Free range heritage turkeys

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by jopheso, Jul 27, 2016.

  1. jopheso

    jopheso Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So my original plan was to free range 20 heritage turkeys on about 2.5 acres of pasture with about 20 trees scattered on it, mostly pecan trees. We are down to 16 birds now after losing 2 the first night and then 2 more to fowl pox(they stopped eating). All 16 now reside in a large hoop house style pen made of pallets and cattle panels and I was planning to use this as the nest house while letting them come and go as they please on the pasture.

    I am now starting to get concerned about them simply flying away. My fencing is about 4 feet tall around the entire pasture, but even with a clipped wing they could easily get over that. I went with heritage so that they could forage and reproduce naturally and even those that will be processed and put in the freezer will have lived a very turkey like life, but Im starting to get a fear that as soon as I open that pen I will never see them again :(

    by the way our flock is now 9 Narraganset and 7 midget whites. They are 8 weeks old now so I have some time to decide what to do. I guess I could build an 8 foot fence around a very large section of the pasture, but for 16 turkeys it would need to be a huge piece of pasture I think.

    Does anyone free range Narraganset or midget whites? Does anyone free range any heritage breeds? If yes to either of those questions, what are your thoughts on the process and any suggestions so that my whole flock doesnt up and leave would be great.

    thanks BYC!!
     
  2. Hardemans

    Hardemans Out Of The Brooder

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    i free range Narri's, blue slates, and some mutts. They all can fly but since we have water and food available they hang around the place. Never had one stray.

    What you have to fear is predators. We have coyotes and bobcats. They have made a meal or two from my turkeys. Clipping the wings just makes them easier for the predator to catch.

    Sparky
     
  3. jopheso

    jopheso Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ya initially I was going to clip wings, but with a 4 foot fence there is no point and it will just make them easier to kill. I have only been on my new place for a few months, but I havent seen or heard anything other than hawks and falcons. The main reason I went with turkeys over chickens was because I wouldnt have to worry about hawks getting them.

    Do you put your birds away at night? Do they have a coop at all? Do you gather eggs from them at all? How old were they when you started to let them out?
     
  4. KayHartZZ

    KayHartZZ Out Of The Brooder

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    I free range some of my turkeys (don't have all the toms out together because they fight so much!!) but am sure to bring them in at night. They aren't quite as awesome at it as the chickens :) but do round themselves up and start hovering around the gate around 430 each night for feed and herd into the pens quite easily. About once a month I do have one that gets a wild hair and flies over the fence line but then gets so upset will walk back and forth n that spot giving the lost call, desperate to be back on the right side again. Ease them into being out free ranging and they'll def. stick around I think.
     
  5. Hardemans

    Hardemans Out Of The Brooder

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    With regard to coming in at night, it varies. I have a large shelter that is open on the sides and some coops. Some times they like the shelter and roost on top of the rabbit cages. Sometimes inside the coops with the chickens. Sometimes outside on top of the shelter (24" up). Weather makes no difference. Cold rain and they will sleep outside in the rain. Crazy..... The turkeys and the chickens bed down at the same time.

    I let them decide when they were roughly 12 weeks old. Actually they decided on their own once they figured out how to fly up to the top of the shelter. Began free ranging when they were 8 weeks old. By then they immune system is developed.
     
  6. jopheso

    jopheso Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do your birds lay in nest boxes? If not do you just hunt down their nests to gather the eggs?
     
  7. KayHartZZ

    KayHartZZ Out Of The Brooder

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    My hens don't lay in nest boxes. During breeding season they find a place they feel comfortably hidden and start building a nest. They lay an egg daily to build a clutch (a group of eggs) of about 15 to 20 eggs, and then set on them. I made little caves in the mesquite and only one hen found that spot agreeable. My others hens respectively chose 1-a corner in the chicken brooder 2- a corner in the barn where some wood was stacked 3- our landlord's "junk" pile of old hot water heaters and two chose corners in the pen where they go in each night,
     
  8. Hardemans

    Hardemans Out Of The Brooder

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    My hens dropped eggs all over the place at first then found secluded places to lay them. We gathered them, hatched a few and then ate the rest.

    Next year I plan on some selective breeding and will keep some hens and toms in pens. That is when I will need to learn how to get them to nest.

    Sparky
     
  9. FarmerMac

    FarmerMac Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I free range my Narragansett and Royal Palm along with my chickens when I am home. The following works for me and may not work for other people.

    [​IMG]

    I keep the turkeys in their own pens and separate the mothers when they have babies in smaller 4x6 pens. I have nest boxes for the hens that they use, since they are penned in the morning, they lay their eggs in the box, if for some reason they build a nest in the woods, I collect the eggs and pen the hen, I used fake eggs in the nest and keep her there until I see her using the nest.

    These are some of the nest boxes I have in their pens. 4 X 6 pen
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    As for how soon I let them out of their pens, Once the babies are able to walk and run, I let the mom come out of the pen and let her free range for about an hour in the evening and then herd her and the babies back to the pen, I do this several time until they get the idea. If I hand raise poults, every time I feed them I call them so they know there is food, so when I let them out, I call them and give them food too. When it is time to put them in their pens, I call them and they just follow to the pen and give them food. These guys are easier to manipulate because the ones raised by the hen, are a little more skittish. When they get older and they find out that they can fly, I make sure I put them in their pens before it gets dark or they will fly up on top of their pens or onto the trees. I have not lost mature turkeys to predators but I have lost a bunch of little ones to hawks, eagles and foxes.
     

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