We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

CluePictures via Vimeo

Column I raise turkeys for Christmas. Here’s how it goes.

This is the busiest time of year for Ronan Byrne, who says months of work will pay off on people’s taste buds on December 25.

NO PRESSURE, BUT our family farm will provide the centrepiece roast for more than 750 families this Christmas and the clock is ticking.

A clock that started ticking over six months ago at the end of June when our day-old bronze turkey chicks arrived on the farm. Six months later they are all promises we have to keep, as our individual customers will collect their turkeys off us in a few days time. But therein lies the kick we get from selling direct to the customer, knowing that half a year’s hard work will pay off on people’s taste buds.

A turkey’s life

A bronze turkey’s life begins at a nice easy pace. They will spend the first five weeks in a brooder, which is basically a temperature controlled shed starting off at 32 degrees and slowly lowering down to about 15 degrees over five weeks. This mimics the role of the mother turkey, who would keep the chicks tucked in under her feathers for that time.

Then they hit the teenage period, where we wean them completely off heat over the next two weeks until they get to venture outside and explore pastures new. It’s plain sailing from then on, roaming pasture during the day and house at night, securely away from foxes and mink. As a visit from one or the other of these could spell curtains for the entire flock. That’s why it’s so rare to see large flocks of poultry out to pasture, as the risks of losses are so high. We shield ourselves from this in two ways. Electric poultry fencing acts as a deterrent, but our secret weapon is our Great Pyreneean Mountain dogs. These dogs share the same housing as the turkeys and protect them from unwanted visitors.

The life of a of an outdoor reared bronze turkey follows a fairly set pattern for the last few months before Christmas: eat plenty, run around outside for a bit and then a bit of relaxing inside on nice dry straw bed. This set pattern changes in the week before Christmas as we prep the birds for our customers.

Busy time of year

This year is an extra busy and exciting year for us as we have built an on-farm abattoir and we are processing all the birds ourselves. The thinking behind this is that if we go to all the trouble of rearing the turkey to such a high standard, that we should in turn take control of the final process. A big chunk to bite off our first time round, but the best way to learn anything is to jump off the cliff and figure things out as your falling.

Preparations are going well for this year, with the real work will be starting soon and in about one weeks time we will have all our customers digging in to a Friendly Farmer bird, while we crash on the couch after a hectic month. In another six months’ time, hopefully we will jump back on the roller-coaster and do it all again.

The class of 2012

YouTube/Ronan Byrne/The Friendly Farmer

Or if a turkey isn’t for you, what about a goose?

YouTube/Ronan Byrne/The Friendly Farmer

Vimeo/CluePictures/Ronan Byrne

Ronan Byrne uses traditional farming methods to produce chickens, ducks, bronze turkeys and geese in the west of Ireland. He sells his produce direct from the farm in Athenry, at Galway and Moycullen farmers markets and Rolenstown Garden Centre, Dublin. He still has a limited number of bronze turkeys left and will hopefully be talking orders right up to Friday December 21.

For more information please contact Ronan by phone: 087 620 3765 or email: He also has some tips on how to cook your turkey here.

Pictures: 13 office Christmas parties we really want an invite to>

Pictures: 23 unbearably cute letters to Santa from children>

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.