New to Turkeys and wondering when to butcher.

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Lelilamom, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 28, 2013
    This is our first year with turkeys. We have 3 BB Whites, 1 female and 2 toms. We got them at 2 or 3 days old the 1st week in May. We wanted to keep them until Thanksgiving and then butcher one for a fresh holiday dinner and put the other two in the freezer.
    We've been raising meat chickens for a few years and brine our birds for a day, rest for 1 or 2 days after that and then cook or freeze which is what we plan to do with the turkeys.

    Is this breed (I think they are called BBB really, they are the big white ones) the same as the meat chickens in that they grow fast, and can die from heart and leg issues? Should I be concerned now that all three are quite large (we guesstimate about 40-50 lbs for the biggest tom), that they could develop health issues and die before butcher time? They free range every day and I supplement with Wild Game/Turkey feed that they have access to during the day. We pen them at night in a coop to protect them from predators. Only one Tom can fly onto the roost now, which is 2 feet high.

    Does the quality and taste of the meat diminish if we butcher and freeze before Thanksgiving? Our chicken is delicious despite being frozen, but we want this to be a special Thanksgiving and it is our first time raising the meat for the holiday.
     
  2. Macs farm

    Macs farm Out Of The Brooder

    Sounds like you've got nice healthy Turkeys. We started processing them from 5 months, this is my first year too. We've got two out of 9 left to save till Chrissy, when they'll be about 10 months. Sounds like your well experienced with the chooks, I'm not sure, though I probably wouldn't let mine go much past a year before eating. How do you free range Turkey, mine would take of if I let them out, and Wedge Tails would snaffle them up wouldn't they? I thought about just letting one out a day.
     
  3. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't have enough experience with Turkeys to know if this breed will even live to a year. The meat chickens we get do not live past 13 or 14 weeks, they have heart attacks or their legs break. We butcher at 12 weeks.

    For these Turkeys, we homed them in their brooder outside for 3 weeks, letting them outside in an enclosed pen for several hours each day and then putting them back into the brooder until they were flying. Then we put them in their permanent coop out back next to the chickens. We homed them for 2 weeks, not letting them out at all. Then we let them out for a few hours for a week and they stayed next to the coop - their food and water was there. We moved the food and water after 2 months to a feeding station well away from the coop. The Turkeys roam the entire neighborhood returning to the coop every night to roost. The neighbors feed them and pet them and then tell them to go back to the coop and they do. Alot of times they come to our front door, scratch on the door and Heep Heep to come in, but I tell them to go back to the coop and they do. They usually just wander around our back yard foraging.

    We do have predators, fox, coyote, fisher, martins and bear here in Upstate NY. We have two beagles that make more racket than I care to admit and that keeps most animals away during the day. The Turkeys go into their coop at night and the coop is an enclosed coop - it's completely surrounded by chicken wire that goes 18 inches into the ground. We hope it's enough to keep predators away. Our chicken coop is designed the same way.

    If we can, we'll wait until the Sunday before Thanksgiving and butcher all three birds. They should be about 30 weeks old by that time. We have been very lucky so far, all the birds seem healthy and happy - they run up to me for treats when I go out in the morning to feed everyone and are beautiful and so far uninjured. Our biggest Tom has a crush on me and puffs up and rubs up against me when I'm taking care of the animals. I tell him not to get to attached, after all, I will be eating him. He only looks at me reproachfully.
     
  4. Macs farm

    Macs farm Out Of The Brooder

    Sounds to me their getting enough exercise to live a long life, you don't want to keep them for breading? We've named all our turkeys Lovely, so when we eat them we can honestly sat "That was Lovely".

    In regards to your chooks, why do they not survive past 14 weeks? If you have a good size bird that quick that's great. i'm going to do some chooks for the table too, yet the chooks for that purpose may require a different feed (Meat finisher) and not let out of good size pen. Free range chooks are too fit/though and not as big, is that right?

    I'm sitting beside my incubator and I've one hatched turkey cheeping away at me with 16 other eggs yet to show action. Does it matter he's disturbing the position of the other eggs, their all over the place.

    In regards your turkeys, as I've said, I'm a newbie my self, though mine are looking great at 8-9 months old. The tom has done a great job of knocking up the hens and have had one clutch of 17 eggs and a two week break and a second clutch of 11 eggs in 12 day so far.
     
  5. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The BBB turkeys don't produce fertile eggs, so we can't breed them. We are considering Bourbon Reds next year so we can breed them and sell the chicks. This year we just wanted to raise them for meat.

    The White Rock chickens are bred to be fully grown at about 14 - 16 weeks and start to die. They get too heavy for their legs and the legs break. Or the have heart attacks.

    Nice work on hatching! We have hatched our own chickens, but ended up with too many and had to sell them off. I have 20 layers right now and am selling 10 dozen eggs a week. I don't need anymore, that's for sure. I think it would be fun to hatch turkeys, but I have to make sure I have buyers for the chicks. I can't have a whole clutch running around the neighborhood, my neighbors would kill me!
     
  6. Lagerdogger

    Lagerdogger Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 30, 2010
    Aitkin, MN
    Just a couple of details. BBB refers to broad-breasted bronze. Broad-breasted whites can be referred to as BBW if you like.

    They do get large, and can have heart and leg issues, but many seem not to. The won't live as long as a heritage bird, but could live for several years. If they are getting too big or growing too fast, reduce the protein in their feed. 16% is fine for birds that don't need to grow anymore.

    The hens should produce fertile eggs. Usually the problem with breeding BB turkeys is that the toms are too large to do the deed correctly and without risk of Ben damage, so artificial insemination is usually required. A heritage Tom would probably fertilize the eggs with no trouble.

    Have fun with your turkeys, and try heritage birds!
     
  7. fairmountvewe

    fairmountvewe New Egg

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    Hi; I am new to Backyard Chickens, but have followed it on Facebook for a while. This is my first post. I've tried my hand at turkeys this past few years and I just love them. They have such personality & are not any harder to raise than chickens. We free range BBB with great success. The first year was crazy. I wasn't sure when to send them to the processor, so at 22 weeks we had a 42lb tom turkey to cook and several 30+ pounders. Luckily we have a local restaurant who smokes her meat and was happy to have the bigger ones. I've shortened the time we keep them to 17 weeks and it seems to be perfect. Some smaller hens & a few bigger toms for us turkey lovers. This year we have decided to try our hand at keeping a few Ridley Bronze over the winter. 1 tom & 3 hens. They are so comical, a real treat to have in the yard. Our only problem is that sometimes they wander down the driveway to the road. We have plenty of acreage for them (100 acres) and our driveway is 900 ft, but once in a while they get on the road. They fly & I don't want to clip their feathers because it's their survivor instinct from predators. Fences (which we have) are not an option because they just fly over. Any suggestions??
     

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