First time raising turkey hens, help!

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by bullrunslabs, Oct 19, 2016.

  1. bullrunslabs

    bullrunslabs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello,

    I will be acquiring 5 turkey hens on Friday. I do not know their breed, as the lady doesn't either. The information I received is that they hatched this spring, are big, and one is very, very friendly.

    My questions are:

    Can I house my hen turkeys with my roosters? Possibly also muscovy ducks in the spring?

    Are six foot tall fences sufficient for a 700 sq ft pasture run?

    Do turkeys use nesting boxes like Chicken and Quail do?

    Do you eat turkey eggs? Do turkeys lay eggs like chickens or only when breeding like dove?

    Would an 8' x 8' by 8' turkey "coop" be sufficient for indoor housing for 5 hens and 10 standard sized roosters? I live on the Oregon Coast, so I assume they will need a dry area to hide from the weather, just as my chickens and quail do. They would be locked in the coop from dusk til dawn and allowed into the run and coop during the day.

    If I were to let them out to free range, do they tend to stay close to home or are they best kept cooped?

    Oy, I think that is all my questions for now... Thank you in advance!
     
  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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  3. bullrunslabs

    bullrunslabs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you!
     
  4. Indyshent

    Indyshent Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Blackhead is a protozoan parasite that lives in the dirt. Your property has it, or it doesn't. It's pretty rare as diseases go, and I've never met anyone that's had it. If your turkeys get it, you'll know your dirt has it and that you'll never be able to safely have turkeys on your property, pretty much. I wouldn't worry about it, but that's me.

    Six foot fences will be laughed at by younger turkeys and those that like to give you the bird, so to speak. Hershey and Drogon (chocolate and black jennies) peeked at us through a second story window after landing on the porch roof this evening. They fly over eight-foot fences when they feel like it, and they could clear obstacles more than twelve feet high, too. If it's a huge concern for you, clip their primaries on one side.

    Turkeys do use nesting boxes when they don't have a religious objection to using nest boxes (it's an individual thing, just like it is with chickens). My Holland hen always lays (and broods) in the same nest box. My Bourbon hen scratches out divots randomly through the coop or just laying them in the middle of the floor, like they caught her by surprise. I have five younger girls who aren't laying, so it's anyone's guess which option they'll choose. If you free range, be prepared for gals to start hoarding eggs in ingenious (or downright stupid) places.

    I have a 10x10x8 converted shed that houses everyone but the pheasants and quail (when they feel like it). However, turkeys are largely like Dothraki, if you've ever seen the Game of Thrones series,because in their opinions, pretty much everything worth doing is done outside. Like sleeping. The vast majority of turkeys I've owned hate sleeping indoors and would rather be outside unless the highest roost they can get to is indoors. So long as they are able to get to a roost, they will take that option. Infirm specimens don't roost, so be on the lookout for ground sleeping birds because they're older BB turkeys (can't roost), really old, sick, intimidated by roost hogs, or have some injury. I make roosts that are a shorter distance from the ground for these birds generally because it seems to pain them not being able to roost (really sad to watch that turmoil in their eyes, trust me). I have about thirty feet of roosts in that shed (all four feet from the floor and made from 2x4s). Turkeys are roost hogs and will probably beat the crap out of your roosters. Mine love to scare all of the chickens from their chosen side of the shed when they bother roosting indoors.

    Turkeys hens and roosters are actually a bad combination. I've done it without a lot of problems, but I want to warn you about some language differences between the species. See, they don't always see eye to eye on lots of issues, but the most dangerous fights I've ever seen were always turkey hen vs rooster. dominance battles happen in every combination of ages, genders and species in a barnyard, but I think--of domestic animals--turkey hens are more likely to kill a rooster than perhaps anything but perhaps a dog on the premises. Roosters have a lot of ego on the line, unfortunately, and if they don't get out of the way when the turkey train is coming through, the hen may stomp him to death. Worse yet, all of her girlfriends--and maybe even boyfriends--will join in on that fight because turkeys form gangs with strict hierarchies (these are technically called "rafters"). It's not something that happens on a first offense generally, but I've seen this as a pattern of escalation through multiple encounters, and these fights generally start around feeding areas but may start due to a hen protecting her brood from a perceived threat. I've never had a rooster die, but I've seen them beat up and even bloodied on occasion. Just something to be on the lookout for as your birds are going to be competing for a very limited amount of roost space and areas from which they can eat and drink (the three most likely areas for fights to break out).

    Another weird thing about keeping turkeys with roosters is that turkeys abhor lame animals for some reason, so if a bird becomes stuck, otherwise entangled or lamed, turkeys will relentlessly attack this unlucky fellow, generally pecking it on the head. I'm not sure why this happens, but if you have a lame rooster, keep him away from these girls.

    Turkey eggs are the best tasting eggs I've ever had. They're like cheese. Simply amazing. You'll never want to eat another kind of egg ever again.

    Turkeys are technically seasonal layers, but some have much longer or more sporadic "seasons" of laying. for instance, some start in January, take a break for the hottest months, and resume laying when it starts to cool down again. Some breeds take fewer breaks or lay more eggs or have shorter seasons, and of course, individuals can vary widely even within a breed. My BB turkeys hens were pretty good layers, but I've heard Palms are the best. Any eggs could potentially be fertile, but like with chickens, not all turkeys are equally broody. I've had two broody turkeys out of five total. Most turkeys will attempt brooding after they've got a purely subjective and individual number of eggs hoarded in one spot, but when the mood's right, they'll relentlessly brood golfballs (esp in the spring).

    Keep them cooped close to home for a few days at least. They have to know where home is (and more importantly, where the food is). They'll probably stick with each other more than with your roosters as a group, but it wouldn't surprise terribly me if they form one big happy flock either (esp until the girls more comfortable on their own).
     
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  5. bullrunslabs

    bullrunslabs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for all your time and effort in this response! I found it very educational.

    I believe, the ladies I acquired are Broad Breasted Bronzes. The smallest is over 20 pounds and the largest feels like she is closer to 30. I did notice the hens on the larger end do appear stiff and achy, so those will be the first to make it go freezer camp. Generally t
    hey seem shorter and thicker chested than others I have looked at. They are much larger than I remember my previous turkeys being (granted it was 15 years ago and I was an adolescent). I chose to put them in my enclosed cement dog kennel during the quarantine time. I think this will be there main home until they are done quarantining, then they can be let out during the day in the back yard where the grass is abundant. The kennel is a 12'x12'x9' tall with a metal roof. Being on the Oregon Coast, we won't have decent sunny weather until May, give or take. Plus the cement and metal makes it easy to sanitize and easy to secure them since the poor ladies can not perch. Our previous ladies, again years ago, went broody and were annihilated by a wild cat of sorts, either bob cat or young mountain lion. So I have built them a large nesting box area, as well as roosts, and a resting area that is filled with bedding inside of their safe zone.

    In the past, we did not have issues with blackhead but we hadn't raised chickens up until the past few years. This far we have been fortunate with our chickens health, possibly because I do not allow many visitors and have quarantined new animals.

    After realizing that my roosters were not as large as they looked, pre-turkeys, I have chosen to build them their own coop and run. Later I will be able to use this for grow-outs or a specific breeds coop for reproduction purposes. Thankfully it all worked out well with very little stress.

    I do appreciate all of your information, as it will make designing my turkey zone easier for the spring.

    Thank you again!
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
  6. Indyshent

    Indyshent Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You're welcome! I started with a guinea, a turkey, and a dozen chicks at the same time, and about as soon as I started with poultry forums, I found out that, apparently, I had been doing everything wrong. Well, it worked. It works for lots of people, so I didn't want you to get too bogged down with naysayers before you'd even got your birds. Turkey hens and roosters can be done--esp with BBB hens! My BB hens were the most obnoxiously lovable birds to ever grace my life. They can be so affectionate--and so demanding about it! Mine weren't content unless they were in my lap.

    I've never had a problem with BB turkeys and roosters. BBs are worried about eating, sleeping, and getting lovies. They are the least aggressive breed of poultry in my experience, and you're not likely to have any worries housing them together. Your girls aren't going to range far from the food and the safety of home because, frankly, their joints are going to give out on them. They get sore so easily that, for them, it's not worth the effort to wander forever off into the woods.

    Throw in tons of veggies and lawn clipping and other plant litter. Your girls will want something to do and have something softer to arrange into nests than concrete. Having softer litter will help they're joints, too, because you don't necessarily want to process them earlier than planned due to injuries. Be on the lookout for flipover (heart attacks). Keep food and water close to their roosts. For BBs, I try to get the big cinder blocks and stick a 2x4 flat through the holes. make sure it doesn't wobble too much, but all BBs should be able to roost at least a few inches from the ground. I've had BBs roost 4ft off the ground even after the thirty and forty pound marks (I've also had them roost in trees before). Most won't be that ambitious by the time they have any weight, but that doesn't mean their quality of life won't be immensely improved for having even a very short (sturdy!) roost.

    The only problems I've ever seen with BB hens and roosters were a few run-ins my girls had right after being rehomed which was overrun with hundreds of roosters. Some of these boys were aggressive with them because they were newcomers. No serious damage was done. The rooster could always back off and disengage because BBs won't run after them very effectively. Heritage turkeys pose a much bigger threat because they can get their feet off the ground high enough to stomp a rooster to death, they have the stamina and ability to doggedly pursue a threat, they can fly, and they are more aggressive in the first place. That said, I've never had a heritage turkey maim or kill a rooster (or anyone else).

    BB hens pose virtually no threat to your boys, so I wouldn't worry about them at all. Just in case, make sure they can see each other through your fence and get better used to each other because both species are very good at recognizing intruders, and you don't want scuffles later after presumed invasion of turf by either the roosters or the turkeys. If done well, integrating won't be a problem, and your girls are more likely to kneel for your roosters than harm them (they're very likely to kneel for you, too).
     
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi. [​IMG]

    I am just south of the Ca border on the coast, love the area! Did you happen to get your birds near Gold Beach?

    I don't have the answers you are seeking, but wanted to see what was going on here, since I am thinking about getting some turkeys next year. The one thing I wanted to suggest though was quarantine. Sorry if you already have that taken care of and I missed it. [​IMG]

    Best wishes!
     
  8. bullrunslabs

    bullrunslabs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I did not get them from Gold Beach. I have seen those advertisements, but it would be a full days drive for me to get there and back. I am very intrigued however! They offer a lot of birds!

    I do have them on "lock down" as my husband calls it. They are in a different part of the property in a cement floored, fenced and covered old dog kennel, just in case they have something that I can easily sanitize!

    It was funny, a friends mom was advertising them online, and I didn't know that it was her I was speaking to until after we had agreed to meet. I remember the day she picked them up and how excited they were. Thankfully, I know they were treated very well before I acquired them and that they are also bio security aware.

    The coast is amazing! I also love the northern California coast!
     
  9. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Ah, funny example of what a small world it is with your friends mom. [​IMG]

    I didn't figure you got them in Gold Beach since the lady admitted to not knowing exactly which breed they were. Never ever buy from those people in GB. They are giant scammers. [​IMG] I bought 3 chicks that were supposed to be Jersey Giant and SFH. None are what they claimed and I paid $20 EACH. The "giant is the same size as my white leghorn and one of the SFH lays green instead of cream colored eggs. I started flagging their ads since I contacted them to see their response to my concern and they started touting the greatness of SFH in their ad and then said "to improve you meat and eggs". Oh well.... the birds I got were healthy and vibrant, still good birds. Just not what I paid for and definitely not going to improve the quality of my flock. I even expressed how I was excited to get pure bred, blah blah blah. With all those birds they only have about 5 separate pens. Good lesson for me! [​IMG]

    The farthest I made it up the coast so far is Winchester Bay. We used to ride quads a lot. Now we hardly go anywhere and hang out with the animals a lot. [​IMG]

    Relative to your question though, those people had all of their turkeys and chickens running together. Everything except their chuckars. They had probably been raised like that and not just recently introduced, but there didn't seem to be too many squabbles.

    This has been an interesting turkey read for me. Thank y'all for sharing your experiences!
     
  10. bullrunslabs

    bullrunslabs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good to know. My husband and I had discussed taking the kids down to Jerry's jet boats, staying a night and bringing back birds. But We will pass on that now! I am working to set up several different coops and breeds myself. I have 92 chickens of various breeds, the 5 turkeys, Tibetan coturnix quail, angora and meat rabbits now. I will add muscovy ducks, dove and pheasants in the spring after I get their facilities built. I am excited for spring so that I can get poults to start from the beginning. I would like to do the lavenders and some broad breasted whites for each family's holidays. (there are 5 of us, so I would do 10 birds) The holidays at our house are usually about 15 people, most of which are growing boys, so the birds don't last long on our table.
     

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