Ever thought about raising turkeys? Here are some tips, and for more in-depth information talk with one of our veterinarians, and/or talk with folks who raise turkeys. We sourced this information from the following websites: Mother Earth News, smallfarm.about.com, extension.org, and a pdf written by Tom Danko, of the University of New Hampshire. Good Luck!
Happy Turkeys Need Love
Raising turkeys requires more time and attention than chickens. Obviously, they need daily feeding and watering. Their coop needs regular cleaning. Their babies, or poults, require more attention than chicks. And, as they get older keep in mind, turkeys are a social bird and value daily visits from their humans over and above the regular feeding and watering visits.
Happy Turkeys Need the Right Space
Poults need a brooder area until they are about eight weeks old, or fully feathered. The recommended brooder space is roughly 10’x10’ or, about six square feet per bird. Rounded corners prevent poult pileups, which can be harmful.
Once they are fully feathered you can put them in a well-screened coop that allows for 10-15 square feet per bird. Moveable coops are a good solution for managing manure because you can clean them easily. Though fenced in areas do work, keep in mind turkeys can fly over the fence and predators can find their way in.
Critical Issues for Turkey Poults
The brooder area needs to be warm, dry and draft free. Heat lamps will need to be managed. The floor temperature should be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the first week and be reduced 5 degrees per week. Change litter whenever wet. Use a litter of wood shavings as it insulates poults from the cold floor and absorbs moisture.
Avoid using newspaper or sawdust as litter. Newspaper can become slippery and lead to pulled tendons while sawdust may be eaten and cause digestive problems. One other point to remember: be sure to segregate turkeys from your chickens because chickens carry blackhead disease. Unfortunately, blackhead disease is deadly for turkeys.
Food and Water Make for Happy Turkeys
The first hour is important! Be sure your poults know where the food and water is. Dip their beaks in the water so they know where it is and be sure they are eating comfortably. Avoid open water pans; rather use a one-gallon chick waterer. You don’t want them falling in and getting chilled and possibly meeting their maker.
At six to eight weeks of age use a turkey feed with a preventative medicine for blackhead disease. You’ll need heavier feeders and waterers to prevent them from spilling over. If your turkeys are kept inside, keep a container of course sand or fine gravel for them to eat. If they are outside turkeys, they’ll find all the grit they want on the ground.
Over the course of their six-month maturation expect toms to eat nearly 100 pounds of feed while hens will eat about 60 pounds of feed. They also like vegetables, particularly lettuce leaves, overripe tomatoes and summer squash.