Free ranging domestic turkeys in the spring

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by TaylorB1216, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. TaylorB1216

    TaylorB1216 In the Brooder

    Jun 5, 2016
    Hi All
    Looking for some insight here. My husband and I live in western PA.
    We have two Royal Palm turkeys that we've raised from Poults on our farm.
    Since they moved outside last August, they had been living in a dual-purpose flight pen that we also housed pheasant in (surprisingly, everyone got along very well).

    Needless to say, my intent has always been to allow them to free range. Right now, I allow them out in the afternoon, and lock them back in at night. I've been reading recently about how some folks don't actually coop their turkeys in a physical coop, but have a turkey "lean-to" structure, or a few roosts available to them instead. Mine do fly when startled, and roost at night when they sleep.

    We are considering raising Bobwhite quail in late spring, and would love to use the flight pen for those, once they're old enough to move outside. But I would be concerned about moving the quail into a pen where the turkey live.

    Has anyone had success moving turkeys out of a coop? My big concern is predators (will they be able to protect themselves? If they're roosting at night, will they still be in great danger? Obviously they're not as vulnerable as chickens size-wise, but still...) and negative interactions with wild turkey this coming spring?


    thank you!

  2. SunHwaKwon

    SunHwaKwon Crowing

    Jul 19, 2015
    Eastern Shore, MD
    I got my first turkeys in January 2016. I did not have a separate shelter for them. My chicken coop is about 11 feet tall so I made a roost attached to the side of it on the leeward side about 6' up for them to sleep on. Problem #1 was that the tom was a very large Black Spanish and he decided he would rather sleep perched on the edge of the pickup bed since it was not as high and hard to get to. I worried about him and he seemed okay, and then one morning I was heading out to feed everyone and he didn't greet me and I immediately knew something was wrong. A raccoon had gotten him during the night. The hen, a blue slate, was doing fine and sleeping on her perch each night, but about a month or so later she was killed by a fox while laying an egg in the woods.

    I have the daughter of those two (luckily I had one egg on hand and I anxiously incubated it and ended up with a pretty blue slate girl who is like a puppy) and at a month old I got a bourbon red poult who also turned out to be a girl. Fearing a repeat of what happened to the other two, I arched cattle panel over the top of the run and covered it with hardwire and moved the perch so that it was under the arched panels. Later I decided to expand the run beyond that 10x17 section that I already had and the new area was not covered as I was waiting for netting. An owl began hunting my birds, scaring the guineas and chickens off the roosts at night through the windows and harassing the turkeys as well. I woke in the middle of the night one night and went out to check on them and the bourbon was gone. She stayed gone for almost all of the day and finally showed up, and the only thing I can think is that the owl scared her so bad she took off flying across the farm fields until she reached the woods. Either way, I have my netting up now, and skirt on my pen, and I covered the arch with a tarp so owls can't see them.

    Anyway, my point I'm getting at is that having them sleep outside can be safe, like it was for my blue hen, or go badly, like it did for my Spanish tom. The high up perch worked well for my blue hen, but left my current hens subjected to harassment by owls and if it weren't protected its possible they would be dead. Even if you build an adequate and protected night time shelter, they will be susceptible to predation during the day, like what happened to the blue slate, especially when the hens are on a nest laying or brooding. Plan accordingly and be able to accept whatever risks come with your plan.

    As far as wild turkeys, we have a lot of them around here but they have never interacted with mine. When my neighbors down the road lost their tom, their hen took off to be with the wild turkeys, though.
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I can only add that turkeys don't like change. I personally lock mine up at night to protect them, and to keep them from roosting and pooping everywhere, and just generally running amok. I have read a few posts over the years of folks finding domestic turkeys wandering in their yards. I assume they wandered off from somewhere. Turkey can move pretty quick and probably if they get too far off they might not be able to find their way home.
  4. TaylorB1216

    TaylorB1216 In the Brooder

    Jun 5, 2016
    Thanks guys!
    Might be safer then to just build an alternate shelter for them that offers them the same protection!
    I appreciate the input!

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