In previous posts, I briefly mentioned the fact that I we have turkeys on our homestead this year: (Posts: First Day of Meat Chickens, I Get To…).
Why did you get Turkeys?
Two reasons: Fun and Yum. Or Yum and Fun. Either way, for eating and entertainment. Those are generally the two reasons anything (other than dogs) come to live on our patch of land.
The more I can grow from my land the better. I want to use the land, and by using it responsibly, we help make the land more healthy.
Another reason I actually got turkeys is because when I did a quick search of Craigslist, a woman was selling some day old chicks and some turkeys. I was in her general vicinity to pick up our meat chicks, so I stopped by, and brought home to turkey poults. I believe they were 2 to 5 days old at the time.
What Kind of Turkeys did you get?
I don’t know. I bought them from someone I found on Craigslist. I really liked her facility, and I will definitely buy from her next year. I will probably also buy my laying hens from here on out as well.
One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon. You can see the grass is pretty beat up. That’s where the wagon was the day before.
I can’t remember the exact breed. It is either a bronze or a broad breasted bronze. The broad breasted will fill out most like the grocery store turkeys. The bronze is a little smaller. I’m not sure which one it is. And quite frankly, with my limited turkey experience, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell by turkey processing time.
How do you raise Turkeys?
I put the turkeys in the brooder right along with the chicks. Most of the literature instructs keeping turkey poults and chicks separate. I decided to ignore that. The reasons sited to keep them separated is due to a disease called blackhead (a parasitic disease) and the large turkeys may injure the smaller chickens.
Young Turkey Poult in the brooder
I had six meat chicks and those two turkeys in my first round of brooding for the year. I cleaned the brooder daily and the flock was small. This generally stops any disease problems. A lot of problems with disease is due to overcrowding of animals – no matter what the species. Also, the smaller flock allowed all critters to have plenty of room to spread out. I had no problem with getting the chicks up to butchering weight.
I moved the turkeys outside into the chicken paddy wagon (chicken tractor) with the meat chickens at about 3 to 4 weeks old. The chicken paddy wagon moves daily, so the chickens and the turkeys get fresh greens. My original plan was to move the turkeys in with the laying hens at the time the meat chickens met their last day.
This did not happen.
Turkeys don’t move quickly. And when I was moving the chicken paddy wagon one morning, one of the turkeys got his foot stuck under one of the runners. He either sprained or broke his foot. I thought I would have to put him down. But he rebounded, and he’s almost 100% healed now.
But being that he was injured, I did not want to put him in a new flock. He would probably be bullied to death.
So at this point, the turkeys are still in the chicken paddy wagon. While not ideal, it is not forever.
According to my reading, the space needed in a turkey tractor for happy turkeys is 12 feet by 12 feet for 24 turkeys. This works out to about six square feet per turkey. Their current space is 10 feet by 4 feet. So our turkeys get 20 square feet per turkey. So they should be pretty happy.
The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.
They look pretty happy.
They act pretty happy.
My goal is to provide a happy life for them (and all of my critters).
I will be moving them to an open paddock in a week and a half after I process my second batch of meat birds.
What do they eat?
They began eating chick starter. I fed them exactly what I fed my meat birds, and I still do. But as turkeys age, their protein requirements decrease. In the first seven weeks of life, their protein in take should be 26% to 30% of their diet. And then from 7 to 14 weeks of age, the require only 16% to 24% protein. After that, they thrive on feed that is 14% to 16% of their diet.
Our turkeys have access to fresh grass and a new insects everyday. They go wild when I move the tractor, and seem to prefer eating the white clover. (Oh, how I love white clover, almost as much as I love dandelions).
White clover also known as Turkey Candy
So far the costs have been low. As I’ve had the turkeys mixed with the chickens, I can’t pinpoint how much they ate versus how much the chickens are consuming. I am certain that I could buy a chemical laden turkey in the grocery store for less than my costs to raise these guys. But there is a peace that comes with raising your own food. I know my turkeys are having a good life, and living the way a turkey should. I also get a lot of entertainment raising them.
So basically, my hobby produces awesome food. Sign me up!
Overall, I love raising the turkeys. They are hilarious and look like little dinosaurs. Even more than the chickens. I love their gobbles, and they seem to have so much more personality. It’s also neat to have wild turkeys in the area.
Wild Turkey with her two babies
I feel like the turkeys are meant to be on this land. I will continue to have turkeys well into the future. In fact, I believe I will expand my flock next year, and sell a few extra turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.
Always an adventure, just out my backdoor!