Turkey Talk: Everything You Need to Know About Raising Turkeys
Raising turkeys is a great idea for fresh meat year round. The flavor is superior to traditionally raised store-bought turkeys. Additionally, you are able to dictate what is in their diet, which gives many peace of mind.
History of Turkeys
Turkeys are a native North American bird that was the source of food for the Native Americans. The Native Americans introduced turkeys to the pilgrims and Spanish Conquistadors in the 15th century. In the mid 16th Century, turkeys became the common backyard animal.
Turkeys are the largest members of the grouse family and the second largest wild bird in North America. Most of the turkey species are dimorphic, meaning that the Toms and hens can be sexually differentiated by their plumage and size. The Tom, which is the male turkey, is selected for maximum sex appeal while the hens are selected to search for food from their environment and escape predators. The males are larger than the females often, and the hens do make wonderful mothers.
Turkey Breeds and Varieties:
There is only one breed of Turkey that is accepted by the American Poultry Association. This domesticated turkey is in the genus Meleagris. There are Eight recognized Turkey varieties within this breed, the Standard Bronze, Black, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, White Holland Turkey, and the Beltsville Small White.
Turkeys are fairly easy to raise. Similar to brooding chicks, they need a warm, dry brooding area of 95 degrees their first week of life. Reduce that temperature by 5 degrees each week until fully feathered out, which is around 6 weeks of age. As long as your outside temperatures are at least 75 degrees and dry, they can then go out to pasture.
Always provide your birds with fresh water. Poultry fountains and automatic waterers are types of systems you can use. Turkeys require a game bird starter of 24% or more or a turkey starter. This can be purchased at your local feed store. Feeding your turkey with the proper feed will help it grow to its full potential. Greens can be added to the diet as a treat.
Maintaining good health is necessary when dealing with turkeys. It is important not to house them with chicken as they can contract diseases that the chicken may carry, notably Blackheads Disease. Always provide your turkeys with sanitary housing, clean pasture, fresh food, all of which will lessen their chances of getting sick. Make sure you are not overcrowding your birds, and weekly checks for mites and lice is recommended.
Turkeys live in flocks and thrive when in groups. It is recommended to clip their wings if you are going to have them in an open area. A shelter should be provided to shield the birds from the rain, wind, hail, sleet, and snow. A simple tarp covering the roosting area or an actual barn stall or small building will be adequate for housing or shelter.
For the Table:
Many homesteaders raise turkeys for their Thanksgiving meals. It is very important to feed your bird with the proper diet to promote their growth. Feeding poor diets will result to slower growth and nutritional deficiencies. A high protein diet is key for having healthy turkeys. If one is planning to have a turkey for dinner, the homesteader’s method of fattening up a turkey is to feed the turkey its normal diet with the addition of oats and cracked corn that is a free choice.
Ready to Raise Your Own Turkeys?
Purely Poultry offers a variety of turkeys, chickens, ducks and other fowl to help you have the flock of your dreams. See for yourself!