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Wanting to get turkeys, but I'm at a toss up.

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by orumpoultry, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 30, 2012
    Trinity, TX
    Okay guys, I was cleared to get four turkeys to attempt my hand at something OTHER than chickens and ducks this year. Seeing as I've had no luck with ducks, I'm super excited. But, I'm at a toss up. I'm looking at three completely different breeds, and before I tell you what they are I'll tell you what I'm planning on doing with them.

    Eventually, I'd like to be able to show them. If it's at all possible. I would like them to be easy keepers, and do well in hot and humid climates. Hopefully good mothers, if they sit on they're own, and rapid growth. I do not want something that's going to be on the table in 12 weeks, but I would like to have something that has a pretty strong growth rate. Good clean out, and good with confinement. The pen I have built is a 7w x 7l x 5h, and I'm going to add a 'run' as needed for the number of birds I'm alotted ( although, I plan on building bigger eventually. I'm thinking a run size of 10x20 should work wonderfully? Do they need flight pens? Also, what is the best place to put the nest boxes? I've got one 2x3x3 box on the ground where the run is going to be. It's completely enclosed with an opening lid. Hoping to use that for my broody's, if they get there eventually. One tom, three hens. Good ratio? Also, I'm hoping for something that's not overly talkative.

    I'm looking at...

    Royal Palm's - I like the look. I think they're beautiful birds.
    Narragansette's - Again, I like the look. These birds would 'blend' better with the surroundings.
    OR
    Bourbon Red's - I am highly fascinated with this breed. I know they're more commonly used as meat birds, but I do believe that they would be easy to raise here. Also, I've read that their numbers are declining. I'd like to help raise those numbers back up. I'm hoping to stick with a more rare breed.

    Or am I looking for the invisaturkey? LOL! [​IMG] Tell me one of these birds will be a good starter breed. I've only had minimal contact with turkeys. Probably only raised six in my lifetime, and they were all BBW's.

    ETA: If I don't do a covered run, what is a good height size for fencing?
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  2. FarmTillURdead

    FarmTillURdead Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In my (humble!) opinion I think you could keep a pair of birds in a 7X7 pen with a run. Turkeys are active birds just like chickens and enjoy being busy. A strutting Tom of any of these breeds is 2 feet wide with all his feathers out. If you don't want broken feathers you are going to need to have lots of room. They also leave poos the size of dog turds. A small pen would need to be cleaned weekly to keep from having foot problems or worms. Especially, with more then 2 or 3 birds. (something I had never thoguht about until they got big and found myself upset with the mess in my last coop.) In rainy weather lock downs I would have to clean my coop every three days or the ammonia would make my nose tingle.
    I free range mine behind a 4 foot tall woven wire fence on about 5 acres and I currenly have all of the breeds you have listed. They are only in the coop at night or in bad weather.
    When they are young they can still fly over a 4 foot fence, with wings clipped, on one side... or both! - until they get too heavy or learn they don't like being seperated from the herd. They can pretty much jump that high. I have a Border Collie who rounds them up for me - I got tired of checking for "birds out" every half hour during the day and catching them myself.
    I like turkeys better than chickens as a meat bird because you get so much more meat for the labor involved. It takes me just as long to process a chicken as a whole turkey.
    As for the variety - I find all the demeanors about the same. The more attention they get the less flighty they are. Broodyness seems to be luck. In my years I have only seen 2 or 3 broody hens.
    I am incubating eggs this year due to the cost of purchasing poults each year. At 8 to 9 bucks each it seems silly not too. Pick something you enjoy looking at. I use to want to help with the endangered species also - but I plan on eating them - so I am really only making the hatchery money - not saving the species as my birds only have a short stay here. [​IMG] I am currently cross breeding my birds for a stonger strain and for the fun of colors I have never seen. It does take a turkey a year to be a good egg layer.
    All that work is well worth a 16 pound carcass smoking on the grill and listening to the Toms drum and gobble each day. I don't want to steer you away from them - I just want you to share that they need space and that they poo.... A LOT! If anything after you taste a homegrown turkey your number of chickens will go down and the number of turkeys will go up.
    I have posted a review on all three of varieties in the "breeds" section of the forum with some photos of all three of these varieties togther in a group. It may help you decide on what you like.
    Good luck! It's worth it!
    If you have questions please feel free to ask! I love talking turkey! [​IMG]
     
  3. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well I have the option of completely fencing in about 1/2 an acre for them. It has a small 'stream' that is the run off from our showers and washer/dryer we set up to go to the garden... A garden that we never got around to planting! Haha. Building a bigger pen is no problem for me, I love trying to figure out how to throw something together. I was just hoping that I could use my 7x7 for them, because it's already built and right where they would be going. Now, it's only sided on two sides with the other two being wire... So adding on to it would not be a problem for me, at all, and it would give me a good enough excuse to fix the shoddy roof from a branch landing on it during a storm. I'll probably just end up revamping it and turning it into a grow out pen. Really, if I go for looks over anything, I'm going to go with the Royal Palms. They are just beyond beautiful birds for me. I'm absolutely obsessed with them. Almost got a tom last year for $10, but I had NO idea where I was going to put him. Glad I didn't because I still am trying to figure out where to put them. I would REALLY like to have three hens and a tom, so I guess I'm going to have to go through the boards and find out what size pen to throw up for them for at night. I'm thinking a roost at 4 1/2 feet with a ramp to it should do them up right? Without any problems if they jump down instead of climb down?

    Now, I raise game chickens, so it wouldn't be anything for me to set a few turkey eggs under one of them as they sit pretty regular. In fact, my crooked toed claret hen is trying to sit right now! I also have two incubators that I could set up if need be. And an old cabinet incubator we used to use for our Emu. So I know it would be big enough.

    But, back to the pen... I really have no issues fencing in that little half acre, or even 1/4 acre area for them. How big, exactly, are your nest boxes for the Royal Palms? Do they dress out well? Everything I'm reading on them is showing that they're more ornamental than anything. But, the BR's seem to be a good choice as well. I guess I need to keep reading, haha. Now, I was looking at some turkey pens mid thought just now...

    [​IMG]

    I noticed that these pens look rather short next to those birds... and it looks like a 4 ft fence! But also kind of flimsy!

    [​IMG]
    VS This pen, which looks like it may be a 6 or 7 ft height?

    [​IMG]
    Or would something like this, I'm guessing a 5 ft, be more appropriate? I'd prefer to have an uncovered pen for them.... Also, COLORFUL!

    But, based on all of the pens I've looked at.. I'm wanting an open pen, approximately 5'5" tall, and idk how big I want to build it. I may even end up using cattle pannels for the pens. I just spoke with my poultry partner (DMother) about all of this. She seems to think we should start off with a smaller breed. Like the Royal Palms. She is also worried that it may be hard to come by the Narragansetts here in our part of TX, unless they're able to be purchased via hatchery?
     
  4. FarmTillURdead

    FarmTillURdead Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Turkeys eat a lot of grass. Will that bother you with your soap run off? It could be toxic in large doses. I'm a fabric softener junkie - so we had to give up the best most beautiful pasture here just to watch grass grow. I thought about using organic soaps but I still have to use bleach and was oily rags and other weird stuff. - Just a thought.
    Your 7x7 pen will get you by for a long time as they grow - but as adults you could really use more room. I mean - commercial birds stand cheek to cheek in houses - so it's up to you what you think about how much room you need. It is important to start them out and keep them in this pen for a few weeks no matter how bad you want to let them out. Then only let them out for a few hours at a time at first. So they know how to get in and out without getting lost.

    If Royal Palms float your boat... Get them! Enjoy yourself!! That's what we do all this crazy stuff! I have Royal Palms and they do dress out nice but they are a little smaller in size compared to the RB and the Narragansett. But one or two pounds may not matter to you. We survive on our birds and after processing 20 of them - it added up to me! ...so I am sticking to the bigger birds. A Royal Palm hen dresses out at 6 pounds - about the size of a large chicken. They fit in the smoker back to back quite well! My Toms dressed out at about 10. They are over fed and have an inch of fat over the breast. It makes for a very moist breast!
    [​IMG]
    About your roost - 4 1/2 feet is too high. Yeah - they can do it but as a Tom gets big it's going to be more dangerous for him to get up and down without risking leg injury (or neck - I had a Tom break his neck jumping down out of some rafters - so I have clipped wings ever since.). I keep my perches at thigh level. I don't want to get pecked in the eye (nah - would never happen - but I have a cartoon brain). I have been beat in the nose PLENTY of times by my birds jumping up to my perches. I think they know how to beat those wing tips on my nose. I swear this isn't a lie. Actually, you don't want them to exercise their flying or jumping ability as it make it easier for them to get over fences. Keep them low - they won't mind. They like a nest about 2 feet off the ground. I use a recycleing bin screwed to the perch and the wall. It has good sturdy sides and won't tip or crush when they stand on the edges. I screwed through a board in the bottom of the nest box to anchor it to the perch so the screws don't work their way out.
    The birds in the first photo are behind a temparary fence. If that was their regular fence those mature Toms would be strutting at those folks - The guy with the camera is likely new. You can see all the birds studying the fence.
    The second fence is - yep 6 or 7 feet tall and that's great if you can afford it! It would eliminate LOTS of fly overs without clipping wings and with clipped wings it should be eliminated all together. Expense is the issue on that one. I'd do it in a heart beat if I could but I have goats who like to climb at my fence too.
    The last photo are (most likely) broad breasted whites. Their heavy breasts keep them from even trying (but they look like they could still). The grass on the outside of the pen is smashed down from on-lookers but the grass inside hasn't been used. These birds aren't in this pen that much or the grass would be pecked short from daily use. Perhaps they haven't figured it out yet.
    I use a 4 foot woven goat wire fence. I keep the birds penned up when they are small and widen the pen with chicken wire until they are big enough "get stuck" in the fence or at least slow them down. And yes, this is idiotic - I spend a month checking for escapees a few times a day. They won't go far from the rest of the flock unless they have time to learn to wonder off. I know it can be fixed by another layer of chicken fence a foot high around the bottom. I have a few acres fenced off so I can't afford that. I just have to wrangle birds until they are too big to squeeze through the holes.
    Why not get smaller holes? I got that "Red Brand" fence with the two inch holes and it fell appart in 6 months. All the welds rotted and strips fell out and chickens were everywhere. I was so thankful it was a roll of temperary fence I used to expand their yard with. Perhaps It was just a bad roll - worth making a post about. I wouldn't use chicken wire because an attempt to roost at the top would crush it. I still get the occasional fly over but they want to stay with their friends and usually walk the fence line back and forth trying to get back in. The Toms are too heavy at a year old to attempt to fly.
    A lot of trial and error goes into turkeys.... but it's so worth it! The fence is the most expensive part - but it's a one time investment. The nice part about bird fence is that it doesn't have to hold pigs or goats. It doesn't take much to put it up. Fence posts are 5 bucks each and it's nice to get to spread them out some!

    I use Cackle Hatchery out of Lebanon Missouri. I am pretty sure they will ship to texas but they have a minimum number of birds to purchase for warmth. I had birds delivered when it was 14 degrees out and they were fine - I have never had a dead bird in my order. There usually is loss later - I think these breeds are a little inbred from hatcheries - and most people running adds get them from hatcheries too... so expect to lose 2 if you order 5. (I do anyway - but I run a medicine free farm.)

    I hope this helps you out some. I'm no expert... I started out just like you... until I ate one... and then it was all obsession after that! Just have fun with it! Your determined so it will always work out! [​IMG]
     
  5. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 30, 2012
    Trinity, TX
    Well, I live 6 miles from a lumber yard and I can have it made to order. It gets expensive, but I want to put something up ONCE and be done with it. Haha. I'm definitely going to revamp the 7x7. Just in case I 'stumble' on a young pair to get me started. I last used it to raise some piglets. So, it definitely needs to be cleansed. The run off can be rerouted as it's poorly made. One of those, I'm going to throw up a ditch here! Type of things. I've been stalking threads, but you've been very helpful. Thank you!

    It'll be another few months before I'm ready for them, as I currently have over 40 chicks in the brooders... with more on the way! AND I'm already building pens, and putting up a new 'pole barn style' coop for my chickens. If I like how it turns out, and end up liking turkeys as much as I believe I'm going to, I will end up building them one. I'm not really finding a standard to go off of for pen sizes, so I guess I'll just have to see how they look in what they get. Most likely, I'm going to put up 2x4 welded wire for them... It's kind of flimsy if you're planning on leaning on it, but it's affordable and is what I have up for all of my chicken runs.

    In your experience, how do the different breeds stack up with heat? In this portion of TX summers can get 112 in the shade for weeks at a time.

    ETA: I don't have a whole lot of grass on my land. We're mainly wooded, just now able to start clearing in large portions. What little grass we have started coming up this year. We plant every year with little luck, especially with summers like we've had.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  6. FarmTillURdead

    FarmTillURdead Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have never lost a bird to heat - yet. Kansas summers are rough - but your humidity off the gulf might make it worse. I um... am a sensitive person... and I don't care for excessive heat so when it's 98 degrees and over and I see my birds laying about panting... we have a sprinkler PARTY! [​IMG]

    I set up the "rain bird" LOL! and throw scratch out... for 10 to 15 minutes at the hottest time of the day my birds scratch in the sprinkler to cool off. It works great! They all go lay in the sun and sun bathe after. I find it amazing their heads don't get sunburnt and blister.
    [​IMG]
    We had some 300 dollar water bills last summer with the garden and all. No, this isn't necessary. It just makes me happy.
    Won't be doing so much of this year - too expensive! Shade and some air flow and they should be alright. I have a concrete floor in my coop and they lay all over that because it's cool. I just have to scrape it up every other day or so. The heat dries up poos quick.
    I also freeze sour cream tubs or large cheap cups of water in my freezer and slide them into the waterer so they have cool water to drink. I also think the big hunks of ice help cool the coop at night. (just a little bit).
    We installed a solar fan to move air through the coop all summer. It was expensive - but I never have to worry about it again. I also painted the coop white to help keep it cool.
    I like your style! I like to build like you do too! It gets stuff done! Let me know how you progress! I think you will enjoy this adventure and yep - turkeys are so awesome! I like chickens and all but turkeys aren't so spastic. Much more laid back and my speed - but I still will always have chickens.
     
  7. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 30, 2012
    Trinity, TX
    I freeze fruits in ice blocks for my chickens, and put them in two inch deep water in kiddie pools. [​IMG]

    My hens are a LOT spoiled. But, my birds are a business to me. So they have to be...

    Also, how fast do they grow? My brooder pens are built to house 20 chicks happily for six weeks. After that they go out into the grow out coop... I figure turkeys are like, four times that size? Do you prefer medicated or non medicated feeds? I'm planning on using a 24% starter on them.
     
  8. FarmTillURdead

    FarmTillURdead Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh! that's an even better idea! I love the fruit in the blocks idea! [​IMG]
    I did corn in a water dish (not much) - but that didn't last long and my turkeys gave me dirty looks for it.
    [​IMG]
    This is my turkey brooder - I have an identical one for chickens. This year I wrapped the outside with saran/shrink wrap to keep the poo off my walls. That's an automotive drip pan for a tray. You can see the waterer in there to get an idea on the size of it. There are 23 turkeys in there in this photo. I will keep them in there for at least a month. It does get pretty packed but as they feather out I grab the ones with the most feathers and move them out to the coop as soon as I think they can handle the weather. It's chilly in the barn where I keep them - room air is about 53 degrees and I find they adjust to cooler temps faster when they can get in and out of the heat as they see fit (so I can get them out in the coop ASAP! I have to clean those trays daily!) I don't adjust light bulbs or anything. I want tough birds. One place is 100 degrees... they can sit there or with buddies to keep warm. It takes them the first day - but they figure it out.
    I have had cancer - so I am very anti-medicated feeds as I don't wish to consume it. We eat all the giblets. Farm liver isn't anything like store liver - when it's fried in turkey/chicken fat it puts it over the top! I use turkey gizzards to make chicken soups - looks like what I use to find in the bottom of a can of Campbles anyway. All of it together makes a nice patee'. Yeah - we eat weird stuff... but at least it's clean!
    I use a probiotic instead of an antibiotic. Like yogurt, keifer or just raw un-homonogized/pasturized with goat or cow milk. I have goats so there is always a fresh supply of probiotics for us all. (9 years stage 2 - cancer free this month!)
    I lose few poults each year not using medicated feeds (could have been uncooked beans) but I have seen other posts where people don't have this problem. I had two turkeys last year who ate the marbles in the water dish. (get bigger marbles or use rocks). I also find it helps to "remind" them to eat 2 or three times a day. Finger pecking at the dish can cause a feeding frenzy like they forgot they were hungry. (some folks don't have that issue either).
    I start my birds out eating broccoli, carrots and occsionally peas (steamed) at a very early age. Some veggies have stuff poultry can't digest. I prep them for garden foods. My first year I didn't do this and I couldn't get my chickens to eat anything other than bag feed. Just my prefrence. I think whole foods make for good tastey healthy meats! I grow a massive garden each year and what I run out of time to process is what they get. I am planting beans this year for them - but they have to be steamed at 180 for 15 min to break down a chemical in them that is toxic to them. I'll use my electric turkey frier on steam mode (I use it for scalding birds too). I figure I can pick 6 pounds of beans a day for them easy. I grow "asian long beans" - it's like picking 3 beans at once. They are over a foot long!
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012
  9. orumpoultry

    orumpoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 30, 2012
    Trinity, TX
    I may be in trouble when the DM comes over. There's a very good possibility I will be going to look at some Blue Slate's today. They're 5-6 months old and she only wants $25 for them. [​IMG]

    But, I'm waiting to hear back from her as she has someone coming to look at them this morning. I will have second choice... and there's only one tom left, SO, we will see.

    Congrats on the winning battle! My grandmother has been fighting cancer since before I was born. She's won the battle with several different types. - But, yeah, I see where you're coming from. I typically refuse medicated feeds. But I do still medicate my birds, with things I KNOW what they are and know the side affects from prolonged exposure... Etc. I don't have any good pictures of my brooders, because I don't feel proud enough of my rigged little things. LOL. But I'm about to go take a picture of my 7x7, probably throw one o the dogs in there, just to show you it's location and all. Mind you, it's kind of... crap. But it works to hold birds for a day or so while i get another pen built. Currently it's housing my 6 week olds during the day, but never at night. As it's just chicken wire. Let me go snap a few pictures and I'll throw them up.
     
  10. FarmTillURdead

    FarmTillURdead Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Crap? Those are crooked 2X4's we ripped in half on the table saw on my brooders!
    I love crap! I just disguise it! The big boards on the front cover gaps where the wood doesn't meet up.
    Someone thought my chicken coop was a "yurt" for my chickens. I just painted an old beat up, dented in, grain bin and slapped a 2x4 and chain link door on it. There isn't much point to having a lot of fancy stuff for birds... they just poop on it.
    Birds get NEAR it and it gets poop on it. [​IMG]
    I just like to pretend I am fancy - Trust me... It's all just a show!
    I made my goat stanchion out of old bunk beds boy scouts made. Paint just does wonders for stuff!
    You can't tell there are 3 colors of paint on the walls in that storage room in my parlor - I mixed indoor and outdoor paint together to get enough... it doesn't mix very good. I'll have to post some photos of my goat barn... You wouldn't believe the scaps of crap I have holding that thing together. I'd love to see your birds and where you will keep them! It is exciting you have the oppertunity to get older ones as you won't have to wait a year for them to lay.
    I lay in bed at night and imagine what I can stick together to hold more livestock... I like the layers of stuff people have tacked up on our goat barn for over 100 years. I think it's beautiful! It's basic human survival skills to scrap farm stuff together and to me that art is beautiful!
     

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