The turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris, which is native to the Americas. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, is native to the forests of North America, mainly Mexico and the United States. The other living species is Meleagris ocellata or the ocellated turkey, native to the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula. Males of both species have a distinctive fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak (called a snood). They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As in many galliformes, the male is larger and much more colorful than the female.
They will grow similar to broiler chickens and become suitable for slaughter within a very short time. Some people keep a or several toms (a mature male), as a pet. Raising these birds is similar to raising other poultry birds like chickens, ducks, quails etc. They are also very social with humans and raising them is a lot of fun and is very enjoyable.
Before you decide to add them to your farm, here are the basics on raising them the right way.
There are several breeds available but not all breeds are suitable for commercial meat production. For profitable meat production you will have to use some of the modern breeds that are raised specifically for commercial production. These types of birds have a maximum feed to meat conversion rate. They consume less feed and convert this feed to meat more efficiently. Broad-breasted White is a modern breed primarily used for commercial production. The meat produced by raising this breed on pasture will produce a more tasty and favorably meat than those produced from commercial raised birds. White Holland and Standard Bronze are two other popular meat producing turkey breeds. These two breeds are not actual specific breeds. Broad-Breasted Bronze and Whites are just a non-standardized commercial strain used for meat production. Bourbon Reds, Narragansett, Royal Palm etc. are other breeds not usually raised commercially.
Housing & Fencing
Good housing is essential to proper care of the birds. Make fencing as high as possible. Fencing must be strong enough to protect the birds. You can use electric poultry netting, woven wire fencing, metal T-posts or wooden posts. However, while making housing and fencing, keep the following in mind;
- You must have to make proper protection from all types of predators and harmful animals.
- Ensure availability of sufficient space inside the house. Generally, 75 feet * 75 feet space is suitable for accommodating for up to 12 birds.
- Never let the birds to graze in the pasture until they reach grazing age.
- Make sure they receive a sufficient flow of fresh air and light inside the house.
- Make proper ventilation system.
- Make the house suitable enough for cleaning it regularly.
- Make fencing as high as possible. The fencing must have to be at least four feet above the ground.
- They are very strong and bigger than other types of poultry.
Feeding & Watering
Nutritious feed keeps the bird healthy and productive. They needs more protein in their diet for first few weeks than other domestic birds. The protein in poultry feed should be at least 28 percent. Feed the poults a chick starter for the first six weeks and after that period you can feed them a grower feed. Grower feed should contain 20 percent protein. The amount of protein in turkey feed is higher than chickens or other poultry birds feed. Along with providing nutritious food, always serve them a sufficient amount of fresh and clean water. Generally, 2 gallons of fresh water is necessary for one dozen birds.
Raising the Birds
Typically, you will be starting with day-old poults in the spring. You will need to set up a brooder area just like you would for chickens. There are lots of do-it-yourself ideas for brooder areas, from a feeding trough to a kiddie pool. Just like starting chicks, you will need to keep the brooder area between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week, then slowly lower the temp by raising the lamps, cooling it by 5 degrees each week. Many of the same places that sell chicks also sell poults
Care & Management
Always try to keep your birds in a healthy environment. Never feed your birds contaminated or outdated food. Always provide them clean and fresh water. Keep sufficient space inside their house.