Country Culture Advertise Here Ad

Talkin’ truth during Turkey Lovers Month

Share to:


Most people only think about turkeys in terms of the delicious and nutritious end product they give us. Sometimes that’s a tasty sandwich at lunch time, and often it’s about that big, beautiful bird being showcased on a Thanksgiving Day table.

But we don’t get to enjoy the tasty turkey treats without raising the animal first. Poultry farmers are largely chicken producers, but raising turkeys is also an important part of that sector of agriculture, whether you’re doing it commercially or just for you and your family.

The experts at University of New Hampshire Extension have laid out some basics on raising turkeys for those willing to walk the walk and gobble the gobble. As always, the first thing you want to consider is how you will house your livestock.

UNH Extension notes that if you opt to raise turkeys indoors on floors that are cleanable, it will be easier to control predators and parasites – and diseases, such as the avian flu, still rampant in June 2023. You need about six square feet of indoor space per bird. You can either designate a separate building or a spare room in a barn or garage.

Another housing option is a simple structure with roosts. In addition to the space required per bird, add a yard surrounded by an electric fence after the turkeys reach two months of age, providing about 20 square feet per bird. This option is riskier because it may be harder to exclude predators at night and they are more exposed to disease too.

Baby turkeys, known as poults, should be ordered from a National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP)-certified hatchery. If you buy from a feed store, ask them if they buy from an NPIP hatchery. For poults, you’ll need one square foot of brooder space per bird until they reach eight weeks old.

Poults need to stay warm – like 100º F warm – in a draft-free brooder. A 250-watt infrared bulb works best, as the red light warms without stopping the poults from sleeping. Use a thermometer on the brooder floor for the first two weeks to ensure temperatures are correct at bird level. You can drop the temperature 5º each week. The poults may need heat until they’re six weeks old.

After six weeks of age, you can start feeding a turkey growing ration that contains a preventive medication for blackhead disease. Also called histomoniasis, it’s a poultry disease that affects turkeys, chickens and game birds. It’s caused by the protozoa Histomonas meleagridis, tiny, single-celled organisms that are spread to the bird by the roundworm Heterakis gallinarum.

According to the FDA, “birds with blackhead disease are usually listless and have drooping wings, unkempt feathers and yellow droppings. Typically, the cecum and liver of an infected bird will become inflamed and develop ulcers. Young birds become sick quickly and usually die within a few days after signs appear. The disease develops more slowly in older birds and they often become emaciated and may eventually die. Turkeys are highly susceptible to blackhead disease. Once a turkey flock has been infected, 70% to 100% of the birds may die.”

UNH Extension said a good rule of thumb is to take care of the turkeys before taking care of chickens each day (if you raise both) to avoid cross contamination. Medicated growing rations should be fed until the turkeys are within three to four weeks of slaughter.

Most turkeys will reach their mature size in six months – which makes June a great time to start raising yours for your Thanksgiving feast!

Recent Posts:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *