Spring isn’t just a time for baby chicks. One of my favorite birds to raise is turkeys. Especially heritage breed turkeys.
For the last two years we have raised our own Thanksgiving dinner. It starts by heading to the feed store and purchasing baby turkeys. I have raised Red Bourbon, Naragansett and Chocolate. The breed which had the most personality were the Naragansetts. The Tom would follow me around the yard and come when I called. If he saw me go into the house he would come and knock on the door so he could follow me around. He made me fall for raising turkeys. That and the delicious meals we shared with friends.
Raising turkeys starts out much like raising chicks. We kept them in a brooder until they feathered out. Their food is unmedicated starter feed, upgraded later to high protein organic turkey feed. Do not feed them straight chicken feed as they need more protein than chickens. They also go through a lot of water and need fresh water every day.
Turkeys have a farther wander range than chickens. Often they fly out of their pen, whose walls are 5″ high, and wander around the yard. And when our five acres wasn’t fenced, they wandered across the road to visit my neighbor. They aren’t loud like guinea birds or roosters, but they are pretty vocal. And nothing of height is sacred, like the car or the hood of the truck. When I would go to close them in their coop at night for protection from a racoons and a local coyote pack, they were often found on the roof of the barn. Turkeys typically roost in trees, so any housing they have should have a high roost available to them.
They also get big. Fast. By November our birds go from the size of your hand when you get them in April to 15-20+ pounds.
If you are considering turkeys, check your local ordinances to make sure you are allowed to keep them. Remember, they wander and can easily get over fences. One option is to clip their wings, but that can also inhibit their ability to get away from predators (cats, fox, the family dog). Another option is a pen with a lid to deter predators and keep the birds safe at night.
While we raise our birds for meat, turkeys are also good for eggs, to eat bug pests in the garden with causing the damage scratching chickens do. If you want turkeys for pets, I suggest having at least two as they are a flock animal, and you should know they can live for 10-15 years!
Luckily, in the age of the internet we have access to lots of information. If you are considering adding turkeys do some research to find if they are a good fit for you. And if you do take the plunge, enjoy! You will not be lacking in a source for entertainment.