02 December 2008 |

Raising Turkeys

Written by Jason

 We have been raising turkeys here at the Yardstead since about the middle of May.  They are just over 6 months old now and fully grown.  We got them as 3 day old poults and raised them in with our chickens.  This is the first time we have kept turkeys and it's been really easy and a lot of fun.
We bought three baby turkeys called poults from our local feed store.  We kept them inside in a box for a couple of weeks.  The poults looked very similar to baby chickens but were slightly larger.  After a couple of weeks we moved the poults out to our chicken pen and put them in a small holding pen to protect them from the hens.   Turkey do well on chicken feed and we fed the baby turkeys layer crumbles. 
We have been raising chickens for years and the baby chicks always did a fair job of looking out for their selves.  Our baby chicks have a small shelter they instinctively use when the weather is bad.  We expected that the turkeys would do the same.  One night after the poults had been living outside for a couple of weeks, we had a hard rain.  It stopped raining a little after dark and I went outside to the chicken pen to check on the birds.  I shined the light on the holding pen and all three turkey were laying on the ground soaking wet.  I rushed them inside and Kathleen.....

helped me dry them off with towels and a hair dryer.  They were very cold and we were'nt sure if they were gonna make it.  Kathleen held them in her lap wrapped in towels for a couple of hours and they finally got their strength back.  We kept them inside for a couple more days then moved them back out to their pen.  It seems that poults without a mother around don't really know how to take care of themselves.  They don't even have sense enough to get out of the rain.  From then on when it rained I went out and moved the turkey into their shelter.  After about a month or so the turkeys were much bigger and had figured out how to stay dry and warm.
The turkey grew fast and soon outgrew the hens.  The turkeys have always got along well the chickens.  The hens treated them like juvenile chickens,  running them off the feed and bossing them around.  This still goes on to a lesser degree and it's pretty funny to see a chicken bossing around a 25lb turkey. 
We slaughtered our first turkey on Thanksgiving this year.  We processed the turkey the same way we do chickens.  We selected a fine female for our thanksgiving diner.  She weighed 20lbs live and dressed out weighed 15lbs.  We put the turkey in the frier immediately after we slaugtered it and it turned out delicious.  We plan to kill another one this weekend and put it in the freezer.  
The turkeys are very docile and one of the hens follows me around the yard all the time.  When I sit down or stop moving for a bit she come sup next to me and sits down.  She seems to like having her feathers stroked and is very tolerant.  My little boy likes to pet her and I heard him say to himself "I wonder what it looks like under these feathers"  as he lifted up some feathers on her back.  I wasn't sure what she would do but she just sat there enjoying being petted.  
We will be getting a few more Turkeys next year and Im sure that turkeys will become a permanent part of the Yardstead.  We may even try brooding our own.  If you would like more information about turkeys or anything else here at the yardstead, just drop us a line in the forum and we will be happy to share our experience witrh you.

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