Assuming a work issue that could take me overseas for 6 months doesn't pan out (I'd figure 20% chance of going) I want to try raising turkeys this year. The localfeed store will have heritage breed poults in April. Probably would get the Bourbon Red, if anything. I've read in some sources they're not growing quite as big as they used to. But, can anyone give a reasonable SWAG on how big they "should" be by Thanksgiving? That time frame would give them 32-33 weeks to grow out. Also, with my broiler chickens last year I got about 70% of bled out weight in dressed carcasses. Is that a similar number for a heritage turkey, or will they yield a bit less?
How many heritage turkeys should I get? I.e. what is the usual mortality rate, and since I'd probably keep them separate from the hens, how many do I need to keep them happy? I'd like to wind up with enough to feed 8-10 people (2 younger kids, 2 teens, the rest adults) on Thanksgiving, and at least 6 (same ages as before) at Christmas. If I wind up with more turkeys (because they mostly/all survive) than I want for myself I have little doubt that between family and friends I can find a freezer/oven for the excess. At this point not I'm intending to hold any over for breeding. If all goes well I might do that next year.
The Coastal Farm and Ranch will be getting broad breasted turkey poults. Unfortunately in March. I might get a couple of those just for comparison sake to the heritage breed, but with 35+ weeks to Thanksgiving I'd be need to slaughter (and freeze) long before Thanksgiving as they should be WAY too big if I let them go that long.
The two main problems I had with heritage turkey poults was 1. They are death magnets - if baby turkeys can find a way to get sick, injured, or killed, they will - and 2. They need a high-protein diet which I failed to provide so they did not grow up fast enough to be ready for Thanksgiving. Both of these were MY problems, not theirs. If I ever try again with turkeys (which I hope to do because they are lovely birds, much nicer personalities than chickens) I will make very tight safe housing for them, and feed them appropriately.
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