Advice on keeping Turkeys please

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Chickarito, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. Chickarito

    Chickarito Hatching

    Jun 13, 2014
    Afternoon all,

    I have recently started keeping chickens over the last few months and am really enjoying it so far and our chickens are doing well.(Uk Based) We have decided to get a couple of Turkeys to keep seperate to our chickens for next christmas (if I dont get attached) and I'd like to pick members brains before I jump in to be sure I've made the correct decision!

    How big would a turkeys housing need to be? Would an 8ftx8ft shed be ok if I kitted it out with perches? How tall does the run need to be?

    Do they need nest boxes? I've read mixed opinions...alot.

    Could I keep 2 stags together or would they fight too much so females would be better?

    What breed of Turkey is best for meat, and is there any difference between stag meat and female turkey meat?

    Thats about it! This has probably been done to death somewhere but I can't find the thread, also with so many mixed opinions on various articles about the web I thought i'd ask some experts.

    Many thanks in advance, Rich.
  2. LovedMyAlydar

    LovedMyAlydar Songster

    Oct 15, 2007
    We keep ours in an 8 x 8 coop and they do quite well. That is when some are not trying to roost on top of the coop. We have 3 boys and 3 girls. They get along fine with our chickens, guineas (from whom they are inseparable), and bantams and chicks. Actually the turkeys have a ton more personality in my opinion than my chickens. They love to hop up in our laps and lay down and go to sleep if you pet them. The boys sometimes act a bit silly together, but nothing that is concerning. I say go for it. You will really enjoy them I think.

    We have 4 bourbon reds, 1 slate and 1 black from the slate hatch.
  3. Haida

    Haida Chirping

    Sep 12, 2013
    Western NY
    I have a flock that varies in size, at most it was 12 birds (adults and young adults). They're in a fenced in run that's about 28' x 16', and then they have a barn they can go into that's 20' x 13'. In the outside run, there's roosts, hiding spots, tall weeds, dirt and a 'wading pool'... they LOVE LOVE LOVE to be outside. There is a lot of variety inside my pen, I try to keep them from being too bored. They sleep outside in the summer, but in winter, they are confined to the coop (we have bad winters). Inside the coop is the nesting boxes, dirt floor and several tall roosts, and I will put out hay for them to go through. I have four adults (three hens and a tom) that are my 'breeders' and then their offspring are raised separately until they're old enough to be outside and large enough to be slowly introduced to the adults. That method has mixed feelings, but so far it's worked for me... this is my third year with turkeys. Typically, people keep the breeding adults in one pen, and the babies in a grow-out pen... this is what I'll eventually have, but we're going to be moving in a year or two, so not yet... Oh and there's a net that covers the whole pen so they can't fly out. There's a lot of wild turks and hunters in the area... not to mention dogs and cars... so I don't want them to wander and get hurt.

    If you're just raising them for meat, you won't need nesting boxes... mine didn't lay until they were about 10 months old. Some hens are very particular about their nest box (I have plastic doghouses with hay inside) and some just lay wherever. Sometimes they make their own. If you want them to lay in one spot, put a turkey egg there (to "train" them). My hens didn't want to lay anywhere except for where there was another egg. Chicken eggs won't work, they kick them out. Duck or goose eggs might work...

    I've only kept two toms once, and I will not do it again. They got along great until spring came. I'm sure they could winter together just fine, but they'd have to be separated for the summer, I think. I've talked to people here who have several toms with no issues, but I guess it depends on their temperaments and flock dynamics? Females will also fight. Females will also strut when they're seriously angry. But my flock is like this--my tom is a big softie, my dominant hen rules the coop like a queen (she is very calm and collected and the other hens give her plenty of space), then there's a subordinate hen who is her shadow, and then there's a scapegoat hen. The young don't really fall into the hierarchy yet, so thus I don't really have any fighting between adults and poults... when I introduce the poults to the adults, I do it after their head feathers have fallen off, and I keep them separate by chicken wire inside the coop for prolly another month more... I do not release them with the adults until the adults are calm about it... I do a LOT of turkey-watching. :) I got way off topic... oops.

    As far as meat goes, it's kind of up to you. Broad Breasted birds grow very very fast and sometimes have health issues into adult hood, and you can't breed a BB tom to a BB hen. But you can breed a heritage tom to a BB hen. I've never raised broad breasted birds, though, so bear with me... I've read that they aren't as intelligent, instinctual or personable as a heritage breeds, they don't taste as good and they are very prone to illnesses. Not sure if its true. But I like my heritage breeds... I love how they look (bone structure-wise) I love their personalities and their plumage. I have Norfolk/Spanish Blacks, Standard Bronze and one Narragansett (who's still a poult), but so far, I am very impressed with the Standard Bronze. Beautiful birds, really. They get tall very fast and then add on muscle mass, they are not picky eaters (my Blacks are!), and the carcass is a dream to prep. I am moving away from the Blacks because when you pluck them, they leave these TINY little hairs, and you can see the feather follicles very clearly. It's kind of gross, looks like black worms or something under their skin. The Bronze were kind of the same, but not nearly as obvious. The lighter-feathered breeds don't have this issue as far as I know (such as Holland Whites and Bourbon Reds) but I've never raised them, so I don't know first hand. :)

    You're also doing a good job by planning on keeping them separate from the chickens... chickens carry blackhead. I've got blackhead in my soil, despite the chickens being separate... everyone this spring got sick, I thought I was going to lose the whole flock. But miraculously, they pulled through.. I haven't had any problems since. I keep them wormed with cayenne pepper in their food/treats and apple cider vinegar in the water... now I'm incorporating Safeguard twice a year--once before breeding season and once in the fall, before I close them in the coop for the winter.

    I guess I should also say that when they winter, they are extremely inactive. They come down in the morning to eat and drink, then fly back up and sleep. But you might not have to worry about that. ;)

    Oh, and if you do end up keeping a few hens, you will not be disappointed with turkey eggs. I adore them! Some people say they taste the same as a chicken egg, but I don't think so. I think the whites are fluffier and the yolk tastes more "meaty".

    One more thing (and then I promise I'll stop typing): I WILL NEVER eat a store-bought bird EVER AGAIN. I actually HATED turkey meat before! So dry and bland!!! I came to raise them because I fell in love with them (my mother in law had purchased some poults and I fell in love the first moment I met them!), then we had one for Thanksgiving... it was so juicy, tender and FULL of flavor. We didn't even have to add seasoning! Turkeys are awesome!

    Sorry that I wrote a lot! I hope this helps!
    3 people like this.
  4. Chickarito

    Chickarito Hatching

    Jun 13, 2014
    Awesome! Thanks for the responses, just read all that Haida, great read! I think my mind is made up but I'm going to wait until after this winter. It gives me a bit of time to set everything up ready for them and do some more research! The last thing I want to do is rush into it, there's nothing worse than seeing people sell birds and coops in states because they rushed into it. I say I'll raise them for meat but I'll probably end up with 2 pet turkeys at the end of it all.

    Thanks again for the input so far, anything anyone else wants to add would be appreciated!!!
  5. Haida

    Haida Chirping

    Sep 12, 2013
    Western NY
    Woo hoo, I'm glad I helped! I didn't realize I had so much to say, hahaha. [​IMG] Turkeys are very very lovable and have such wonderful personalities!!!

    I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but before I actually met a turkey, I thought they were dumb and ugly... unfortunately, that's what everyone says (and how the media portraits them). Then my mother-in-law (we share our property with hers) got a batch from the hatchery and I kissed my sanity and my life as I knew it goodbye... I'm all about turkeys now, I can't get enough of those wrinkly little faces. [​IMG] I'm not so good at incubating them yet, but I'm still perfecting my methods!

    I get a lot of "aren't turkeys stupid?" and "you have to be careful, they'll drown in the rain" and "turkeys are so ugly! What is that dangly thing on their head?!" and I LOVE love love enlightening non-farmy-people on how turkeys actually are. I can only hope that it will help them think about where their meals come from...

    Keep us posted! I'd love to hear what breed/breeds you end up with!!!
  6. pineapple416

    pineapple416 Songster

    Aug 9, 2014
    Western Washington
    I don't recommend purposefully getting two males. We had 4 males and 3 of them injured the other male badly and he died. Also I recommend getting heritage turkey breeds instead of broad breasted breeds. Broad breasted turkey make a lot of meat but I've heard heritage breed meat tastes better. I've also heard that the breed Miget White is a nice breed but are pretty small compared to most turkeys. Our female turkey likes to lay her eggs in the bushes and will lay pretty much anywhere on the floor of the coop if we put her in their during laying time. The difference between male and female turkey meat is that the females are smaller than the males.
  7. shaninsky

    shaninsky In the Brooder

    Sep 17, 2014
    I feel the same as you do about turkeys Haida. I believed all the myths until we got our flock of Ridley Bronze and now I'd give up all my chickens and just have turkeys. They are so social and friendly; they talk to me and love being near. They are extremely curious and they don't hold a grudge when we have to trim their wings. They really are beautiful birds and I'm thoroughly enjoying them.

    I see that you are in a similar climate area to me. My guys love greens but they've eaten everything in their area. I pick grass for them but it will soon be all gone. Do you have any ideas for greens during the winter?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2014

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