If you’re raising meat chickens (broilers), you might as well raise some turkeys, too. Why not? What else are you going to do with your spare time! We start our turkey poults in my own invention — a bottomless brooder box with heat lamps, water nipple gravity system fed by a 5 gallon pail, and a self feeder. This box is outside, but close to power for the heat lamps. The main advantage is the ease to keep the brooder area clean by just moving the box to fresh ground. This practice greatly increases the health of the flock without the use of medicated starter feed.
When I first thought about getting into turkeys I read in a book about raising turkeys. In it the author said that for the first 8 weeks all the turkeys want to do is die. My reaction was a sarcastic thought of “Awesome! This is what I want to do!” Luckily, after 8 weeks the turkeys are able to live without extra heat, so they are moved out into the pasture to a moveable pen. By this stage they are very robust and the main issue is mainly predators. The turkey’s highlight of the day is when the pen is moved every morning to fresh grass. They are also fed a daily ration of rolled feed that we mill on farm.
We time our production with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and we process our turkeys on the farm, selling directly to the consumer. Since the turkeys enjoy a varied diet of grass, plants and insects, we find the meat quite flavourful compared to confinement raised turkeys. We also find the meat to be more tender because of the stress free environment the turkeys live in outside.
The most memorable experience from the turkeys so far happened last spring. I had to move a pasture pen full of turkeys from inside the yard out to the pasture. Because of the long distance we decided to use the tractor with the pallet forks to lift up the back end. We put the wheels on the front and pushed the pen along. If you tried this with a pen full of chickens, it would not end well, but these were turkeys. I was unsure at first, but as soon as the pen started to move all the turkeys immediately started walking along and looking around gobbling with excitement like we were on-the-way to the fair. It was a funny view from the tractor seat!