First I would like to say welcome to the MEN forum!
Turkeys... I am assuming that you are getting the meat type as in Broad Breasted White or Bronze? They size up fast so they should get plenty big for you. We do ours the Saturday before Thanksgiving and let them sit in the refrigerator to 'age' until turkey day. You want to do them at least 2 days before you plan to eat them to get the rigor out. You will hear a lot of folks say that turkeys are harder to raise and more 'delicate' than chicks. I have not found this to be the case and pretty much treat them the same. Turkey poults do benefit from a higher protein feed than you would feed chicks. If you buy the feed, a gamebird starter would be better.
Turkeys have a different personality than chickens do, and can actually be very addictive. That being said, do not let your 5 1/2 year old get attached to them. If they are a Broad Breasted type, they don't make good pets long term. They do tend to get huge and their bones have a hard time supporting their weight. I free range mine as much as possible and try to keep the weight gain slower so their legs aren't as stressed. If you want to raise some later to keep your own flock, look at heritage types. They don't have as much meat as the BB types but won't get too big to move, come in beautiful colors, and can breed on their own without AI.
I am not an expert, but have been raising my own turkeys (both heritage and BB types) for about 17 years now. And don't say that I didn'tt warn you about them being addictive!
When will you be getting them?
we have heritage breeds coming- http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/rare_turkey_assortment.html
i am not sure we will have them in time for thanksgiving, maybe christmas? it's so late in the season already! will they be big enough at thanksgiving?
i feed my chickens my own mix of grains & egg shell that i throw through the food processor. they also get homemade yogurt for a treat at least 1x a week & fruit/veg scraps & free range, too. it sounds like the turkeys may need more than that though!
should i have separate housing for them right away when they are ready to go out? right now my chickens are in a large (raccoon proof) coop with a second floor nesting box. i thought the younger turkeys could go in there for the time being until they are larger (after they are ready to go out on their own that is...). we are moving soon and i was hoping to not have to build separate housing for them right away..... i could build at the new property though and drive out to them each day if i had to! thanks for the info frosty!
Ok, since you said 'meat turkeys' I assumed you were talking about BB types... heritage are a bit slower growing. Just play it by ear and see when you think they are big enough, how many are you planning on cooking for? If just a small family, you may be able to do one for Thanksgiving. You might consider holding some for breeding stock. You will love them!
As far as running them with the chickens... first check either with local folks or your local ag extension service to see if 'Blackhead' is a problem in your area. If other people in the area have turkeys and chickens together, then likely it won't be a problem. Blackhead is a protozoan parasite or something like that, chickens can carry it with no symptoms but it can be deadly to turkeys. Otherwise, just make sure the turkeys are big enough before you add them to the flock. Chickens are neat, but they can be incredibly mean. Having only 9 chickens, it probably won't be as much of a problem... Once the turkeys are old enough to free range, I just put out feed so they remember that this is home. Other than that, they can forage for most of their feed. Gamebird starter is usually 28% protein, you can possibly add egg yolk to boost protein in your feed.
And please let me know what kinds you have once you figure it out! Currently I have some 1 1/2 year olds: 2 White Holland toms, 5 White Holland hens, 1 Bourbon Red tom, one Regal Red tom, 1 Broad Breasted Bronze hen and 11 Broad Breasted Whites from this year. They are just awesome birds! Very curious... One more point that I wanted to mention: Turkeys are attracted to shiney things and peck at them. This can include childrens eyes, so don't leave the little ones around the turkeys unsupervised once the turkeys get bigger. They aren't trying to be mean, they are just curious.
Thanks for letting me know about the eyes! I'll try to keep them in a separate area. As it is right now the chickens have free range over our 1/2 acre which is completely fenced in at the property lines & the chickens can go into the kids 'playground' etc with them. Our kids have made pets of their chickens & the chicks will sit down next to my 5 year old & wait to be petted.... they may expect the same love from the turkeys & what a disaster that could be! As my 5 year old keeps saying the chickens are part of our family the turkeys will be food- so we'll nicely treat them as such. Now, wait 'til I have to work on obtaining & caring for "bacon pig". No joke.
I'll check into blackhead. We have chickens from so many places-- an online hatchery, a local farmers son who raises and sells the pullets & a freind who has an organic farm near us gave the girls 3 birds one day at a play date (she had the kids catch them, shoved them into a box & put them in our trunk!) I'm a bit nervous about all the sources & the possibility of the chickens picking something up before they got here. Another reason to keep them separate.
One more question- Do the turkeys need to be locked up at night as the chickens do?
I don't think blackhead passes through the egg, so the chicks from the hatchery probably didn't come with it. If other folks in your area have chickens and turkeys on the same premises, it may not be a problem. I have been running chickens and turkeys together for years and never had a problem.
As far as needing to pen them at night, that depends on your predator load. They tend to roost high up in trees if you don't catch them in time. The only turkeys that I have lost to predators were a hen sitting on eggs (raccoon attack) and two one year during the day, probably to a fox. We did have an owl picking wild turkeys out of the trees one year, but that was after a blizzard and other food was probably scarce.
Speaking of free ranging turkeys, keep in mind that they can fly and they do like to wander. You can clip the flight feathers on one wing to keep them in, but that also makes the more vulnerable if a predator goes after them.
If you have any apple trees, you can feed them lots of apples before you 'harvest' them, makes for some tasty, juicy meat. If you have any fruit trees, they will clean up any fallen fruit which cuts down on yellow jackets. They are also great for grass hopper control, and I have seen them walk down the potato rows picking off potato beetles. Some people say that they do a lot of damage in a garden, mine didn't. They would just sneak up behind me and talk amongst themselves when I went out to weed.
I don't know what your climate is like but they are tolerant of a wide variety of weather conditions. I had some 3 month olds that had temps in the 90's one day, a few days later it was below freezing and they were caught out in a blizzard that dumped 15" of snow. They straggled in a few at a time over the next few days, but they did all make it. I was pleasantly surprised...
on the new property, it will only be 3 acres (up from 1/2 though). i will need to deer fence the property in anyway & i had planned on planting a small orchard (we have one here now too). on our orchard here i tried apples with poor results.... i also went through 5 years of being unable to spray anything, including kaolin & fish emulsion, so that probably added to the pain those trees felt & my DH had many other things on his mind than our trees. Now with the 2 kids older, the 2 year old weaned i can touch all that stuff again.
how high do they fly? i'll need to find a few trees on the lot to leave at one spot for them. inside the deer fence i was going to pen them into the new orchard with 6' poultry wire & grape posts (lost of vineyards here to get them from). great point about the apples though, our orchard is yellow jacket free thanks to our little feathered buddies. maybe i can grow our potato inbetween the fruit tree rows & let the turkeys go wild with beetles, too. DH grew up on a long island potato farm & he'd get a kick out of the city girl growing potatoes in such a crazy way! tell him the only pest control i need is a turkey! hmmm. he might turn me into the extension police for a frivolous lack of toxins (all joking aside- he is as much anti-pesticide as i am)
i also planned on letting the chickens have the veggie garden in the winter, and have them free in another area for the season. we planned on planting buffalo grass for our lawn & letting them go crazy in that during the growing season.
when we bring new chickens home i clip their wings 1X, they get to know home & we haven't had a wanderer since the first one took off on us- which is why i started clipping the newbies in the first place. i guess i could try it with the turkeys too.
thanks for all of your advice frosty!
Hello all! I am new here & fairly new at being home with my family & self-sufficiency full-time. Last year we purchased our first flock of chickens- for eggs. We've had a good amount of luck, and a good amount (imho) of loss in our endeavor. We now have 9 chickens, a mix of breeds including some bantams (silkies). We are in the process of selling our rural-suburban home & moving to a nearby town onto a 3 acre lot that we plan on running our business from during the season & growing more of our own food. This will include my 5 1/2 year olds idea to sell eggs at her own farm stand (so more chickens will be on the way next year) and she would also like to grow her own "meat turkeys". I have 15 turkeys on the way that hopefully will be ready late this fall for what we are calling 'harvest' (someone will come in and do that for us).
So, these turkeys are on the way- could any experienced turkey growers give me some suggestions, tips, things I really should know before they get here this week? I always have the option of growing them on to a certain point and letting them finish off at a friends 'agri-tourism' farm with her turkeys, if needed. Will the chickens & turkeys- free ranging be an issue, together?
Much thanks & look forward to any help that can be leant!
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