This is a primer for new turkey owners or potential owners of turkeys. We have decided to present this in a question and answer format as we felt it would better help the new owners find the info they need quickly.
Q) Should I get a or some turkeys?
A) That depends on you, turkeys are a full time commitment, they require more attention than chickens. They also require more space than chickens.
Q) How tall of a fence will I need to keep them in?
A) The roof below is the peak of a two story farm house. Turkeys fly, They fly well, in straight lines, turkeys are not great at making turns in flight. I have had them fly into guide wires and electric poles. Flying is a defense against predators, If you decide to clip a wing, do so knowing you are making that bird susceptible to predators. Turkeys fly at a young age, baby turkeys realllllllllllllllllllllly enjoy flying. Yep, that many L's worth of enjoyment!
Do not expect turkeys to stay right where you want them, the view from the roof is way better than from the deck.
Q) How much space do they require?
A) They will need about 10 sq ft per bird in my estimation inside a coop. However, as with chickens the run available outside will make a difference to this. Also how many birds makes a difference. If you think it might be too crowded it is too crowded for them.
Q) Will the turkeys need a coop?
A) Adult turkeys do not need a coop. I live in Minnesota, I can not get my turkeys to go inside in blizzards. They prefer to sit on a roost in the wind to a cozy coop. That said, I do give them the option to go inside, I have a couple hens that will go inside in the coldest weather. Toms seem to be too macho for the inside.
Above Turkeys inspecting the construction of a "solar" plastic coop we build them. It is hard to do much without the turkeys helping or at least advising.
While not fancy we felt it would cut the wind and raise the temp a degree or two with the clear plastic on the south. The turkeys hated the coop and would only go in when we drove them in. They would leave as soon as we left the pen. By the way, I have that pen covered in 2 inch mesh game bird netting. They would not stay in it just to please me.
Q) What do I feed my turkeys?
A) Again this is not a simple answer, there are as many choices as there are with chickens. I use a commercial feed. I use a finisher around 25% protein for my birds except when very young, when I use a 28% starter. Shortly before I breeding season I use a 27% breeder formula to get the calcium up in the hens and to make sure the toms are healthy enough for the season. I also free will oyster shells. During the summer a turkey really does not need much commercial fed if they free range, they eat lots of bugs and do some grazing. A garden is a favorite place for them to graze, tomatoes and Strawberries are prime grazing areas. Since I have had turkeys I have not grown a pumpkin to maturity for my Grandkids jack-o-lanterns.
Whether you use medicated or not is your choice, I have chosen not too.
Q) Can I raise my turkeys with my Chickens?
A) Again this becomes a localized question, I do, my turkeys and chickens are one big flock with several sub flocks. You must be aware of Blackhead, it is a disease that can ravish and kill turkeys. It is hosted in Chickens with no harm and through earthworms as an intermediary. I live on extremely sandy soil (A Sand dune) so I have no earthworms and have not had any issues here. Heavy soil with worms seems to be worse for the two together.
This little guy is not a day old, he is already curious as to what the outside has to offer him. He is looking through the "porthole" I put in my 1202.
Q) What kind of turkey should I get?
A) Again it depends on your goals, if you want a pet for several years, you should be looking at a heritage breed of some kind. Then it becomes a matter of picking a color you like. If you want a thanksgiving day turkey you should pick a Broad Breasted bronze or white. They are shorter lived and may not be able to reproduce because of their size. Think of them as the CX of the turkey world.
We are thankful this guy decided to sit on the deck rail and not the van this time.
Q) What is a turkey's personality like?
A) Their personalities are as varied as the personalities of the owners. Some can be grouchy and want to be left alone. Others might want to be sitting on your lap all day long. Most of us with turkeys consider them feathered dogs. I have some that want to just hang out by themselves. I have others that want to come investigate and meet everyone that comes in the yard. Just beware if you make a shoulder sitting turkey poult, someday you will have a 40 pound shoulder sitting turkey. Do you really want that?
You should also be aware of imprinting. Turkeys will imprint extremely well on humans, This is not always desirable, they will follow you everywhere, they will not leave you. They will vocalize their displeasure if you lock them up if they have overly imprinted on you. Poults are so darn cute, but try to resist playing with them too much. When I have young ones I really like I try to limit them to a couple hours of TV time on my lap. ( I know I am making a future problem when I do it, but they are extremely hard to resist for me. Turkeys are like crack cocaine, very addicting from the first go around with them.
When building a deck make sure it is large enough to accommodate all your turkeys at once, those not able to fit on the deck become testy. I am inside the house taking the picture the one looking right at the camera is staring at me through the window, which is why I went and took her picture.
Q) Really do turkeys get that big? How big do they get?
A) That goes back to the turkey breed you picked to start with. I have had 6 month old Broad breasted (hereon known as BB) that will weigh 50 pounds or more. At that point the knees start to give out and I have to send them to freezer camp. I have some heritage hens that are smaller than a rooster. So with turkeys size matters. A small turkey takes less room, feed and is easier to care for, larger ones are harder simply because of the size.
They can become your best buddy and will enjoy just sitting next to you and listening to your troubles.
Q) Do I need more than 1 turkey?
A) Not if you have other birds, Turkeys are flock critters, they like to socialize, they need something to attach themselves too. Even as flock birds they become very attached to people. Mine will try to find a way in the house if they think there is a gathering inside they are missing. They will sit on the rail and look in to check us out. You should also know Toms can be a real Don Juan, having just one Tom in a flock of chickens could be hard on the chickens. Toms have been known to "make love" to hub caps, rocks or anything else they find, if there is not a turkey hen around they could hurt a chicken or if they were desperate enough a duck.
It really is impossible to have too many turkeys.
Q) Will a turkey runaway if I free range it?
A) I have no idea about wild turkeys that have been tamed, however, you could not get a domesticated breed to runaway. Mine free range all day long and some nights. They will not roam more than 200 ft in any one direction most of the time. There are exceptions. Hens with young and searching a nest site will range much further, I have seen one of my hens go almost ¼ mile from the coops.
There is no such thing as normal for turkeys, they are all different. This Tom liked to steal a hens baby and try to raise it, when I put a stop to that, the Tom took over a guinea nest with golf balls for nest eggs and tried to hatch them. He would actually puff up and peck like a hen if I reached for a golf ball.
Q) How will my neighbors react to turkeys?
A) That depends more on your neighbor than the turkeys, how close are the neighbors? Do they feed the Turkeys? Do they pet the turkeys? If a neighbor is feeding and petting a turkey it will visit them daily. Turkey toms can be loud, VERY loud, keep that in mind. Hens are much quieter.
This was the BB Bronze we invited to be guest of honor at our 2015 Thanksgiving day dinner. He weighs about 45 pounds in this picture.
Q) Can I let my kids play with the turkeys?
A) Again it depends on the turkey, A hen, not nesting and without young would be fairly safe. A Tom can be friendly, but I always remind people “No male farm animal” should be trusted `100% of the time or with small kids. A tom can out weigh many kids. They can do a lot of damage fast. Just like a rooster can.
Look how cute this are! This is a "calico" hatch. I breed for different colored birds. Well, actually, I do breed some to the standards, but the colors are way more fun, being a licensed hatchery people expect APA standard breeds. But once I get them hooked on colors they want every color I can breed. Trust me on this I can breed a lot of different colors. A basic understanding of turkey color genetics goes a longs ways in getting a hatch like this. If I was to just hatch to the standards the people on the "century of turkey talk" thread would be so disappointed in me.
Q) How many eggs does a turkey lay and can I eat them?
A) The number depends on the hens and breeds, I normally take 80-100 eggs from my hens each year for hatching, then I allow them to have a nest wherever they want for themselves. I happen to think anymore than that is too hard on the hen. The hens will lay eggs starting in late winter/early spring until late summer. They are great fried, scrambled or in baking!
Raising champion birds is easy, the hard part is getting a bird that looks good in purple. Before I train a future champ I try them out with a purple sash and in a bowl of purple to make sure they do not clash. I did not have a picture of a turkey in purple, so I substituted this picture of Andy my champion Cream Legbar rooster in training. Notice how well he looks in purple. The judges do not want a bird that cannot wear a purple ribbon well.
Q) Do turkey chicks need heat lamps?
A) a Turkey chick is called a “poult” they need supplemental heat just like a chick does until they are fully feathered.
Q) Can I have turkeys with my ducks?
A) Why would you own a duck? Why would you torture any bird by making it live with a duck? Why have you not joined the Anti-waterfowl league? I am the current president of it.......
Seriously if have more or other questions Just comment below or PM me and I would be happy to answer them. Turkey people would give up the chickens before the turkeys!...
A basic Q&A Turkey Primer
Basic turkey questions and answers.