What do you do with a turkey hen that lays eggs regularly and builds excellent nests… outside the coop? You try to make the coop more suitable for the turkey hen to feel safe nesting in, ideally by stacking functions.
Personally, I’m pretty clueless about how to make that work, but Rimakej isn’t. She used to work at the local zoo for several years as a bird keeper. Among her many responsibilities was to ensure breeding pairs would lay eggs and raise babies. In fact, she was solely responsible for an entire area dedicated to breeding. If you can’t tell, I’m always in awe of her bird skills, and for good reason. She succeeded in blood sexing chicks whilst still in the egg, with 100% hatching rates. She even wound up teaching other keepers from other zoos how to do it!
Obviously she knows what to do or at least how to start trying. After looking at the spots our turkey hen had nested and thinking about turkey behavior as a ground-nesting bird, she sent me to go cut cover for her to arrange in the coop.
Stacking Functions and How It Relates to Turkeys
I needed to cut various sized branches for the project. I spent the next hour or so trimming the Hackberry trees around the property with bypass hand pruners and lopping shears. Hackberry, as opposed to Mesquite, is not thorny. It is also not toxic to birds (very important!) and has high wildlife value in shelter and food. Therefore it was very suitable for us to use in the coop. I needed to trim them up anyway, so this was the perfect excuse to stack functions.
Stacking functions is a permaculture idea that has you try to achieve multiple purposes with one thing, even if it is in different stages of its lifetime. Example: a broken wooden closet rod re-used as a chair leg. Then it is used as a hammer handle after the leg breaks. After that, can be used as shims to help level doorways, or makes its way to the firepit after it can no longer be useful as a hammer handle.
Stacking functions, in this case, meant cutting branches to put in the turkey coop. The whole process served a lot of purposes.
Trimming the branches allowed me to: remove crossing limbs, low overhangs, weakly attached branches, and dead material. It allowed me to open up the center of the trees for better airflow to prevent disease or storm damage. In addition, it let me raise the canopy for better head clearance and better light on the ground, which in turn gives me a better planting area beneath the trees. It also allows me to direct future growth, so pruning won’t be so difficult in the future. Plus, this stacking of functions helped solve our turkey nesting problem.
More on Stacking
Those cut branches then gave me material to feed the sheep, for her to arrange cover in the coop for the turkey hens, and for mulch, firewood and building. Nothing is wasted. Even the coals can be turned into charcoal for future fire starting, water filtering, drawing utensils, medicine, or added to the pasture to improve soil structure. If you know how to safely handle them, the ashes from the firewood are useful for: soap-making, food preservation, campsite leavening for baking breads, and a fertilizer for plants.
Even with that list, I’m sure I’m forgetting some uses and that there are more that I haven’t learned about yet. Are there any uses you can think of that I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments below.