Essential tips to jump start turkey farming correctly
One of the most cost-effective and convenient ways to put meat on the table is by raising your own poultry. Of the various kinds of birds that can be raised on a home farm, nothing provides the same amount and quality of meat as turkeys.
First, take stock of your land. Though turkeys are natural foragers and can fend for themselves, they need the room to do it. If your yard isn’t large enough to support the size flock you have in mind, you will have to rely more on commercially available turkey feed. Your local feed store will be able to advise you what blends are best and how much each bird will need until it reaches maturity. The land used for turkey breeding should be fenced in. Turkeys don’t molest other birds, such as chickens or ducks, so a pen needn’t be dedicated to turkeys alone. As long as there is enough forage for everyone, there should be no problems. Turkeys have different nutritional requirements from other birds, however, so commercial feed specifically formulated for turkeys should be available only to them.
After you’ve determined the size of your flock and how many turkeys you can support, the next step is to provide shelter. Turkeys should be housed in an enclosed, roofed structure to protect them from the elements. The house should be free of drafts and leaks. One or more heat lamps should be hung in this structure, this is a requirement early in the turkeys’ lives. Adult turkeys require a minimum of one square foot of space in which to sleep. The floor of their house should be bedded with wood shavings or straw and it needs to be kept clean at all times. Fresh water needs to be available both in the house and outdoors where the turkeys will range. Needless to say, fresh food should also be available inside the house and also outside as required. Soiled bedding, water, and food must be replaced regularly to ensure the turkeys stay in good health.
Most people find the common, Broad-Breasted White turkey to be the most convenient breed to raise. Heirloom breeds are also available but their skin retains black dots after the feathers are removed. This may make the birds less desirable if you are thinking of selling some when the time comes. There is a reason the white turkey is the king of the marketplace. It produces a large quantity of breast meat and, when dressed, it most resembles what consumers think of when they picture a turkey dinner.
Unless you live close to a hatchery, the easiest way to start a flock is to order your turkeys through the mail. These will be shipped while they are two days old or less and they need to be cared for immediately on arrival. Young turkeys are called poults. When they reach adulthood, males are called toms and females are called hens.
Poults must be placed in clean bedding in an sheltered pen within the turkeys’ house. A heating lamp should be on at all times at a distance that provides them with a comfortable temperature. A continuous supply of clean water and food is necessary for the poults to mature. The poults should have their beaks dipped in the water supply to ensure they know where it is located.
After eight weeks, the turkeys will be ready to venture out on their own and need for a heat lamp and commercial feed will be less. This will depend on the local climate where you have set up your home. After twenty-two to twenty-eight weeks, depending on the breed and sex, the turkeys will be mature enough to be fit for the table. A local butcher should be contacted to do this work at a reasonable cost to ensure proper handling and dressing, especially if you want to sell some to the general public.