BBWs as pets?


9 Years
Sep 25, 2010
Kansas City
Well, last Wednesday I went and picked up 2 BBW's. They were intended for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I have no problems processing my chickens, even though I love my chickens, so figured turkeys wouldn't be any different. Wrong!!!
These little guys love me. They follow me around, thinking I'm their momma. I can't kill anything that thinks it's my baby. My ducks, my chickens, no problem. But my little turkeys?
I even tried sticking them under my broody silkie so she could raise them so I wouldn't have to. She wanted them, but they think they're people. They didn't want no chicken momma. So now, what do I do? If I limit their feed and protein is it possible for them to be healthy and happy? I live in the suburbs and can't have turkeys flying into my neigbors yard, will my little fatties stay put? What kind of shelter will they need for winter? I don't think my coop has room for 2 40lb turkeys... and my DF broke his leg, had to have a rod put in and won't be able to help build another for a month or 2 at least. Good thing it's summer, and my chicken meaties will be gone in a week or 2 so the poults can have their tractor when they are ready to go out until they outgrow it to buy me some time. If they are too big for that I have an x large dog kennel and an extra roll of fence for a temporary turkey pen. Anybody have any info on keeping these guys? Or will I have to suck it up and process them eventually? I don't want them to suffer and be miserable, but would like to keep them if at all possible. Thanks!
I think the oldest BB turkey that I heard of lived to be 9? I have had some up to two years or so... I had a BBB hen that I lost in January, she was hatched in the spring of '09 so she was pushing 2. She was getting around fine but got a broken leg when the shed roof collapsed under snow load and she was pinned in the wreckage. I had to put her down or I would still have her. They really aren't meant to be kept as pets, but you can certainly prepare just in case you can't do the deed.

It sounds like you have limited space, so it will be harder. When mine get old enough and big enough, I turn them loose and they forage for themselves. I only feed every few days to remind them that they live here, but they mostly demolish the grass hopper population (and I have noticed a drop in the tick population). I have seen them more than 1/4 mile from home. Don't let them just sit and eat all day, make sure that they get exercise. Watch giving them corn. For treats, they love grapes and apples. Once they get big, they won't be able to fly much but up to 5 months or so they can and will. I have seen 5 month old BBW turkeys fly up to perch on a 6' fence. As long as they can get out of the wind and weather, any kind of shelter will do. I live in North Dakota, temps in the -30 range (not including wind chill) are not uncommon. I just make sure that shelters open on the down wind side and they have outside access 24/7 (covered pen to keep predators out). They really can be endearing, I go out to weed the garden and hear them come up to see what I am doing, talking like a bunch of gossiping women. I think they are trying to figure out why I pull stuff up and not eat it. My guys tend to waddle when they walk when they get older, but I haven't had leg problems yet. I also lost a 2 year old when she decided to make a nest in the weeds and a raccoon got her. It wasn't able to kill her, but it did rip her up and she later died from her injuries.
They are a meat bird, and you will likely endure some heartache keeping some as pets. Just give them a quality life, and a great toast at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Thank you. I'm guessing my best bet is going to be finding a processor or at least someone to do the hard part for my 2. I do have 2 acres, but I'm in the suburbs and don't think the neighbors would appreciate my turkeys visiting. Never ever doing turkeys again, lol. At least not for meat. Maybe next year after I've expanded my coop I'll get a few midget whites or something.
If you want to keep them as pets, get a couple of birds of a smaller heritage breed. I have some mutts that are royal palms x sweetgrass. I'd say the hens are maybe 10-12 pounds, the toms 12-15. They are fairly small when you really see what's under the feathers. No health issues due to size, so they could potentially live quite a few years.

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