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Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

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IT’S almost time to prepare what is, undoubtedly, the biggest dinner of the year.

Most of us have our fridges and freezers crammed full of turkeys, hams and all the trimmings (including the infamous sprouts!).

So, for the last Chick Chat of 2012, I decided to keep with the tinsel theme and decorate the column with Christmas cheer by delving into the depths of the roasting tin and finding out a bit about where our December 25 spread comes from…

I contacted Scott Duncan, a poultry enthusiast from Killyleagh, who was able to tell me a bit about, not only turkeys, but ducks as well!

Scott’s brother Jack has been raising bronze turkeys in the run-up to the festive period.

The Killyleagh teenager explained: “Bronze are smaller than your average white turkey.

“They don’t go to extreme weights and usually end up weighing between 8lb and 30lb.

“The white turkeys are the kind you would get from your local butcher,” Scott revealed, “but bronze are reared by the hobbyist who wants to make a pound or two at Christmas time!”

This year, the Duncans are culling 20 bronze turkeys, which they feel is still a popular meat at this time of year.

Scott outlined the work that goes into rearing these special birds: “Turkeys are reared from day olds and are fed growers’ pellets to get them to a certain size.

“Then, they are fed turkey finisher for the next couple of weeks coming up to Christmas.

“They are kept indoors – because there are only 20 of them there is lots of space.”

This is the second year Jack has raised turkeys, which he then sells to relatives and friends.

Reflecting on how his brother got involved in raising turkeys, Scott said: “Our local farmer gave him five turkey poults as a bonus for working for him.

“He enjoys rearing them so he decided to do it again this year.

“It means he has money for Christmas and will have money to buy them in again next year.”

Turkey aside, lots of people opt for a different meat on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, including duck.

Scott has been helping Martin Patterson rear Aylesbury ducks for December on a 150-acre farm in Downpatrick for two years now.

As Scott explained to Chick Chat, Aylesbury ducks are easily reared in a short space of time, which is why they chose the breed for this purpose.

“We cull between 30 and 50 of them,” he said.

“Duck is not a popular meat at all.

“Only some people want it at Christmas as it’s not to everyone’s taste.

“We hatch the ducklings out and separate the ducks from the drakes.

“The drakes are then put into a house and fed as much as they can eat.

“When they are older, they are fed twice a day and are kept in a house at night.

“We feed them fattening pellets and wheat.

“Then we spend a couple of night’s culling them, plucking them and processing them.

“They are then sold to relatives and local butchers.”

So, there you have it! A little insight into our festive feast!

No matter what you decide to tuck into this Christmas, I hope you have a very happy one and I look forward to bringing you some more Chick Chat in 2013!

 
 
 

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