I had thought I was going to get sent to Europe by my employer for 6 months this year, but that's off the table for now. Might be next year. So, now to kick my poultry and other homestead plans into gear.
I raised 50 Freedom Ranger broilers last year. Those turned out well enough that SWMBO asked for me to raise 100 this time. Given likely mortality, and interest from friends (who would also help with slaughter day) we'd likely keep 50-80 of them. Not too worried about raising them as I have last year's experience to go by, and other than doubling the numbers things won't change all that much. We are going to get them later in the spring as last year I had to keep them in the brooder 1.5-2 weeks longer than I wanted to due to the weather. Hopefully the summer heat won't become a problem towards the end.
Anyway, I have also been requested to raise some turkeys. Roasted turkey is SWMBO's favorite meal, so she wants to see if home raised is as much better than store bought as the chickens were. The localfeed stores have a variety of poults. I was thinking about getting 5-6 broad breasted bronzes and 5-6 Bourbon Reds. Reason for those quantities is I'm trying to hedge on higher mortality, and ensure I have a minimum of 2, preferably at least 3, that make it to slaughter. Any extras I'm sure will be easy enough to find a freezer or oven at a friend's house. The BBB will be available through the month of March. The Bourbon Reds are available in mid-April.
In an ideal world the BB would be ready to slaughter at the same time as the broilers so I can use the big scalder and machine plucker I'd be renting anyway. However that may well not be possible. Which is OK as I can kill 1-3 a day until they're gone and just hand pluck them. The heritage turkeys would be planned to be eaten fresh for Thanksgiving and Christmas. After Christmas if any are still left alive they'll go in the freezer. Whatever the case I have no intention of keeping any past the New Year. If I decide to breed turkeys that will come a year or several down the road.
My question is how best to handle raising them? I have the 164' Premier 1 electronet from the broilers last year. Planning to get another roll, maybe 2 more rolls. But, what kind of shelters do the turkeys need besides a place to get out of the sun/rain and roosting bars? And is that different between the BB and heritage? Can I raise them with the broilers, once they are on the 19-20% feed the broilers are on anyway, or will the broilers, being so much more numerous out-compete them for the food, or will the turkeys being so much bigger kill broilers in their way? If they can't be raised with the broilers, how much space would they need? Given the BB would be older, and faster growing than the heritage turkeys do they have to kept separate from each other?
I know the BB are supposed to be incapable of flying. Is that the experience of others here, or they need to be clipped? I assume I'll need to clip the wing feathers of the heritage turkeys to keep them contained.
Any words of wisdom from those that have done this before?
I raise everything together but I have a very large barn and free range.
I know someone who raises his chickens and turkeys together and slaughters the turkeys at a smaller size because it is what he prefers. I think it depends on how large you want your birds to be. We get them in the spring and slaughter for Thanksgiving. By then our BB are around 30-35lbs. If you are prefering a smaller carcass definitely slaughter younger.
I had some turkeys that weren't mean, just big and unaware. They'd step on the chickens while feeding and the chickens would struggle out from under them. No one was ever hurt but...turkeys get BIG.
My bourbon reds were a flight problem. Lost quite a few due to flying into the dog run. Being kept the same length of time as the BB I had carcasses from 9-12lbs. So small.
Turkeys keep as easily as chickens in my experience. Maybe even easier as my free range turkeys were way better at it than the laying hens. They like to roost when young but when they get larger they stop, mainly because they can't get their big bodies up there anymore.
So, I think we have a plan. We're going to get one additional 164' electronet fence. That will give me 328' total perimeter so I can enclose a 60x100' or 50x110' area. We'll divide that 60/40 with the nuggets getting the larger area since there will be 100 of them, vs about 15 BBB turkeys. The turkeys will be a few weeks older than the nuggets so hopefully that area split will work out OK. We'll just use some inexpensive plastic fence-like material as a divider so they don't intermix. I might ditch the divider if it doesn't seem necessary though.
Considering getting a couple red-ranger broilers with the BBB poults since I've heard the poults are too dumb to figure out water and food on their own. The red rangers take a couple weeks longer than Freedom Rangers to reach slaughter weight so that should work out OK. I'd just put them in with the Freedom Rangers once they're out on the grass.
Whatever the case the BBB turkeys will get a tarp covered shelter with a couple low roosting bars so they get shade/cover from rain/a place to sleep. That will be 3-4' deep and 7-10' wide, so they'd have 21-40 sqft (1.4-2.7 sqft each) under the cover out of 2200-2400 total in their run. The nuggets will get a shelter from a car-port my FIL gave us after it was damaged in a windstorm. It was 10x20', but if I make it 10x10' I won't have to replace some damaged metal parts and I'll get enough overlap from the tarp-like roof material to give them a good shelter as well. That's 1 sqft each under the cover, with 33-36 sqft each total in the run. I'll even add some roost bars to that in case they want them. Those runs will get moved 1-2x per week to new ground, with the shelters moved daily within the run.
We're going to get some pullets to replace our coyote killed hens. I think we'll get a few Bourbon Reds at the same time, and will just brood all of those together. We'll make a temporary coop for the heritage turkeys since they're roosting needs are different, but will probably mostly let them free range with the hens.
This. Exactly this. This is what my therapist has been talking about. And now with a tiny ad: