If you’re new to poultry or a seasoned keeper, you might not have had the pleasure of owning turkeys. You might’ve seen cute videos on the Internet or associate with others who own them. Turkeys are often capped solely for meat production, but some people keep them as pets.
Having a good plan of what you plan to do with the turkeys is pretty important as it changes certain supplies you’ll need. Join us to explore how to prepare to keep a thriving flock of turkeys.
The 8 Essential Turkey Raising Supplies to Get You Started
Brooders that you buy in the store are often too small for turkey poults, especially if you have more than just a few. But you can easily set up your own brooder space at home so your chicks can maintain the correct temperature and live in the appropriate shelter until they can self-sustain.
There are also tons of commercially available brooders and DIY projects on the web that you can choose from. Just remember, the brooder is the necessary but temporary part of turkey care.
2. Feed Bowls
If you have turkey poults, it will be a challenge to teach them the ropes. These guys need a lot of love, affection, patience, and time. You’ll have to show your little poults where the food and water bowl is several times a day.
Don’t worry. Eventually, they will get the hang of it, but at first, they need a little help. Also, poults can be quite messy, spilling their food and water bowls if they aren’t perfectly anchored. So, make sure to set up the waterer in a position with support and that is spill-proof.
A one-gallon waterer should suffice.
3. Proper Diet
Turkey poults require quite a bit of protein in the first eight weeks of life. They are growing very quickly, rapidly developing muscle structure, and at the beginning stages of feathering. Getting a species-specific formula for your turkeys is absolutely essential to their health and well-being—especially before they are old enough to forage.
Adult turkeys get over 50% of their nutrients from foraging alone—that’s pretty impressive. But before that, they rely solely on you for food. You can use something disposable or recyclable—like egg cartons or cardboard box pieces to put feed on.
You can also buy commercial chick feeders that distribute the amount through a small opening, but it isn’t necessary. Once they get big enough, they will use a metal or wooden trough for their daily rations.
You can buy flock feed—meaning it’s consumable by most poultry. Or you can purchase turkey-specific feed to raise your young and supplement adults.
In addition, your turkeys need grit. They can get most of this from outside pellets of gravel or sand. Or, you can buy commercial scratch to create roughage in the diet.
Keeping your flock protected is essential. Turkeys can get very far ahead of you, and they can be very hard to catch. They have incredibly keen eyesight and other senses that work in their favor and against yours.
Females might also start nesting and odd places that can be hard to reach if you don’t restrict travel a bold distance. Also, while your turkeys are quite large, they will need protection from predators in your area.
Turkeys can fly and jump impressively. If you choose to have a fence to contain your turkeys, you can expect to build one that is at least 4 feet tall. So, you’ll need something high enough to keep them inside their designated area.
Some owners even slightly electrify their fences to deter turkeys from attempting to escape. This type is just like regular poultry fencing—just the electric version. It might be more costly, but it prevents your birds from getting out, and that’s what counts.
The money you put into the fencing supplies can vary depending on chosen materials and area covered. Also, you can hire another person to do fencing instead if you aren’t too savvy with building.
Turkeys get big quickly and will need to have more space early. Your turkeys need somewhere they can rest their heads and lay their eggs. If you don’t have any type of enclosure, you’ll need to get one before committing to a flock.
If you have a flock of 12, your turkeys will need a space of 75‘ x 75‘ to thrive. Additionally, they require an elevated roosting spot. They don’t like to nest on the ground and will find a suitable roosting spot if you don’t provide one.
You can get pens that are completely open-wired and enclosed. These pens are excellent for protecting your turkeys while they forage, also known as movable coops. They are commercially available and come in various sizes to meet the needs of your flock.
You can often attach these pens to an enclosed coop of your choice—or buy one with the two components together. You can even have a designated area for foraging and another for roosting. Ultimately, your setup depends on your yard space, budget, and preference.
Your turkeys are going to poop—a lot. If you already own chickens, ducks, or other poultry, you might already know how important bedding is. If not, let’s tell you.
Bedding is a significant part of your setup—you’re going to need a lot of it! Turkeys are clumsy, messy, and soil bedding fast—especially in small areas. So, while they are in the brooder, you’ll need to keep up with routine spot and deep cleanings.
Some bedding is more popular than others, but regular sand will suffice. If you prefer not to use sand, you can also buy wood shavings (not cedar) or straw.
When your turkeys get older, they still need bedding in their coop to keep it fresh and poop-soup-free. It will still require regular maintenance, including a few total coop cleanings a year.
7. Heat Lamp
When turkeys are just poults, they don’t have any body feathers to keep their body temperature regulated. You’ll need a unique heat lamp and bulb to keep them toasty.
Because of this, you’re going to have to compensate for the mother’s role. Since you already know you need a brooder, you also need a suitable heat lamp to provide a steady warmth.
Here’s a good depiction of the schedule when controlling temperatures in the brooder. All temperatures are in Fahrenheit.
|Age||Cage Brooding||Floor Brooding|
|1 – 3 days||91 – 93 degrees||95 degrees|
|4 – 7 days||90 – 93 degrees||92 degrees|
|8 – 14 days||85 – 89 degrees||89 degrees|
|15 – 21 days||80 – 84 degrees||84 degrees|
|22 – 28 days||75 – 79 degrees||79 degrees|
|29 – 35 days||70 – 74 degrees||74 degrees|
After your turkey is past 35 weeks, they are fully feathered and ready for the outdoors 100% of the time.
Time, huh? That’s right. You might be spoiled by other types of poultry that are quite independent and don’t require much of your attention. Turkeys are definitely not in this category. They thrive on human attention and companionship, and some of them can be downright needy.
You might also have one that kind of seems lost sometimes and might need a watchful eye more so than others. Regardless of if you’re keeping them for meat or as pets, you’ll still have to lend your time to make sure they are growing up and sustaining as they need to.
Remember that turkeys need companionship from their own kind too. So, if you’re going to get one, make sure you at least get a pair or preferably a starter flock of six.
Raising Turkeys: Is It Right for You?
Before you commit to keeping an entire flock, it’s really good to know if having a flock of turkeys is right for you. After dizzying out the supplies and expenses associated with them, if you get a good idea about the financial aspect.
Here are some good and not-so-good things about turkeys that you need to consider before deciding.
Turkeys are incredibly hard to raise in comparison to other poultry. The babies tend to be fragile and not that bright when they start out. They catch on slowly, needing constant direction, requiring more attention.
Turkeys absolutely will lay eggs, and many of the breeds will go broody. So, if you want to hatch a batch of eggs eventually, it’s entirely possible. However, turkeys don’t lay a large number of eggs. Therefore, you can’t count on them for consistent egg production.
Granted, if you would like to retrieve a turkey egg and toss it on the skillet, no one’s around to stop you. It’s just not traditional to keep your turkeys for this purpose.
- Blackhead Disease Possibility
Turkeys have an incredibly high likelihood of developing blackhead disease if exposed. If one flock member is exposed to this disease, it can wipe out 100% of your flock within days. There is no known treatment for blackhead disease, although the FDA is working diligently to approve some type of treatment.
- Turkeys Can Be Profitable
If you are raising a flock of turkeys for meat production, this arena can be quite profitable in the poultry world. Turkeys are large birds, creating a nice harvest. Plus, they are traditional birds for big-time holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know you constantly have a demand for them, and therefore they can work on those small- and large-scale farms.
Turkeys are highly social creatures, more so than chickens. This poultry will require a lot of your attention, as they like hanging out with their humans. So, you can make some seriously great friendships with your flock.
- Turkeys Have Fewer Predators
Because of a turkey’s size, they have far fewer natural predators than some other barnyard poultry. In fact, a predator seeing a turkey lurking on your property might think twice about messing with your other farm animals.
That’s not to say that turkeys can never be victims of a predator attack. Depending on where you fall on the map, you have larger animals like the Canada lynx, cougars, wolves, and coyotes.
To Free-Range or Not to Free-Range
Regardless of whether you allow your turkeys to roam freely, they will need access to enough grits to keep a healthy gut. Access to fresh foliage is ideal, but you can supplement their diets with the appropriate feed.
Regardless of what you let your turkeys do, you need to provide them with the appropriate shelter, grazing space, and flock protection.
If turkeys are for sure something you’re interested in, you need to start getting all of the supplies and readying your space. Also, mental preparation is necessary as poults are difficult to raise and require more attention than many other types of poultry.
Your flock should be successful as long as you do your research to check for compatibility and brush up on overall care. And once you love a turkey—you probably won’t want to go without them in your barnyard.
Featured Image Credit: Jared S Davies, Shutterstock
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: WATPFC