What should I know about keeping turkeys?

trainman

Songster
5 Years
Jul 22, 2014
65
97
116
Huntsville, AR
I've raised chickens for many years but never had any turkeys. I'm giving thought to getting 5-6 Blue Slate turkeys to raise for the freezer and for breeding purposes. They will be kept separate from my chickens so I'll need some sort of shelter. I understand they need a different feed than my chickens too. I was told this breed likes to fly which may be an issue. I have a fence area available for them that's approx. 75'x85' they can free range in. How long does it take for them to reach butchering age? Thanks for your help!
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,220
39,116
1,141
Natrona County, Wyoming
I've raised chickens for many years but never had any turkeys. I'm giving thought to getting 5-6 Blue Slate turkeys to raise for the freezer and for breeding purposes. They will be kept separate from my chickens so I'll need some sort of shelter. I understand they need a different feed than my chickens too. I was told this breed likes to fly which may be an issue. I have a fence area available for them that's approx. 75'x85' they can free range in. How long does it take for them to reach butchering age? Thanks for your help!
Poults need a high protein turkey or game bird starter. The one I use is 28% protein turkey or game bird starter. Purina makes 30% protein gamebird and turkey startena. The things that these type of feeds have in common is that in addition to the higher protein content, they also have a higher lysine, methionine and niacin content which is necessary for the proper start to life that turkey poults need. The turkey starter feed is recommended for the first 6 to 8 weeks followed by a turkey or game bird grower for the next 6 weeks. The grower is typically around 24% protein with not quite as high levels of lysine, methionine and niacin.

After those 12 to 14 weeks, the poults can be put on an adult feed. I use a 20% protein all flock feed that has higher levels of lysine, methionine and niacin than normal chicken feed supplemented by free choice oyster shell.

Adult turkeys can be fed a quality chicken feed.

I find that a 6' tall fence that does not have a top bar or rail does a good job keeping my turkeys in. A top bar or rail is an attractive perch site. Turkeys that perch on top of a fence will invariably get down on the wrong side of the fence and then pace back and forth trying to figure out how to get back in.

A three sided building with the back towards the prevailing wind can be beneficial. They need a place where they can get out of the wind and also have shade from the sun. My turkeys have access to my chicken coop but roost outside at night in all kinds of weather. Their roosts are on the east side of the coop where they are protected from the prevailing SW winds. The area is also protected on the north by a retaining wall for my garden.

You can process them at whatever age that you want to but the younger that you process them, the smaller the carcass will be. For a full size carcass in the 20 lb. dressed range for a tom, they need to be about a year old.
 

Molpet

Crossing the Road
Premium member
Sep 7, 2015
7,931
29,875
872
New Lenox township. Illinois USA
My Coop
My Coop
What r2elk said
They need 10 sgft in the coop and 100 sgft in the run each minimum. They prefer to sleep in my trees. The first couple of years I would go out an hour before sundown and keep them out of the trees and off the coop. This year I had 30+ and gave up. Adults are fairly safe in trees except for ice storms. Poults are easy targets for predators and fragile.
Treats or last feeding in coop and locking them in, helps to train them to go in the coop.
At 6 months my heritage jakes dress out 10-12 lbs
 

trainman

Songster
5 Years
Jul 22, 2014
65
97
116
Huntsville, AR
Thanks for the good info. I wasn't aware they needed such a high protein diet. Interesting! Are the Blue Slates a good bird to stat out with?
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,220
39,116
1,141
Natrona County, Wyoming
Thanks for the good info. I wasn't aware they needed such a high protein diet. Interesting! Are the Blue Slates a good bird to stat out with?
Blue Slates are fine to start with. Be aware that they do not breed true. Breeding a blue slate to a blue slate will produce 50% blue slates. 25% self blue (aka lavender) and 25% blacks. Of course the percentages may not come out exactly if you don't hatch sufficient quantities.
 
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