem to think that activity isn't particularly dignified. Regardless, they still stand by and listen with great interest whenever the toy pianos come out, quite something to see!

SFC Kenn sharing his coffee with
one of the Midget White turkeys
Why all this effort to raise happy, well adjusted, and friendly turkeys? Because every Soldier who has ever come to Valhalla end up enjoying their company so much, and they have become the hands-down favorite farm animals here. We've had Soldiers fall asleep with turkeys in their laps, Soldiers have long private discussions with them, and Soldiers allowing turkeys to drink iced tea out of their own cups. 

Various other programs around the country offering horses and specially trained dogs to Soldiers as therapy animals, while Valhalla's turkeys have repeatedly proven their value as very special companion birds. 

* * *
The Valhalla Project needs your help and support
Just getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world. 

The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses, period. If you'd prefer to instead directly donate four new tractor tire, a truckload of straw bales, a pallet of dimension lumber, or even a few dozen 10' sheets of forest green tin roofing, that would be absolutely wonderful - yet perhaps polking the "Donate" button above to contribute $10, $20, 
$50 or even more might be a little easier and more practical!

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