Beginnger trying turkeys

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by chickenteacher2, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. chickenteacher2

    chickenteacher2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've had my year of raising chickens and haven't had many problems. Even learned how to properly process a chicken. Now, I might start raising a turkey for Thanksgiving. However, I know nothing of turkeys. Advice? When to get one for the right timing? What kind to get. What to feed it? Male/female? Will it be ok by itself with chickens?
     
  2. Kevin565

    Kevin565 Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    I personally would stay away from the broad breasted varieties. Turkeys are social creatures so I would at least get 2. As for keeping them with chickens many people have mixed feelings about this. Many people have kept them together with no problems while others have had turkeys die from blackhead or pick on the chickens.
     
  3. Celie

    Celie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It depends on a lot of factors! First, I would check on Blackhead to see if it is prevalent in your area. It is not in Louisiana, so chickens and turkeys do well together in our area. Do you plan to free range them? Do you want fast growing turkey for processing or can you wait 18 months for a heritage turkey to mature? Do you want to harvest your turkeys young even if you will be getting mostly dark meat, because the breast has not fully developed? How large a bird do you plan to have for Thanksgiving? How big is your family? What type of predators don you have in your area? How many turkeys do you want every year for your family and freezer? Is meat your only concern and if so, is it just for this Thanksgiving, just to try growing your own?
     
  4. chickenteacher2

    chickenteacher2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just thought maybe for Thanksgiving. I don't know if that breed is available here. We have 8 people or there abouts for the holidays. No problems with predators....I free range my chickens, but thought I'd keep turkeys separate if they can't all get along (I have bantam chickens). My neighbors have I think they're called the Palm turkeys (white with black ribboning). So, I guess the 18 month one is out of the question, then, if it's for Thanksgiving. However, we may be getting an extra freezer, so maybe if I can get the hang of it, it could be a regular thing????
     
  5. Celie

    Celie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The way I see it there are several different types of turkeys, for different purposes. First of all you have the Royal Palms, which I have only second hand information on and that is that they are not as good for eating as other heritage breeds, but are very nice "eye candy", and the wild turkey breeds are tough stringy meat and full of tendons. The very large breeds, such the Standard Bronze and Holland whites get quite large and are the largest heritage breeds. We processed a couple last Thanksgiving that were right around 18 months and weighed out at 34 and 35 pounds. Then on the opposite end of the scale are Midget whites, which are the size of a large chicken and are often confused with the beltsville whites, that weigh only a few pounds more and did not get very popular due to it's size. Both are white feathered, and along with the Holland whites were used in breeding the Hybrid commercial turkeys sold in stores today, since white feathers do not leave dark pin feathers, they are easier to process. Then there are the medium size heritage turkeys that are colorful and make nice size birds to process for the table, such as Narragansett, Bourbon red Spanish black and blue slates that all have good camouflage, so will take a little longer to process. Their weight should mature at 18 months to 33 pounds for a tom and 20 to 25 for a hen, take 20% off standing weight and that brings you to a table weight of 16 to 27 pounds. You can process then earlier at lower weights, but I think you will get more leg meat and less breast meat by doing so. Then there is the commercial BBW and BBB, that are hybrids and develop to process at 4 to 6 months of age with very large breast and very tender meat. These breeds do not reproduce naturally and need their feed consumption watched so they do not grow too fast for their frames, or they most likely develop leg and heart problems, but do get really large, fast on less feed. Because of their fast growth, I don't feel they have time to develop the richer taste of heritage breeds, but grown at home with more grains and free range feeding, will taste a lot better than store bought. Now, this is my opinion and others may not agree and there are a lot of cross breeds out there too numerous to mention. This being said, you at this point should be able to determine which breed is best for your needs, or be totally confused!!![​IMG]
     
  6. flocksalot

    flocksalot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We raise the Broad Breasted and the Midgets. Both are sought after for the various reasons previously stated. I enjoy both as pets and food. We have many customers that previously purchased the BB try a Midget and they just love them. Most have already placed their orders for thanksgiving in order to ensure they get them. We will only raise a limited number. The big difference with Midgets and other heritage breeds is that they don't take 18 months to grow out and they are a bit bigger than your average chicken. Mine ranged between 10 and 18 pounds dressed out at 6 to 7 months. Ours are free ranged along with our BBs and only given commercial feed in the evenings after they graduate from the juvenile pen. Which consists of flying over the fence and stealing from the garden or chasing the free ranged Cornish X. Midgets are great chasers. We did have one that weighed in at 20 pounds at 7 months, but he was the exception. I'm starting them earlier this year in the hopes of having a bit of fat on them by thanksgiving, but my previous customers all followed my cooking instructions and were ecstatic over the results. Midgets also take up less room than the BBs and can mate naturally, so keeping some for reproduction is reasonable.

    My BBs are sold for size. We regularly have requests for 50 to 60 pound bids. I have no problems raising them to that. Mine don't end up with leg problems or heart problems. As a matter of fact I've rarely ever had any problems beyond aggressive behavior towards the Midgets, and that's just normal flock dynamics.
     
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  7. Celie

    Celie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read that Midgets were suppose to max out at 12 pounds for toms or they would probably be Beltsvilles, but I can't tell the 2 apart. Even APA puts them into the same class since they are crossed so much. I also read that the Midget was used to breed both Beltsville and BBW, because of their large breast and Holland way the other breed used in breeding the BBW because of their large frame. Do you agree with these findings and why?
     
  8. flocksalot

    flocksalot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    According to the university of Wisconsin, which is where about half my stock originated, the BBW and a show Royal Palm were the breeding stock, but it took a few generations for the desired genes to stick. I've read on some websites that it was the Holland, but since I am not Smyth, nor was I involved in the original breeding program I couldn't say. Since the UW were in ownership of the stock until they sent it into small farmers hands I tend to believe them. I also see the personality traits of the BBWs condensed into those little twerps. They do have a powerful personality packed in their little bodies. I call them my lap turkeys as they love to sit and get cuddled.

    I've also seen size suggestions of 8 to 12 for a hen and 15 to 25 for a Tom. I think if you want smaller than you should breed or buy stock from smaller, or visa versa. I purchased stock from three different strains. Hence the size difference from 10 to 20 lbs in similar ages birds. I heard from someone that had a 7 lb Tom for dinner. It's all in the breeding. We have a small Tom and a large Tom and two young jakes ready and willing to step in along with 7 different sized hens. I don't raise them for show and could care less what would be recommended for that. I breed for the purpose of selling to customers that want a specific size. To me these are the perfect sized backyard turkeys. They are super personable, they are extremely hardy, they forage for most of their food even through the winter, they are healthy and seem the be immune, as predicted in many websites, to many diseases. Although I've never had a sick turkey I'm still cautious.

    As for the Midgets use in creating other breeds, I couldn't say for sure. I do think that the midgets and beltsville were created separate from each other. Also from my limited knowledge of Hollands I think they go way back. I think they were a recognized breed around 1875 or so. Both the Midget and the Beltsville Whites were a recent addition in turkey types. The Beltsville whites being developed around the forties and the Midgets the sixties I think. Yes they are shown in the same class, as the Midgets are not yet recognized by the APA. Whether they ever will be doesn't matter to me one way or the other. As I previously stated I don't care to show. I'm not all about standards. I have much more interest in raising a healthy flock that suits my purposes. I breed for need.

    Also since the beltsville whites were developed around the forties and the midgets not until the sixties if I remember correctly, I would assume since they were originally competitors for the turkey market, that one wasn't used to breed the other. I have no idea what was used to create the beltsville whites but they are also on the endangered list. The one thing I do know about them is that their breasts are not as large as the midgets. Beyond that I think they are cute little buggers too! I wonder if they have that same type of wonderful personality.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  9. Celie

    Celie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Holland Whites were the commercial breed preferred prior to 1935, at which time they bred the BBW, for more breast meat faster on less feed. The down side is BBW do not mate naturally. I thought I read somewhere that the midget white was used to create the larger breast in the BBW? The Holland whites I processed last thanksgiving had rather large breasts, but not double-breasted, but maybe twice that of other heritage turkeys I saw pictures of ! What would you say? Does the Midget Whites have the same amount of meat, proportionately? I was thinking of getting some midgets, for everyday meals, since the Hollands are too large for 2 people.
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