Turkey Care

Heritage breeds have an average lifespan of 10 years and broad breasted varieties live for a much shorter time as their bodies grow too quickly for longevity. 

Shopping List:  Brooder Supplies; Waterers, mesh platform for water, feeders, heat lamp reflector, heat bulb, sand, pine shavings or straw, paper towels, gro-gel, electrolytes and vitamins, thermometer, draft-free enclosure, cardboard, game bird or turkey starter. For the beginner, we offer the Chick Starter Kit that includes everything you need to get started.

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At the Post Office: Promptly pick up your package and get your birds into the prepared brooder as soon as possible. 

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Brooder Requirements: Provide one square foot of floor space per poult until six weeks of age. For weeks 6-12, increase the space to two square feet. The brooder should be sterile, draft-free and dry. Make sure the brooder area is big enough so the turkeys can get away from the heat source. Poults have a tendency to pile up on each other so round the corners of the brooder with cardboard, wire or wood to keep them from doing so. After several weeks, supply your turkeys with a roosting branch about one foot off the floor.

Temperature: A thermometer is recommended to monitor the temperature. The brooder should be 100-105 degrees for the first week, decreased by 5 degrees each week after that until the temperature is the same as the outdoors or until the poults are six weeks old. 

Litter: The best bedding for turkeys is 2-3 inches of clean sand covering the floor. You may also use large wood shavings, straw or hay. Make sure the bedding is very dry before placing it in the brooder. Turn the bedding every few days to eliminate poult contact with their feces and add extra bedding when necessary. 

Feed: A game bird or turkey starter with 28% protein is recommended for the first six weeks. Switch to a grower ration at 6 to 8 weeks. Supply more than one feeder in the brooder to allow all poults equal access. 

Water: When you get your poults home, dip their beaks in water, so they learn how to drink. A one-gallon waterer for every 25 poults is recommended to start. It is best to put their waterer on a mesh platform to raise it above the shavings. Initially, water levels should be minimal to avoid drowning; clean marbles in the dish will help. Warm water for the first few hours may be beneficial. On the third day you may include vitamin or electrolyte powder in the water. Make sure there is always water available to your turkeys. 

Adult Housing: Indoor housing should provide 10 square feet per bird. By six weeks, your turkeys can begin going outside for parts of the day if temperatures are 75 degrees or higher. At eight weeks, they will be ready to go to pasture. If there is not a foraging or ranging area for your turkeys, an outside pen should provide 40 square feet per bird. Be sure to keep them properly protected from predators. Woven wire fencing with openings no larger than 2 x 4 inches is best. Electrifying the fence is an excellent predator deterrent. Turkeys like to roost in trees at night, but alternatively you can provide roosts near the center of the pasture.

Processing: Heritage and wild turkeys will be ready for processing at 25-30 weeks. Broad Breasted turkeys will be ready at 16-22 weeks. 

Wild Turkeys: Raising wild turkeys compared to domestic and heritage breeds is very similar. As with any wild bird, the first two weeks are a little more challenging. Make sure your temperature is very consistent. Never house waterfowl and wild turkeys in the same area. The pathogens between these species are lethal. 

Blackhead Disease: Blackhead disease is caused by a parasite and can affect turkeys of any age. Symptoms may include a drooping head, dark head, and foamy brown droppings. Prevention measures include keeping living spaces clean, rotating range areas, and housing turkeys separately from other fowl. They may free range together, but it is not recommended to contain or house them together.   

Safe Handling of Poultry: After handling poultry, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Do not let young children, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch live poultry. Do not snuggle or kiss your birds. You can get Salmonella from touching live fowl. Your birds can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean. Regularly clean your poultry equipment.



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