Raising Meat Turkeys for 4-H...advice please!


10 Years
Oct 27, 2009
Mechanicsburg, Ohio
OK...kids ordered up some broad breasted whites for this years fair. Birds are coming in about two weeks, and I really don't know what I'm going. Here are some questions I have, please feel free to answer with this info in mind...I want max gain for least $ as that is the purpose. I want the birds to be healthy of course, but I need to allow time for any medicated feed to be out of their system before fair time. We have 3 1/2 months with the birds to get them where they need to be....so with that info:

Housing: I was thinking a basic hoop house set up for pastured poultry to put the turkeys in...we will be getting 5 day old poults alowing for a loss or two, and being able to select the best two for show...here is what I plan to build... http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/4hpoultry/t02_pageview/Hoop_House.htm I would plan for some sort of roosting poles in the house to keep them off the ground at night...and no, predators are not an issue here.

Feed: I was thinking of going with Buckley Brothers turkey starter, then switching to something...but not sure what....help?

Noise: All five will be toms...so I do have some concern about the noise level given that I am in an urban environment...I've tried to butter up the neighbors, but I doubt any of them have heard a turkey gobble at close range, and I'm afraid it will cause a problem...do the meat turkeys tend to be noisey or not?

Any other experience getting 4-h meat turkeys ready for show would be VERY welcome.

I raised 5 meat turkeys back in high school for FFA. We raised them in an aviary, but that hoop house you showed should be fine. From my experience at having them, they were not loud at all. Also, why are you feeding medicated feed? We never did. I would just buy whatever's cheap, but doesn't have any weird chemicals in it.
Turkeys are not very noisy. Feed what every turkey or gamebird starter you have in your ares. 25-30% will be good. Remember that with turkey poults to keep them dry and warm with clean water and feed and they will be fine. Cold & wet + dead poults. They are a bit more fragile than chicks.
Thanks. I have a brooding pen set up in the garage for the first month....18" high cardboard 8' round with a 250w bulb in the middle. I brood most of my chicks indoors for the first month, so I may move that to the basement...at least I can control the temperature and keep it constant.

As for feed...most of what I've seen recomends medicated starter for cocci in turkeys as they are prone to it young...at least such is my understanding. Finding a starter feed around here without medication is tricky...unless of course as stated before I use a gamebird starter...but the cost is a bit high to rationalize it.
The medicated feed is fine and I would use it if it was avaliable around here for turkeys or gamebirds. I use the purina gamebird starter, 30% and mix it 50/50 with purina medicated chick started, 20% and that makes it 25%. Some people don't want to give medicated to any of their babies but I think it does help. I raise a bunch of chicks, poults and keets each year and have very little trouble. If medicated is what you have in your area then use it.
Lastly...what about lighting? I know broilers grow best with some extra light each day...should I do that for the turkey poults for at least the first month or so?....or will they grow to size with normal lighting? Keep in mind, the days are still short, and the birds are going to be here in 2 weeks.

Thanks again!
Not sure about that, we never used supplemental lighting, maybe someone else will know.
OK. Lots of good advice here. I would like to add our take on raising 4H turkeys. Your fair is about the same time as ours with the same hatch date, so I'm going to lay out what we do to compete. (3 grand champions and 1 reserve since 2005).

First off, find out from your extension office which 4H groups in Clark concentrate on poultry. Get the advisors' phone numbers. They will be a big help to you in the coming weeks. Don't forget to have the kids attend the QA session so they can show.

If you can make it go to this: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/t02/eventview.asp?id=5242 on the 19th. Any questions you have can be answered there. We will be attending too and would be willing to sit and talk as long as you like. It can also count as their QA requirement.

I would move the poults into the basement. They are very fragile, much more than chicks and need protection from drafts. Also start the heat lamp close enough to the shaving to get it 90* directly under it. Reduce the temp 5* each week. If they get chilled, they will pile up and smother.

Leave a low power (25-40 watt) light on 24 hrs. Just enough so if they want a drink or a bite to eat in the middle of the night they can find it. We have ours in the shed next to the security light and that just enough shinning thru the window for them.

Medicated starter feed is a misnomer; it contains a Coccidiostat, usually Amprolium. It's not an antibiotic or a steroid, it's an antiprotozoal agent that acts upon Coccidia parasites. Coccidiosis can and will kill every bird before you can treat them. GET THE MEDICATED FEED. Don't go cheap. They won't thrive on less protein. You can figure on each bird eating about 75 lbs. of feed. They should weight somewhere around 30-35 lbs. at the fair. Haven't seen a feed tag for the Buckley Bros so I can't really say if it would work. Are they a local company?

Feed a starter ration containing 28% or better protein. Game bird at 30% is a good one too. With only 18 weeks to grow these birds I would keep them on this until 14 days before the show, then switch to a finisher/show ration of 22% protein but with a crude fat of 5%. Keep the feeders full at all times. Have the kids go out every couple of hours and just check the feeders, even if they don't need topped off they can stir the feed around a little. Sometimes the birds will go "Hey I'm hungry!" and go have a snack. You got to push them a little to get them to eat enough to be properly finished.

Keep the feeders and waterers at a height level with the birds back. Don't make them bend over to eat or drink. It'll help to keep the equipment clean.

Start them on 3 inches of pine shaving and add an inch every week. Leave the shaving in place but remove and replace any where the water has spilled. When you take them to the fair there should be a good 12 inches of bedding under them by then. Their bedding needs to be dry and deep to prevent breast buttons and blisters. Do NOT provide them with a roost.

If you have an outside pen for them, we find that it helps them when it gets hot here to put a full kiddie pool for them to stand in. (Yes, they will make a mess of it). And we spray them with the hose on really hot days. If they can't stay cool, they won't eat. If they don't eat........

The hard part is picking the best bird out of the flock to take. 90% of the value in a market turkey is the breast. You want to pick the bird with the widest, longest breast meat. It should not taper to a fine point at the end of the keel bone. Should carry the width as far back as it can. Again, no breast blisters or bruises on the wings. Do you happen to know who the judge is going to be? The extension office should be able to tell you. Each one has his own opinions on what makes the perfect turkey. If it's one we know, we can give you some extra pointers on what to do.

There is probably some stuff I have left out, but if I think of it I will post as it comes to me.
excellent info...thanks!

I was thinking of attending that clinic, but we have 4 LQA's and clinics this month alone already! Our county requires only one LQA regardless of what species it's for to cover all animals, but I like the kids to attend a clinic for each animal they show...and with them showing broilers, layers, fancy, and turkeys this year, perhaps we would be better served to attend the larger poultry clinic up at OSU.

Now...there is no way I am raising those five toms in my basement until 4 months old....so, they will be going outdoors as soon as they are ready. How much will being on grass affect breast condition vs being on shavings? Keeping in mind with the hoop house they will be moved daily, so clean ground each day...should be ok?

is the feed I plan to use as a starter. I spoke with one of their reps at the Ohio Nationals and was pretty impressed with what went into their feed compared to the larger brands. I have a local dealer, so that makes it pretty easy for me. It's either that or Purina or Tiz-Wiz feeds...so I figure why not give them a shot. I plan to use this same feed on the kids' broilers this year, and fisnish them off with their finisher...nice high protien and fat, so it should work pretty well...I hope!...lol

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