Turkeys on the Homestead

Turkeys on the Homestead

Turkeys can make great backyard poultry even if you don’t have lots of land. There is some things to consider though before adding turkeys to your homestead.

Scroll to the bottom to see why we opted to get turkeys on our homestead or keep reading to learn more about turkeys in general.

beautiful turkey free ranging

Turkeys tend to be more temperamental than other poultry and they are much bigger than chickens and ducks. You also need to make sure you check the laws and ordinances of your area for turkeys. They tend to be grouped into poultry but can sometimes be grouped into livestock.

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Feeding and Processing Turkeys

Next, it’s important to make sure you have proper feed or access to proper feed for turkeys. They need a different feed than chickens. Usually you can find turkey feed or game bird feed to provide for your turkeys at your local feed store. Be sure to just look at the protein percentage before purchasing. A turkey need a higher protein content than chickens require. Another important thing to consider is are you raising the turkey for meat or as a pet. If for meat, you need to make sure you can butcher it yourself or find a place to butcher it. Not all butchers will butcher a turkey or it can be a bit expensive for poultry.

How do Turkeys on the Homestead Compare to other Backyard Poultry?

Turkeys are larger animals than chickens so they require more feed per pound than a chicken does. It’s also known that turkeys give you less meat per pound than a chicken. So they aren’t as cost effective in that aspect. Turkeys weigh more and are a lot stronger than chickens so be sure you are ready for that.

A turkey poult or “baby turkey” are less hardy and more sensitive to their surroundings/environment than other backyard poultry are. When you get the baby turkey poults home, having them on a high quality feed is super important from the very beginning. They aren’t as vigorous as baby chicks nor do they want to move around as much to get to food and water.

Similar to baby chicks, turkey poults will need to be kept in a brooder that is at 98*F (around 36.5*C). You will need to reduce that by 5*F each week for at least the first month. You need them to be feathered and also old enough for them to regulate their body temperature on their own. If you aren’t sure about how hot your brooder is, you can grab some super affordable thermometers/hygrometer combo.

Turkeys are especially susceptible to Blackhead disease, a poultry disease that impacts the intestines and liver of affected birds. Due to this, they should not be raised in the same enclosure as chickens.┬áThat said, I know many people who keep them enclosed together but I don’t. If you have the space, aim to keep them free-ranging in different areas too.

One other thing I will mention is that hanging feeders and even waterer are better for turkeys. I recommend that over having them on the ground or just on some raised platform.

turkeys on the homestead

Turkey Enclosures

Turkeys are big animals as far as poultry goes, so they need adequate space. If you don’t have a large coop you will definitely need to get one or make one. Your coop will need to offer protection from predators, space for them to roost, and access for them to range/roam. The minimums should be 4 square feet per bird in the coop and 10-15 square feet per bird in the run space. The more space you can provide, the better and happier your turkeys will be.

Turkeys don’t free range as much as people think. Turkeys can fly and they can jump six to seven feet. Heritage breed turkeys can fly and enjoy roosting in trees so that’s good to keep in mind if you free range them near fencing or trees.

For the ground, it’s best to keep wood shavings in the coop or run area. Avoid sawdust and newspaper as turkeys will eat that and inevitably starve to death and potentially get splay legs as young poults.

Turkeys require a bit more work and care than your chickens might but they are worth it whether raising as a pet or for meat for Thanksgiving or year round eating.

Why Did We Get Turkeys on the Homestead?

We opted for turkeys as a means to be more sustainable. We are raising our first set of turkeys for meat and the ones we got should be ready to be butchered a few weeks before Thanksgiving. This for us is to make sure we truly want turkeys. The ones we bought are around 5 months old. We opted for broad rested this first time over heritage breed turkeys. If we continue to raise turkeys full time, we plan to get heritage breed turkeys.

My spouse and I contemplated turkeys for a while and weighed the pros and cons and discussed reasons why we wanted to add turkeys to our homestead. We agreed that the eggs would be good for us and our dogs, and that we would enjoy turkeys for meat. Of course we would plan to keep a turkey hen and a tom to breed to keep raising turkeys ourselves over having to buy each year if we go with a heritage breed.

I’ll be sure to either update this post or create a new post on how we are enjoying the turkeys after about a month of us raising and keeping the two turkeys we have recently purchased as well.

Do you raise turkeys?

Let us know in the comments below your pros and cons of raising turkeys and if that’s for heritage, broad rested, or both.

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