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A Beginner’s Guide to Owning Turkeys

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Are you considering raising turkeys for the first time? Whether you’re interested in them for their meat, eggs, or simply as friendly and fascinating pets, this beginner’s guide will provide you with essential information and practical tips for successfully owning and caring for turkeys. From choosing the right breed to creating a suitable living environment, this guide will cover everything you need to know to embark on your turkey-raising journey.


Broad Breasted White Turkey


Understanding Turkeys

Types of Turkeys


When it comes to raising turkeys, it’s essential to understand the different types available to choose the right fit for you. Broadly, there are several types of turkeys, including the Broad Breasted White, Broad Breasted Bronze, and Heritage breeds. The Broad Breasted varieties are commonly raised for meat due to their large size and fast growth rate. On the other hand, Heritage breeds, such as Bourbon Red and Narragansett, are known for their ability to forage, making them a popular choice for sustainable farming practices.

Behaviour and Characteristics

Turkeys are fascinating creatures known for their unique behaviours and distinct characteristics. They are highly social animals, often forming strong bonds within their flock. These birds are curious by nature and can be quite friendly, especially when raised in a nurturing environment. Additionally, turkeys are intelligent and demonstrate a wide range of vocalizations, using different sounds to communicate various emotions and intentions. When it comes to physical characteristics, turkeys are recognized for their fleshy wattle, snood, and impressive tail feathers, which play a role in their elaborate courtship displays.

Preparing for Your Turkeys

Housing and Shelter


When preparing to raise turkeys, ensuring they have appropriate housing and shelter is essential for their well-being. The coop or housing structure should provide ample space for the turkeys to move freely and protection from predators and harsh weather conditions. Consider using materials like wood and wire mesh to build a secure and well-ventilated shelter. Additionally, provide nesting boxes for the turkeys to lay their eggs comfortably.

Feeding and Nutrition

Feeding your turkeys a well-balanced diet is crucial for their growth and overall health. A combination of commercial turkey feed and access to fresh pasture or grass is ideal. Make sure the feed contains essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, providing clean water at all times is necessary to keep the turkeys hydrated. Turkeys are very similar to chickens as they both are foraging creatures, consuming insects, bugs and worms from the ground.

Health and Care

Maintaining the health of your turkeys requires regular monitoring and care. Keep an eye out for signs of illness and promptly address any health issues that may arise. Additionally, practising good hygiene in the turkey coop and keeping their living environment clean can help prevent diseases. Regularly trimming their beaks and spurs, as well as providing access to dust baths, can contribute to their overall well-being.


Narragansett Turkey


Breeding and Hatching

Selecting Breeding Stock


When starting a turkey breeding program, it’s crucial to select healthy, high-quality breeding stock. Look for birds with strong legs, bright eyes, glossy feathers, and well-developed musculature. Ensure there’s no sign of disease or deformities. Additionally, consider the breed’s specific traits, such as size and temperament, to match your breeding goals.

Incubation Process

Once you have fertile eggs from your breeding stock, the incubation process begins. Place the eggs in a clean and warm incubator set at around 99.5°F with 60% humidity. Turn the eggs several times a day for optimal development. After 25-28 days, you’ll witness the miracle of hatching. Be attentive during this period to ensure a successful hatch.

Caring for Poults

Upon hatching, the poults require careful attention. Keep them in a warm, draft-free brooder with a temperature of around 95°F for the first week, gradually reducing the heat thereafter. Provide a balanced starter feed and clean water at all times. Supervise their growth and health, as this is crucial for developing into healthy, productive turkeys.

Turkeys in Your Homestead

Raising turkeys on your homestead can be a rewarding and beneficial endeavour. From their meat and eggs to their pest control abilities, turkeys offer a range of products and services. By understanding how to utilize turkey products and integrate turkeys with other livestock, you can maximize the benefits of introducing turkeys to your homestead.

Utilizing Turkey Products

Turkeys provide a variety of products that can be valuable to a homestead. Their meat is a lean and nutritious protein source, and their eggs are a flavorful alternative to chicken eggs. Additionally, turkey feathers can be used for craft projects, and their manure makes excellent fertilizer for gardens and crops.
To make the most of these products, consider creating a business plan for selling excess meat, eggs, and feathers. You may also explore the potential for creating value-added products such as turkey jerky or feather art to generate additional income from your turkeys.

Integrating Turkeys with Other Livestock

Turkeys can be integrated with other livestock on your homestead to create a harmonious and efficient environment. When raised alongside chickens, turkeys can help control pests such as ticks and mosquitoes, benefiting both the turkeys and the chickens. However, it’s important to monitor the interactions between turkeys and chickens to prevent any aggression. Some turkeys may require isolation if they prove to be a danger to other members of the flock or other poultry animals. The last thing we want is for traumatic experiences to happen to our poultry, which significantly affects egg laying production.

Moreover, turkeys and goats can coexist well, as they have different dietary preferences and grazing habits. The turkeys can help keep the goat area free from pests while the goats can utilize the brush and roughage that turkeys don’t consume.

By strategically integrating turkeys with other livestock, you can create a balanced ecosystem on your homestead and make the most of the benefits that each animal has to offer.

Conclusion

Congratulations on taking the first step towards owning turkeys! With the information provided in this beginner’s guide, you are well-equipped to embark on this rewarding journey. From understanding the housing and feeding needs to mastering the basics of turkey health and behaviour, you are now ready to raise your own flock with confidence. As you continue to learn and gain experience, your feathered companions will surely bring joy and fulfillment to your life as a lovely reward. Happy turkey farming!

Photo Credits

Broad Breasted White Turkey – Wikimedia Creative Commons

Narragansett Turkey – Wikimedia Creative Commons



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