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#80574 - 01/06/05 07:20 AM Thinking about raising some turkeys...

Last night, I read through the first several chapters of Storey's Guide to Raising Turkeys, and I have a few questions.

I have a snow-shed that I use to cover my firewood in the winter. Basically, it looks like a tall range shelter, but is permanent in location. It's like a small pole barn if that makes more sense. Imagine a 10' wide, by 16' long rectanglular structure with 4 posts, supporting beams and joists, covered by a tin roof. The roof is pitched, to facilitate the sliding snow. Currently, this structure is full of wood. But by May, it will be empty (or almost empty), leaving 160 sq. ft. of unused space. The ground is a bare, well drained rocky soil under the roof.

I am thinking, I could install some roosts, surround the three open sides in heavy wire fencing, and raise a couple turkeys to butchering size in this area. I would need to create some roll down siding (tarps) for wet or windy events in the early summer, but by end of June, early July, I think they'd be pretty comfy and have plenty of space.

What do you think, would this type of structure suffice for the 18-20 weeks that I'll be raising some dinner-table gobblers?

I think this structure will work, based on my past experience with broiler chickens. But having never raised turkeys, I wanted to ask around...

Also, about feed. Is the chick starter, chick grower and broiler rations I have used on chickens, also correctly balanced for turkeys? It has a picture of a turkey on the bag... but maybeI need to speak with my local feed stores about turkey specific rations?

Laying - at what age do hen turkeys lay? I am not interested in the eggs, but if I am raising turkey hens long enough before buther, that they come into lay, I would just as soon make sure they have nest box.

It appears that BBB and Giant Whites are the preferred heavy, meat breeds. Are there others?

Which hatcheries do you recommend? And, do the hatcheries trim the beak as the Storey's Guide suggested they would?


#80575 - 01/06/05 07:35 AM Re: Thinking about raising some turkeys...
Rob2 Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 03/28/03
Posts: 3068
Loc: Pennsylvania
Sounds like the perfect turkey shelter and idea. Maybe Jennifer will address the feeds & feeding. My Kardosh strain bronze are nicely filled in the breast area, more so than the Blacks but I would guess the factiry type turks will have better gain ratios if that is desired. The herutage breeds will take longer to acquire a finished carcass and may get in the way of storing the new wood supply.

#80576 - 01/06/05 09:07 AM Re: Thinking about raising some turkeys...

Thanks for the reply, rob.

I didn't mention the new wood supply, but have been thinking of it, too. I'll need to stockpile the rounds I harvest through the summer, then butcher most of the birds in mid October, so I can split and stack the wood before the snow flies. The last bird may have to stay in a nearby, vacant dog run, right up until turkey day so the fam and I can have a farm fresh, unfrozen turkey for the big day... or maybe we'll just settle on a previously frozen, farm raised gobbler... I'll play that one by ear and do what feels right for the bird.

Again, thanks for the reply.

#80577 - 01/06/05 10:09 PM Re: Thinking about raising some turkeys...
Graciel Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 423
Loc: New York
Hi, J. For feed, you really should use turkey starter, or gamebird starter. Turkeys really need the high protein that those two have. They do have slightly different needs than chickens for minerals, too. When you want big gains from those commercial types, you really have to get the right feed down them. While you probably won't kill them off using the lower protein feeds, you might get some leg problems going, and that means culling a bird early.

Hens will lay at around 7 months or when the next spring rolls around. Turks are pretty good layers for the most part. You can easily get 80-100 eggs from a lot of them. If you start them in the spring to butcher in the fall you won't get any eggs. Too young for that.

The shed sounds good. One thing to remember with poults is they tend to be delicate longer than chickens, so you can't get them outside without protection as fast as you can a chicken. Once they are acclimated and hit their stride they are darned hard to kill and take more abuse than chickens, but until they are feathered out they are easier to lose. Also, be sure to have roosts available even for quite young birds. Turks have a habit of piling into corners and on top of each other, smothering the ones underneath, if conditions aren't to their liking. Damp litter is a killer for them, because they'll pile to get away from it. If they have roosts, then they get up off the litter and are happy, and nobody smothers. Notice I don't say dirty litter. You can have clean litter underneath them and think things are fine, but they will not like it if it's damp. The roosts are a must unless you have very few of them or else perfect conditions.

As to varieties, the commercial BB types you mention are the most common in the feed stores. They grow one heck of a turkey by fall! If you go for the heritage types you need to order early as they've been popular the last few years and supply doesn't keep up with them so well. Just don't wait until April or May to order of they may be sold out. Kardosh strain Bronzes are one of the better meat types of the heritage variety birds. If you want huge birds, go with the commercial BBs. If you want a heritage type, any will do but you'll get a smaller bird, is all. And you DON'T want to start them late or you'll be having smaller birds for Thanksgiving. BBs you can start in June or even July and get large birds by November. With heritage birds, shoot for April if you can. You should be able to get a 20# tom for Thanksgiving with a start that early.

There is absolutely no need to trim a turkey's beak. They don't pick like chickens do. Can't imagine why they say to trim them.

Lots of hatcheries carry turks now. And quite a few are drop shipped. Probably doesn't make much difference in long run, although some people seem to gripe about it. Privett, Ideal, Murray, McMurray, Cackle, Calico Woods, Meyers, etc. and many more. Calico Woods and Privett raise for a lot of the other hatcheries, I think. Oh, and Mike Walters' hatchery is another one. I think he's at Something like that.

You probably asked more but Im up too late tonight. smile


#80578 - 01/07/05 07:36 AM Re: Thinking about raising some turkeys...

Jennifer -

Excellent reply. Thank you! I think that answered all of my questions. I will check today if my local suppliers carry game bird or turkey starters, growers and finishing rations. I suspect they will, or may be willing to order them for me.

Thanks for the list of hatcheries. I have ordered chicks from McMurray and Ideal in the past, and was pretty happy with both. I'll check the others and probably place my order next month... shooting for an april arrival.

I have a good, home-made brooder that will work very well for the small number of poults I am considering, and I can keep them in the brooder for several weeks. The brooder is in a fully enclosed shed (no drafts) and I can add roosts to it for their comfort. 250 watt heat lamp should suffice for warmth. I just have to burn up all my wood and make adjustments to the snow shed, before the poults are busting out of of the brooder. With the winter we're having, getting through the wood is no challenge - but making adjustments to the shed will be difficult (lots of snow to move). I'll just hope for an early thaw.

I will probably go with a small mix of heritage and commercial birds (hoping to get at least one tom from each variety).

Of course, I still have to sell my wife on all this. She's just now getting over the addition of chickens to our lives, almost three years ago... and I suspect turkeys are going to be a larger pill for her to swallow. But I know how much she and the kids like turkey... so mabe she'll be into it smile

Thanks again!


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