Taking Care of Turkeys in Winter

| 12/3/2015 1:48:08 PM

Tags: heritage livestock, poultry, turkeys, off grid living, Victoria Redhed Miller, Washington,

Our farm after a typical November snowfall.

We live in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains in northwest Washington state. At our elevation of about 1000', we typically get a fair amount of snow between November and February. An average winter would include a lot of nights with temperatures in the 20s, some nights in the teens and often a week or so in single digits in December. We have been raising free-range chickens here since 2007, and turkeys and ducks since 2008.

We are also off the grid, so we don't use things like heat lamps in the coops. In fact, none of our coops are heated or insulated. So how do we keep our birds warm and comfortable during freezing weather?

One important consideration is breed selection. Some turkeys (as well as other poultry) are more cold-hardy than others. If you live in an area with harsh winters, do try to find a breed known to be cold-hardy. It's also a good idea to talk to others in the area who have some experience raising turkeys, and get their advice.

Old Tom out in the snow.

With chickens, usually a main concern is frostbitten combs. I wondered myself, with their bare heads and large wattles, about how our Midget White turkeys would manage when we had days with the temperature staying below freezing. At the time I could not find anything in books or blogs about this, so we just had to learn from experience. Turns out, the turkeys were just fine. We didn't do anything special to help prevent frostbite. However, there are a few tips I can give you that have proven consistently useful.

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