Have I ruined my turkeys?? (totally new to raising turkeys)


Dec 10, 2015
Hi All,
Not sure what damage I've done but somehow I completely messed up the instructions I got at the feed store. In June I picked up 8 chicks and as a total impulse buy, picked up 2 bourbon red turkeys the same time. All 10 are about 8 weeks old now. I put them all in the brooder together and they ate chick starter from day 1. This week I brought my chicks into their new coop and kept the turkeys set up where they were with access to our pasture thinking that they would come and go for their food and water and roost inside the barn stall where the brooder had been. I let the chicks out this morning from their new coop and lo-and-behold the turkeys had flown out of the barn, around the pasture and found the fenced in garden where the chick's coop was and were waiting for me when I got there. They are now back with their friends happily eating chick starter. After paging around the forums (quite obviously what I should have done to begin with), I think I've learned that they've not been getting enough protein in the critical first 8 weeks, they've imprinted on my chickens (I really thought they would imprint on the goats that stared into the brooder for hours each day and that might keep them in the barn/pasture area), they've been more susceptible to diseases that they otherwise might not have been if they'd been separate from the chickens and now they won't stay put. It's fair to say I've been an idiot, but now what? Are they viable for butchering this winter or will I ever get them to condition with the rough start? They had been eating a 20.1% protein feed. I'm fine with just calling them pets but how do I fix the housing? Ugh....
Let them sleep with the chicks until they decide they are too big to go in there. Then hope they pick a good place to sleep after that. If you don't like where they pick, you can go out each night and herd them to where you want them. Sometimes after weeks of that, they start going there by themselves.

You can switch them all over to a higher protein feed now. Better late than never. I have heard that poults born in June aren't big enough to process for thanksgiving anyway. By then you will probably be so enamored that you will want to keep them anyway. :)
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"By then you will probably be so enamored that you will want to keep them anyway." That's what I was afraid of! Thanks :)
I think you're fine on protein, we fed 20% only to our turkeys last year and they still topped out the scales at 30lbs each processed!!

Turkeys need entertainment. Our 4 last year, followed my (then) 18 month old son around like lost little puppy dogs, just watching everything he did. Obviously, they find the chickens to be a great source of entertainment ;) Better that you found them there then at your front door!! Just wait...it's coming, they WILL realize where the food source is coming from (you!!) Ha.

Can you keep them closed in the barn just a few days? Feeding them exclusively in there and forcing them to find new entertainment might help. Also, you could try to make their food a little more appetizing than the chick starter, you could wet it, add sunflower seeds or scratch (just for a little while - while you are breaking them from visiting the chickens) or some yummy kitchen scraps. Set them up with a nice big tree branch to roost on, and they will be happy to stay, they just have to be reprogrammed.

And, as much as it pains me to say it...I HELD/hugged my favorite turkey last year while her head was chopped so she wouldn't bruise herself. Poor Esmerelda, followed us to the stump never knowing what was coming. It is possible, in our case I know that I prefer the seasonal nature of farming, everything has an ending and you look forward to the next beginning. Bottle feeding calves is fun, but I don't want to do it more than 4 months a year, it gets old without the changing seasons.
I love your philosophy on the seasons! And I will jazz up their food and coop today. We just lost a huge pecan branch so I can lug that into the stall for a roost. Thanks for the great advice!

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