Free Range Turkey Questions

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by rbefarm, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. rbefarm

    rbefarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 21, 2011
    Hi all,

    I have a few questions about turkey behavior and the best way to manage them. This is my first year with turkeys and I'm learning fast...but still am in uncharted territory right now. I'm having some issues and I'm a bit worried about the right course.

    We have 51 turkeys... a mixed flock of bourbon reds and midget whites. We are pastured poultry folks and mainly used to managing broilers and layers. The turkeys have been an adventure from the start and most have an appt at Thanksgiving them as part of our business. I'm literally sold out which is good. I have to say they are a hoot to have around. I like them a lot and am thinking of keeping a tom and a few hens around.

    I raised them in a large chicken tractor on skids (with a floor) and when they were 8 weeks old, we clipped both wing's feathers and left them out in a day range paddock with 4 foot netting. That was in late June and went really well until recently. Now, they are much bigger and flying quite well despite the wing clipping we did earlier. They were doing pretty good staying in their territory around the coop. There are some small cherry trees there and they learned to get up in them. When someone got out, they'd come back inside when I opened their gate, and life was stable at least..then along comes Hurricane Irene. We managed to catch them all Friday night (we are in SE Virginia) before the storm. A number were in the trees and that was a PITA to get them down but we did manage. I'm surprised at how well they can see in the dark too compared to chickens. The turkey roundup was a riot.

    We decided to put them into a large stall in a shed row barn. The stall was open to the rafters about 8 feet off the ground but fully enclosed otherwise. I had no idea they could fly that well...but this morning we found quite a few turkeys loose and that is the only way they could have gotten out. They were smart to stay in there for the storm at least. We moved some netting and penned them up by that barn and let the others out of the stall. They did very well all day foraging in their new enclosure. However...tonight we went out to move the broilers back out into pasture and we noticed that about 18 turkeys were now on the roof of the shed row barn. I am pretty sure that in the morning I'll have turkeys everywhere now. A number were sleeping on the ground also. We were going to build them some perches in the stall but we didn't get it done tonight with other stuff going on...apparently they found their own perches.

    I do have free range laying hens and I know that technically they should not mix with them much due to disease. They have already mixed a bit and all are fine. I have no idea if this disease is prevalent around here or not.

    So, what is the likelihood that the shedrow barn will now be their new home and they'd free range nicely and not wander all over our farm (30 acres)? They do seem to want to stay together so if some are out, they tend to stay near the ones who are in. I have a big investment in these birds and don't want to turn them lose to see them wander away, get lost, eaten by something, or get sick. The only other option I can come up with is to catch them again and reclip their wings and try to keep them in their netting. Catching them at slaughter time is not going to be easy either but as long as we can get close to them, we can catch them. They are pretty people friendly.

    I'd love thoughts or advice from folks with more turkey experience! Thanks!
     
  2. njduck

    njduck Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 15, 2011
    i know with my heritage turkeys I am on my 3rd wing clipping and they are only 12 weeks old
     
  3. Lagerdogger

    Lagerdogger Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 30, 2010
    Aitkin, MN
    I range mine in a large enclosed area. After butchering, I let the survivors out to range around the farm. Pretty soon I was getting calls from neighbors about turkeys in their yards. I ended up putting them back inside their fence and clipping wings. My experience has been that turkeys don't necessarily stay home [​IMG]
     
  4. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    For starters, when wing clipping it's better to do just one wing. That way it throws them off balance when they try to fly. With both wings clipped, I have seen 4 month old BBW turkeys fly up to perch on the 6' fence that was supposed to be keeping them in. Since you are selling them, I would be hesitant to let them run free. Sometimes they range pretty far. Are there any roads around where they could get run over? What is your predator load like? Not only predators like fox, coyote, raccoons, but a Great Horned owl can also kill a turkey. They may stay close when some are still in for now, but that can change. In my experience they start wandering further away gradually. I would suggest something like surrounding the shed with the fencing, far enough away that they land on the inside when they come off of the roof. If you can give them a fairly large area with nothing close to the fence that they can roost on, they will be more likely to stay in. Sometimes turkeys don't quite get the concept of flying over a fence when they can see through it. I think it confuses them... the closest thing in nature would be a bush or something. If they can see through it, they think they should be able to walk through it. I once watched a wild hen with her poults. We have chain link fence on two sides of our yard. When they walked down our driveway, one of the poults went on one side of the fence while mom and the rest of the poults went on the other side. They got to the section that runs along the road, mom and the babies with her kept going. The baby stuck in our yard just ran back and forth along the fence and called them. I had a heck of a time getting it out of the yard to go catch up to it's family (the mom had hung around for a few minuites but was leaving the poult behind even before I went out). It helps if there isn't a rail around the top of the fence, too. Nothing that looks like they can fly up to perch on it.

    Whatever you decide, I hope it works out and everyone enjoys their turkey!
     

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