Turkey Production at Home

This excerpt from Jack Widmer's 1949 book "Practical Animal Husbandry" covers breeds, feeding, brooding methods, sanitation, and other topics relevant to turkey production at home.

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    The sun porch is one of the most practical approaches to producing disease-free turkeys. Add a small covered shed to the one in the photo—which is in a warm climate—and it becomes an ideal arrangement for almost any climate.
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    Here's an adaptable pen that will break broody turkeys and chickens. It can be structured in various sizes and is easily serviced from the outside.
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    These White Holland turkey hens are kept in trap nests to insure their pedigree. The attendant will write each bird's leg band number on its eggs before releasing it.
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    This sun porch can be built to accommodate any number of turkeys. Both feeder and waterer are easily filled from outside the pen; the slat floor facilitates cleaning. A small door is placed where turkeys can be readily caught with a leg wire.
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    Large producers start their turkey, chicken, and duck poults in elaborate starter batteries, but they're not really necessary for the small operator.

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Turkey Breeds

The prospective turkey raiser will have his choice of six major breeds. They are the Bronze, White Holland, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Black and Slate. Choice will depend on what varieties of poults are available, the size of the finished carcass desired, and personal preference concerning color. All breeds do well when produced on a small scale . . . however, if the fancier wished to butcher birds at a maximum of 25 pounds, he may select the Broad-Breasted Bronze. If, on the other hand, he prefers a bird that will dress out in the neighborhood of 20 pounds, he may select any of the other four breeds. The Broad-Breasted Bronze is an improved variety of the Bronze breed developed on the Pacific Coast, its distinguishing feature being that it produces more white meat per pound of dress weight than any of the other breeds. In the past few years this has become the most popular of all breeds and the beginner may very well start with these magnificent birds for they are hardy, do well on both range and in close confinement, and certainly present a handsome carcass. If on the other hand, unplucked pinfeathers that do not show are of importance (as they are in the kitchen of Toowoomba) then the choice may be the White Holland.   

Starting With Turkeys

Although the rearing of turkeys is much different from the rearing of chickens, the general principles of starting are the same. As with chickens, there are three major beginnings: [1] day-old poults, [2] "started" poults . . . six to eight weeks or older and [3] home-grown poults. This choice is up to the breeder, but unlike chickens, the beginner will find it much more difficult and considerably more expensive to produce home-grown poults than it was to produce home-grown chicks. It goes without saying that breeding turkeys will consume more feed than will the same number of breeding chickens (a full-grown tom will consume over 200 pounds of feed in a single year) and it is therefore not practical to keep breeding stock unless a minimum of 15 hens is maintained, or if the fancier is interested in producing "show stock," thus making the economical production of poults a secondary matter.   

Day-Old Poults

Assuming that the selection of breed has been determined, and again assuming that the beginner has contacted a reputable hatchery that produces a good strain of turkeys, then we are ready to start with our flock. First off, it might be wise to issue a word of warning as to how many poults to order. If we are not interested in the commercial side of turkey production (and we should not be unless we have had considerable experience in their rearing) it is not wise to purchase more than a dozen poults. A dozen mature turkeys will produce over 250 pounds of turkey meat which is considerably more than the average family can consume during the year regardless of how much help they receive from neighbors and relations. It must also be remembered that a turkey will eat at least 100 pounds of feed during his six months' residence on the farm which if multiplied by too large a factor soon becomes an expensive outlay. It might also be wise to note that a mere dozen poults do not require extensive housing and brooding arrangements whereas many more than that number will require considerable construction for their maintenance.

Great care should be exercised so that one will purchase poults from a "pullorum free" flock, for this disease is transmitted from turkey hens to poults and can only be controlled at the source of supply. When the poults arrive from the hatchery, they may be placed under turkey hens or better yet they may be placed in a factory or homemade brooder and kept at a temperature of from 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week or ten days. This temperature is gradually lowered until the poults are from 8 to 10 weeks of age when they require little if any heat. Naturally, outside temperature and humidity, general weather conditions, etc., will be a deciding factor and the turkey raiser will do well to control his heating arrangement by watching over the comfort of his poults rather than any hard and fast regulations concerning temperature.

Sand is considered the ideal litter for starting poults. This litter should be changed at least once per week and no substitute for sand should be used for at least the first three week. After that, wood shavings, clean wheat straw, peat moss or other litters may be substituted. Some turkey producers insist that no litter should be used; instead they maintain their poults on fine wire screen, contending that young gobblers are kept cleaner on wire than on litter and that if these wire screens are kept at least three inches above the floor level, then cleaning is no problem.

Yet regardless of what method is used, the beginner will experience considerable aggravation with the young birds when he attempts to feed them for the first time. Young poults will walk over feed dishes without seeing them and many breeders experience difficulty in teaching the poults to eat. Some recommend that all poults must have their beaks dipped into feed several times during the first day; others contend that feed should be kept on boards directly under the brooder and that the birds will eventually learn to eat. No matter which method is employed, it is recommended that young poults be watched closely so that the breeder knows that they have started to eat. After the first day or two they may be fed in any convenient type of chicken feeder and water is supplied in glass drinking containers.

4/10/2007 1:20:15 PM

I really like this. It's a good starter pack every bird farmer or intending bird farmer should have.



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