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Thinking of Trying Turkeys? Some Tips For Raising a Small Flock

| 11/5/2018 9:32:00 AM

Mobile Turkey Shelter

Editor’s Note: This article is a corrected version of an article previously posted, which incorrectly used the label “heritage”.

Be it out of curiosity or naivety, we decided to do a trial run of raising a backyard flock of turkeys for a summer. We already had a large flock of backyard chickens that laid plenty of egg to supply our needs with extras left over to sell to friends and neighbours.

So we were not complete novices when it came to poultry. But turkeys are not chickens. To borrow from Joel Satalin, the turkeyness of the turkey is not the same as the chickenness of the chicken. Beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter, these two species of birds have different behaviours and requirements.

As a result of our backyard turkey trial, we’ve learned some lessons and wish to pass along some key tips to anyone else who is considering raising their own Thanksgiving dinner. But before I proceed to the tips, I’ll quickly lay out the logistics of our turkey setup.

First, we ordered six-day-old turkey poults from a hatchery. Not the standard, big-breasted, flightless kind, but seven Artisan Gold turkeys, a breed with a tendency to roam and roost. Second, for the first four weeks we kept the turkey poults in a brooder before moving them outdoors to a mobile shelter.

11/12/2018 9:46:57 PM

Thank you for clarifying what a true heritage breed is. There always seems to be more for a person to learn, especially for turkey novices! I hope we will be able to source a true heritage breed in the future.

11/8/2018 10:54:39 AM

True heritage breed turkeys take far longer to mature than 16 weeks. These birds are NOT heritage turkeys. For information on actual heritage breefs, I highly recommend looking at the non-profit Livestock Conservancy's website, for correct information, descriptions of actual heritage breeds, and links to breeders. It's often hard to get authentic heritage breed stock from large hatcheries.

11/8/2018 10:35:38 AM

Sadly, the Artisan Gold is NOT a "heritage" turkey but, rather, is a fast growing industrial hybrid. It is not a "breed" found in the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection as a variety of turkey and would not pass the USDA guidelines for use of the "heritage" name. Authentic "heritage" turkeys are very slow growing and require 6-8 months to reach harvest age and are able to breed naturally, unlike the Artisan Gold. I am saddened that a publication like this would not catch this and would harm the preservation of the birds with a true "heritage". (PS ... In the author's defense, Penn State put out an article falsely naming the Artisan Gold as "heritage")

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