17 August 2001

Gorgeous little turkeys were worth the hassle

Turkeys are a passion with Janice Houghton-Wallace who has

looked to America in her quest to introduce new bloodlines

AFTER lots of paperwork and veterinary inspections, news came that the day-old turkeys I was hoping to import were bursting out of their eggshells.

But I still had to wait on a last-minute phone call and e-mail at 3am to inform me of the actual flight date. Having forwarded the details to Heathrow, I set off for the airport in the small hours of the morning.

A customs clearance company dealt with the paperwork for me and just two-and-a-half hours after landing the Spanish Blacks, Bourbon Reds, Narragansetts, Royal Palms and Blues were being whisked up the M25 and on to Cambridge.

Unfortunately, I lost one bird on the flight and seven since, but now have 52 gorgeous little birds that are growing like weeds. The local veterinary officer inspected them on arrival and will do so again after the 35 days in quarantine.

They were put under heat lamps, but worried about our unpredictable electricity supply I bought a small generator the day after their arrival. Three hours later we had a two-hour power cut. Never have I felt so justified in spending money.

Then the hot weather came and the fans couldnt cope with the heat. This time I bought an air conditioning unit and with the temperature control set, I managed to keep all the birds comfortable – but I still had to hose the roof down on three afternoons as well.

I am making the birds as people friendly as possible so they can help promote Turkey Club UK, founded to highlight the pure breeds. When I sit down with them they climb all over me, and even go to sleep on my lap.

They are not always nice to each other though, and three-week-old turkeys could very well teach squabbling schoolboys a thing or two. I cannot wait to see them playing outside when quarantine is over.

Has it all been worth it? Yes, 52 times yes.