Today I wanted to share with y’all what it’s like raising turkey. It doesn’t matter if you’re raising them for meat or just for the fun of it, their personalities are pretty much the same.
First off, finding baby turkey is not exactly an easy task. When you do find them, they’re not cheap. A lot of the hatcheries have minimum orders for turkey of 15-20, so be prepared to spend a bit of that green stuff…
Once you get your new babies home the care is very similar to chickens. Start your brooder out at about 95 degrees and drop it 5 degrees every week until they are accustomed to the temperatures outside and are fully feathered.
Make sure they have fresh feed and water at all times. For turkey you are going to want to use a higher protein feed, something along the lines of a game feed works great. And make sure when you water them the water is warm as I have heard that cold water can cause turkey to get sick.
Interacting with your turkey when they are little is very important. If you do not spend time with them when they are little they are more likely to be aggressive. I didn’t have a problem with this since they were always calling for me, and I just couldn’t resist!
Something I didn’t expect was that baby turkey start strutting very young. We’re talking just a few weeks old and they are strutting, and it is the cutest thing you will ever see!
Once they are out of the brooder they begin to really get their personalities. We had one tom that would chase me all over the place, he just couldn’t stand to be away from me. And if I tried to chase something (like the nosey chickens) away from him, he would chase them too.
Keep in mind, the older they get the more food they eat… and the more they poo. Now chicken poo stinks, but it has nothing on turkey poo! Oh my word, there isn’t much that smells worse than turkey poo. I mean seriously, I’ve smelled a lot of nasty stuff (raising 3 boys will do that) but turkey poo tops my list of nasty smells. We’re talking clear a room or a 50 foot area when one lets loose. You have now been warned...
I think there are only 2 things that I really don’t like about turkey. In case you didn’t figure it out already, their poo is the main thing. Second in line to that is how much they eat! We have 4 turkey in a pen all by themselves, 3 of which are meat birds, and they go through a 50 pound bag of feed every 5-6 days. I think I may spend as much money on turkey feed as I do on feeding one of my teenage boys.
So you’ve got the down side of turkey, but let me tell you about the up side of turkey. They are extraordinarily social animals. They want to be where you are all the time… and they want to know what you are doing and if they can help. No kidding here, it’s totally like having a 2 year old around. I swear they are saying “What’s that?” “Can I help?” “Can I eat that?” with their chirps and purrs.
Everything goes in their mouths… Literally everything! If it’s shiny, or it moves, or it’s colored, or it’s not colored… They don’t bite hard unless they are sure what is going in their mouth is food that is possibly going to escape.
Have you ever wondered where the phrase peeping Tom came from? Remember how I said they follow you everywhere? Well if you’re not in their direct sight they will come looking for you. Leave no door, window, or crack without looking for you there… until they get too tire to carry on.
At the end of the day I wouldn’t trade raising turkey for much of anything. If nothing else it’s a great excuse to play with your food!