Raising turkeys on your homestead can be a rewarding experience during your homesteading journey.

 

Turkeys are fairly easy to raise, just like chickens. The best time to start raising turkeys is late May into early June.

 

Some considerations of raising turkeys include:

  • Space required
  • Which breed to choose
  • Cost of feeding and watering
  • The end result you desire

 

 

Raising Turkeys: Which Breed?

 

There are four main breeds that are available throughout hatcheries in the United States.  I will list those four first, then offer other heritage breeds that you may be able to acquire also.

 

Broad-Breasted-White:

  • Common turkey found in grocery stores
  • Doesn’t walk well, can’t fly
  • Prone to disease
  • Can’t reproduce
  • Ideal for mass production, not small homestead

 

Bourbon Reds:

  • Developed in Pennsylvania and Kentucky
  • Fuller Flavor
  • Heritage Breed
  • Toms weigh about 20 lbs.
  • Hens weigh about 12 lbs.
  • Known by their red feathers

 

Narragansett:

  • Named for the Bay in Rhode Island
  • Grey in color
  • Heritage Breed
  • Toms weigh about 30 lbs.
  • Hens weigh about 18 lbs.
  • Were most popular in England long ago

 

Standard Bronze:

  • Considered the “American” turkey
  • Heritage Breed
  • Cross between European and American wild turkeys
  • Been bred artificially since the 1960’s

 

Midget White:

  • Newer Breed
  • Richer, deeper flavor
  • Cross between Royal Palm and Broad-Breast
  • White feathers
  • Heritage Breed
  • Toms weigh about 18 lbs.
  • Hens weigh about 10 lbs.

 

Beltsville Small White:

  • Larger Breast but same size as Midget-White
  • Repopulate well
  • Very social
  • Not the top in flavor
  • Heritage Breed

 

White Holland:

  • Excellent sitters but weight can crush eggs
  • Heritage Breed
  • From Holland but traveled to America
  • Toms weigh about 30 lbs.
  • Hens weigh about 20 lbs.

 

Royal Palm:

  • Black and White feathers
  • Heritage Breed
  • Bred for their feathers
  • Much smaller than other turkeys
  • Good fliers
  • Toms weigh about 16 lbs.
  • Hens weigh about 10 lbs.

 

 

Raising Turkeys: How Many?

 

When raising turkeys for their meat, you must know how often you will be slaughtering them first. The process is similar to slaughtering chickens.

 

Generally, if you wish to raise turkeys repeatedly, the rule of thumb is to have one Tom for every 10 hens. This way the flock will reproduce and grow each spring.

 

 

Raising Turkeys: Space Requirements

 

The requirements for raising turkeys include:

  • Protection from predators
  • Ability to free-range
  • Dust bath
  • Roosts available at night
  • 75 feet of space per dozen of turkeys
  • Housing structure to lay eggs (if breeding)
  • 4 Foot tall fence if penned

Special note** Turkeys should really not be combined with other poultry due to the risk of spreading disease.

 

Raising Turkeys: Food and Water

 

Just as with chickens, turkeys need an enclosed waterer when they are young to avoid drowning. When they become adults a hanging waterer is best to allow the allowance for their long necks.

 

Food comes in stages as with chickens. An enclosed feeder is recommended for all ages. Keep in mind, turkey poults consume large amounts of food so this can be expensive.

 

Grass, insects and rough sand will be found if they are allowed to forage naturally. The sand allows them to easier digest their food easier.

 

 

Raising Turkeys: Health Concerns

 

Turkeys should be ready for processing at 12 to 24 weeks for old heritage breeds, and 12 to 18 weeks for the newer, heavier breeds.

 

Turkeys are in prime condition when no pin feathers are present. These are immature feathers that do not poke through the skin or have barely started to protrude.

 

You can also check for the fat covering by removing some of the feathers from the breast halfway between the breastbone and the base of the wing. Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the area of skin. On a prime turkey, the skin will be white or yellowish-white, and quite thick.

 

Raising turkeys on the homestead can provide quality meat and save the heritage breeds from the endangered list too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising turkeys on your homestead can provide both meat for your family and even pest control for the homestead. You can not just provide quality meat, but you will be doing your part to help keep the heritage breeds of turkeys from entering the endangered list.

 

For more detailed information on getting started with turkeys, check out this post from Morning Chores.

 

This post is shared on Good Morning Mondays Linky Party.