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View Full Version : Let's talk Turkey--who's raised 'em?



LAZ
Jan. 3, 2011, 08:58 PM
I'm thinking of ordering some turkeys when I get my next set of chickens.

Who has experience with them and do you have any suggestions?

I've already heard that chickens try to live and turkeys try to die.

I've also been told you can't keep turkeys and chickens together. How far apart do they need to be kept?

Thanks!

Cruiser12
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:13 PM
i raised about 10 turkeys several years ago, they are VERY stupid. don't remember much else

kinnip
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:25 PM
Chickens carry the parasite that carries the bacteria that causes Blackhead in turkeys. This is why it's not recommended they stay together. Frankly, I've had no problems, but mine free range.
We've only lost a few turkeys over the past two years. Only one was fully grown-- coyotes. It was a mess; he fought hard. I would not say they're more prone to dying than chickens, with the exception of poults. They will drown in a waterer in a heartbeat.
A caveat, turkeys are territorial at certain times of year. They will kill chickens, guineas, cats if they could., and even you. That said, they can also be perfectly decent, beautiful animals to have wandering about.

AppJumpr08
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:26 PM
And to add to LAZ's question (sorry!): are the more commercial breeds more difficult to raise than the heritage breeds? (as far as trying to kill themselves/low intelligence)

howardh
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:27 PM
A friend of mine gave me 6 turkeys. The neighbor dogs got a few of them and the rest learned to roost on my deck. They got HUGE fast. I was told they were genetically engineered to go to market in 9 weeks. Ha, like I would take them to market.

If anyone wants to buy good fertilizer, get turkey poo! As God is my witness, the spot below where they roosted grew a tree from a seed to a 18 foot sapling in one summer. When I cut it down the circumference was 3 inches.

After a few more untimely deaths, my remaining Turkey grew rather mean. I think he was trying to avenge the deaths of his friends at the hands of dogs, but he became downright vicious towards canines. We used to laugh hysterically at him going after the dogs, who soon became terrified at this huge 40 pound monster.

Oh it was funny until the day when I was weeding my garden and I heard the angry Turkey noise and wheeled around to find that I was the prey! WHAM. WHAM. Ever been punched by a Turkey? There I was with my belly up in the air, crawling backwards like a crab, kicking this bird in the chest every step. That bird had a wicked one two punch.

Then the Turkey thought there was a very sexy turkey who lived in the magic window downstairs. All day long he would strut back and fourth and puff up his feathers.

I hated him. He was vile and a big white mutant. I sold a horse to someone and told them there was a free turkey with every sale. They thought he was great.

I heard later that he started to punch their kids....

My advice would be to get some nice cute bantams!

ladybugred
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:34 PM
All I know about them is that I have been chased, on horseback, down a country rd by domestic turkeys. Scared my horse sh*tless!!

LBR

kinnip
Jan. 3, 2011, 09:42 PM
I don't know about the production birds. I have Bronze Standards. The posts so far sound like they could all be my birds. Seriously, turkeys and kids don't mix! We don't allow children at our place for exactly that reason. Me and SO have no problem. One peck, and Mr. Tom is getting punted, all 40 lbs of him. If you've ever kept roosters, you'll think turkeys are sissies. Turkey flogging is a massage by comparison, but the beak smarts a little. You do need eyes in the back of your head, or a good enclosure. Heritage birds can fly.

Daydream Believer
Jan. 3, 2011, 10:11 PM
According to some pasture based farmers I know, the production turkeys make production broilers (Cornish Cross) seem smart by comparison. So..yes, they are rock stupid. Cornish Cross broilers are by far the dumbest chicken out there.

I'm looking to raise a batch of Heritage Turkeys this year on pasture for the first time to sell to clients and try myself. Right now I'm thinking Bourbon Reds are my best bet. I guess I'll find out just how easy or hard they are compared to chickens but at least the old fashioned birds have retained some instincts.

AppJumpr08
Jan. 3, 2011, 10:41 PM
This is a timely thread - I just this morning put in an order for 9 Buff Turkeys. Won't get them 'till the spring, but I'm excited about it. We already have the Heritage hogs, and the Heritage turkeys appeared on Craigslist, so what the heck! :lol: :D

AppJumpr08
Jan. 3, 2011, 10:43 PM
Oh, and fun fact. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Buff Turkeys were used to create the Bourbon Red breed, then when the Buff became extinct, the Bourbon Red was used to recreate the Buff. Thought that was interesting.

deckchick
Jan. 3, 2011, 11:47 PM
I raised Bronze Breasted Turkeys 3 years ago, they were awesome! I was hoping that I could get them to breed, but no such luck, I'm now raising Royal Palm turkeys. I love the Bronze Breasted, they were fun and friendly. As they mature, 1 or 2 years old, they do get territorial and mean, so as long as you are just keeping them to raise for the freezer, go for it!

Here is a youtube video of my turkeys following me back to the barn. I would call them and they would follow me all over the place, they were hilarious!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b2qrviF88Q

Daydream Believer
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:47 AM
AppJumper...I read that about the buffs and bourbons also...interesting! What kind of heritage hogs do you raise? I'm researching hogs currently.

AppJumpr08
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:29 AM
DDB - we have American Guinea Hogs. Just purchased them in August and haven't had any reach market weight yet, but they are super cool and easy to have around. Also on the ALBC's critical list - smaller lard pigs with excellent dispositions. We were able to let ours free-range over 40 acres of hay fields this fall - it was so much fun to watch them head out of their house for the day, and return again just before dark.

There are other hog breeds that looked interesting, but these guys stay a very reasonable size (250 pounds is at the high end), which was a factor. Those Red Wattles and others get so stinkin' BIG!

AppJumpr08
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:32 AM
Here is a youtube video of my turkeys following me back to the barn. I would call them and they would follow me all over the place, they were hilarious!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b2qrviF88Q

:lol::lol::lol::lol: That is AWESOME. I love the gobblegobble response to your whistles! (and your chickens are BEAUTIFUL!)

SmartAlex
Jan. 4, 2011, 09:02 AM
I've been warning my husband for a couple of years now that one of these days I'm going to try my hand at turkey raising. The Bourbon Reds are beautiful.

leilatigress
Jan. 4, 2011, 09:12 AM
I raised the market turkeys and so long as you got them through the poult stage they were fine. I have had more than one drown itself in a rain storm but my favorite suicide was a poult that managed to over eat. They are extremely dumb and they hurt like hell when they do get after you. Not nearly as bad as geese though. Dad brought home a pair of geese one summer, it was not pretty and I am still afraid of geese.

tle
Jan. 4, 2011, 09:29 AM
we're planning to get some this summer to raise and sell. Timely topic.

Ghazzu
Jan. 4, 2011, 11:12 AM
I've had a student or two get a black eye from a turkey bitch slap...

Piatt Farms
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:05 PM
Wow, I'm not sure if I'm lucky or what but I LOVE my turkey!

...of course, she thinks she's a dog. She eats dog food, sleeps by them during the day, drinks from their water, takes treats from them, goes with me and the dogs to meet the bus every afternoon and even takes walks with us.

She's a Bronze and we've had her for 4 years (vet said they can live 12) and was ironically raised by my Guinea hens. She didn't take to the other turkeys when we got more but they have since been picked off by coyotes (as were the guinea's). Apparently she was the smartest and has managed to stay alive.

She has one interesting trait where she LOVES anything red. Whether you are wearing it or it's just sitting there, she will stick very close. She is also fond of music and in the summer when I take the stereo outside she will roost next to it on the table.

Good luck with yours!

WildBlue
Jan. 4, 2011, 03:52 PM
I guess we lucked out with ours, too. We raised bronze turkeys one summer when I was a teen. A lot of the poults were killed when a dog got in the brooder house, but we ended up with 3 toms named Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Those guys were really social and I don't think they knew they were turkeys. Even as youngsters, they'd follow people around just to say 'hi' and be near you. They were great in the garden. Unlike chickens, they didn't peck the produce and, wow, they'd study a broccoli plant for ages to find and pick out all the little green worms. They also knew people came in cars, so it was hysterical to see three puffed-up gobblers galloping over to greet the new arrivals.

Benson
Jan. 4, 2011, 04:14 PM
LAZ,

We have grown turkeys on pasture for sale to vegetable customers and it was a rough experience. They are large birds, notoriously trying to die (when they are poults, cover all feeders and have waterers with small tray openings at the bottom or they WILL all pig pile inside and smother one another) and hard on equipment. That being said, they were a profitable venture. We ordered ours too early (beginning of June) and the toms were close to 35#, butchered. The recommendation is to get the poults in July and they will be ready for butchering the week before Thanksgiving.

This year we grew only two for our family Holiday gatherings. A friend grew them until they were feathered very well and about 10lbs, then they came to our house to free range in the horse pasture. Prior to that, they were too little to be outside in the pasture. Ours both weighed about 23 lbs when we butchered them right before Thanksgiving. We had one bronze and one white. They were very passive and we enjoyed having them around.

wireweiners
Jan. 4, 2011, 05:32 PM
We had the heritage bronzes when I was a kid and they are incredibly dumb. The poults will drown in a rainstorm. The adult turkes would roost on the corral fence which was high enough that, in theory, they would be safe from coyotes. But the things were so stupid, they would look down at the coyote beneath their roost and then be low enough so the coyote could jump up and grab them.

That being said, I think the royal palms and bourbon reds are pretty and would like to have some if I had a secure pen.

LAZ
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:15 PM
I've had a student or two get a black eye from a turkey bitch slap...

Reading through all these replies, but this one made me ROTFALMAO.

If we proceed these will be for a friend of mine (I do the buying & raising of our poultry, he does the butchering) and I. We both find it really satifying to produce our own food, thus the interest in the turkeys. They would be housed in a stall that opens out to a grass area that I keep fenced off so the spotty dogs can't get to them (or other predators).

I have a neighbor that raises grass beef down the street so I don't have to do my own cows, and another friend that does sheep so I get my lamb off him.

On the rare occasion I eat pork I've had the same friend that does the cow provide me with a pig to roast or called the butcher shop in Fishers and they'll do the pig and bring it out here already cooked & ready.

Will the turkeys eat leftovers the way the chickens do? I feed mine all the bits and pieces of vegetables/bread/weeds from the garden, etc that I have.

Timex
Jan. 4, 2011, 08:28 PM
we have some of the Heritage turkeys. started out with 31 (25 brown, 6 white) and through stupidity and a vicious fisher cat attack (f*cker killed 10 in 1 night, couldn't even be bothered to eat them) we were down to 13. 5 went to the butcher (and were extremely yummy!), and we kept 1 tom and 6 hens. stupid, yes, but easy to keep (ours are free-range), and we haven't had any issues with a nasty bird. if and when we do, they're dinner.

WildBlue
Jan. 5, 2011, 07:41 AM
Will the turkeys eat leftovers the way the chickens do? I feed mine all the bits and pieces of vegetables/bread/weeds from the garden, etc that I have.

Ours did. They acted like big chickens, but much less destructive in the gardens.

SmartAlex
Jan. 5, 2011, 09:34 AM
So have any of you managed to get a heritage breed to set, or are you ordering poults?

deckchick
Jan. 5, 2011, 11:26 AM
I tried for 2 years to get my Bronzed Breasted to produce babies, the girls would lay eggs, and Stomping Tom did the nasty with them, but I guess he didn't do it right because I had hundreds of eggs over those years, but not one hatched.

I am raising Royal Palms now and they do manage to have babies. They are a much smaller bird though, The Bronzed Breasted are huge so I assume that is the problem.

Murphy's Mom
Jan. 5, 2011, 04:15 PM
I have one Royal Palm turkey left. She was born in April. Her dad was wonderful and followed me all over. Neighbors dog got him in May. Mama got taken out by a coyote in July (they also got a rooster, three ducks, and a cat that week - neighbors went on vacation and didn't leave their livestock guardian dog out). Brother Giblet had his leg broken by my horse and then a different neighbors dog came over and killed him. Berry comes running to greet me in the morning and follows me back to the barn for breakfast. She doesn't like dogs (do you blame her?) but only threatens, never attacks. She's buddies with my duck and goose. It's fun to see them hang out together.
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1150143&l=5e00158832&id=1270759001
(The photo was done in honor of the Off Topic Day "Oven" thread.)

chisamba
Jan. 5, 2011, 04:23 PM
I have Narragansetts. They set and hatch out, but i have learned to take the little ones away, and hand raise them, because none of them have survived if i left them with mom. My toms are not aggressive toward me at all, and in fact the geese and the guinea fowl are the boss of them.

They can fly and will roost high in the tree, or sometimes on my deck, and yes, the one seems to think there is a beautiful turkey in the sliding door on my deck. I have seen one yell at its reflection in my hub cap for hours while i was unloading feed.

They are not as easy to raise as chickens, being very susceptible to coccidiosis, and mine free range with my chickens.

Those that have double breasts cannot breed without AI so only the heritage breeds reproduce naturally.

If you get turkey poults, its a good idea to get a couple of chicks with them, just a couple of cheap broiler males, because the chicks will teach them to eat and drink. If you do not, you might have to put marbles, or something shiney in their food and water to get them to peck at it.

They are less destructive then the chickens, i agree, and they will eat left overs. Their poo really is very good fertilizer

kinnip
Jan. 5, 2011, 05:45 PM
I've had several hens set. They hatched about half of the eggs, and then lost interest in parenthood. Finally, this year I had one hen hatch two chicken eggs, and actually manage to raise the babies. Should madness ever grip me and I decide I want more turkeys, I'll pop the eggs in a bator. The only reason I have so many now is because I hatched them out for a fella who promptly decided he didn't want them (always get a deposit). I was happy with my one friendly tom and two hens as pets.

kinnip
Jan. 5, 2011, 05:50 PM
Can I add that one of the funnier farming moments was the first time I saw my tom...ahem...indulge himself solo. I thought the poor thing was having a seizure. I ran inside to look up turkey seizures on the computer. I gave a few folks on the chicken bb a real laugh that day.

Miss J
Jan. 7, 2011, 01:04 PM
Some of these stories are HILARIOUS!! Galloping-gobblers, getting bitch slapped!

My dad raised about thirty turkeys, and just before he was about to take them in to get butchered the neighbors dog came over and massacered all but 5 or 6 of them. Stupid dog didn't even kill all of them! Just half mangled them to the point that they had to be destroyed.

He lived subdivision and had posted signs on the property and mail box that any dog found harassing/attacking the livestock will be shot. So fido did meet his maker, and he then sued the owner of the dog for the loss of his turkey's and the cost of raising them. They turned around and counter-sued him for the price of thier free dog.:confused:

Hampton Bay
Jan. 7, 2011, 05:33 PM
I raised (or rather, tried to raise) turkeys this spring. They all died from fowl pox as young poults though. DH's grandpa raised 10 of the BBW at the same time though, and they were super sweet, friendly, loved to see him coming. They are dumber than a box of rocks though.

We are going to try again this spring, now that we know fowl pox is an issue around here with our absurd mosquito population (yay for living next to a stagnant creek).

Hampton Bay
Jan. 7, 2011, 05:38 PM
Some of these stories are HILARIOUS!! Galloping-gobblers, getting bitch slapped!

My dad raised about thirty turkeys, and just before he was about to take them in to get butchered the neighbors dog came over and massacered all but 5 or 6 of them. Stupid dog didn't even kill all of them! Just half mangled them to the point that they had to be destroyed.

He lived subdivision and had posted signs on the property and mail box that any dog found harassing/attacking the livestock will be shot. So fido did meet his maker, and he then sued the owner of the dog for the loss of his turkey's and the cost of raising them. They turned around and counter-sued him for the price of thier free dog.:confused:

In-laws had the very same thing happen to them once, but I think with chickens. He shot the dog and then dragged it over to the mail box by the neighbor's house (owner of the dog), and called animal control or the cops or whoever to alert them of the situation, and to start paperwork on the destroyed chickens. When the owners of the dog then called in saying someone had shot their dog, then identified the dog as theirs, they got slapped with a bill for the chickens, and a fine for a loose dog.

carla54
Jan. 8, 2011, 12:05 AM
I had a wild tom turkey show up at my place eating with the ducks. He had an injured wing and couldn't fly. He ended up staying for two years, even after he was able to fly again. He was a riot. He never got mean, but he did get really tame. He followed us all over and when my Dad hoed in the garden, he would come along and scratch the dirt beside him. He became one of the entertainment items of the town, as he chased/raced cars that went down our road. If the people stopped, he'd stand and talk to them through their window. We started having a lot of traffic go by our place when he was around, because a lot of the little kids from the school a mile away loved to watch him race with the car, so they begged their parents to drive past our house.
I have a picture of him sitting on our Animal Control Officer's truck. (AC was here to check a rescue horse I was holding for him)
The funniest thing I remember was the day I heard the horns tooting on the major highway at the end of our road. I looked out and there was a whole line of cars and semis stopped. Huh? Then I saw the old Tom strutting and flaunting himself in the middle of the highway! Then one guy in a little car that had his window open tooted the horn, Tom ran right up to the car and peered into the driver's side window. This allowed the traffic to finally move on, but I bet that driver was surprised to be eyeballed by a big ol' turkey!
The only problem we had with him was that he was too heavy for the TV antenna that he loved to roost on and eventually it broke apart, disturbing our TV reception. He also spent a lot of time on what became known as the "poop deck" leaving his gift of "fertilizer". He finally left one spring, I assume he went looking for the ladies. He was sighted by various neighbors for a few months and made a couple of home visits, but finally never came back. I miss that turkey...

atr
Jan. 8, 2011, 12:29 AM
If you should decide to raise and release wild turkeys, like my neighbor (the release part was somewhat accidental,) be careful about your local wildlife ordnances. Fish and Game hunted down and killed every last one of them and jumped all over him for not having a license to raise wild game.