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Turkeys time to get on pasture?

 
pollinator
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We have a dozen broad-breasted turkeys right now.  9 bronze, 3 white.  Would have gotten all bronze but the store only had 9 left so we got the 3 whites to round things out.  DW was reading that turkeys are supposed to be in the brooder until 8 weeks old.  That seems excessive, at least for broad-breasted.  Obviously it's temperature dependant, but it IS spring.  They're 2.5 weeks old now, and do well in a smaller area on the deck during the warm part of the day.  I think by 3-3.5 weeks they'll be fine outside overnight with heat lamps.  But when can I put them on the grass?

We're also going to get some heritage turkeys this week or next week.  How much longer will they likely need before we free range them in the daytime?  I know they're slower than the broad-breasted, which is fine.  It's actually desirable as that will give us fresh turkey for Thanksgiving that is not some 35lb behemoth carcass like a BB would produce by November.

Some friends wanted turkeys that dress out at 12lbs and 15lbs.  I'm hoping these guys/gals hit the right weight for that around mid-June as that would coincide with the broiler chicken slaughter day.  I'll be renting the plucker and other processing equipment for that so being able to slaughter some of the turkeys at the same time will be handy.  They should be 14 weeks old by then.  What have other folks raising BBB and BBW semi-free range (rotational paddocks) experienced for growth by 14 weeks?
 
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Here’s advice from a long-time turkey breeder: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/how-long-to-keep-poults-in-the-brooder.1297222/
 
Cindy Skillman
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Oh yes, and he’s talking heritage breeds. The main thing (aside from common sense itself) is whether the poults are fully feathered.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Well, for what it's worth, at 3 weeks the BBB and BBW's are outside in a pen on the deck.  They seem pretty happy out there.  They have a lot more room to run around and try to fly a bit.  In spite of apparent shivering before they probably could have gone out a bit sooner.  With some raven and eagle activity I'll probably wait at least another week or two before putting them on the pasture.  I'd like them to be a bit bigger to be less attractive to the ravens.  The killed my meat chickens last year at about 2 lbs.  If they can get to 3 lbs I think they'll be less susceptible to the ravens.  Until they're 10lbs+ they'll probably be subject to predation by the bald eagles.  I'll be putting up some deterrents to raptor attacks of course too.  Plus I think they still need some supplemental heat, at least at night.  Still getting into the low 40's overnight.  
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Oh yeah, we got half a dozen Bourbon Reds yesterday.  I'll update this with their time to get onto pasture.  I expect that will be quite a bit longer, in spite of the generally warming weather with spring.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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So, we were finally ready to get the BB turkeys onto grass over the weekend.  They were 5.5 weeks old, and realistically should have been on the grass a week earlier.

Not really sure exactly what happened, but one of them died Saturday morning.  Fortunately we saw it happen, so I was able to still salvage the meat.  That was unfortunate, but not entirely surprising.

At 5 weeks old the BB turkeys averaged 3.5lbs.  The one that died was 4.5lbs after bleeding.  Be interesting to see the growth when we weigh them again tonight.  At 4 weeks they averaged 2.25lbs.

The heritage turkeys are getting close to 3 weeks old.  We will move them to the temporary shelter on the back deck soon as we get a chance to muck it out from the BB turkeys' stay in that area.  They're getting feathered out enough, and it's not so cold out now, so it'll be nice getting them out of the house.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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We weighed all of the turkeys last night.  The BB average at 6 weeks old is 5.16lbs (range was 4.13-6.13lbs).  The Bourbon Reds at 3 weeks old are 11.3oz.  We didn't start weighing the BB's until they were 4 weeks old (2.25lbs), so it won't be until next week that I can start to compare actual growth rates between them and the BB's.  Obviously I expect slower growth from the Bourbon Reds.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Cindy Skillman wrote:Here’s advice from a long-time turkey breeder: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/how-long-to-keep-poults-in-the-brooder.1297222/



Went back and re-read this.  Our heritage birds are 3 weeks old, and we tried moving them from the brooder to a grow out area on the back deck.  They were whiny cry-babies according to DW, and after 4 hours of them doing nothing but cry out there she brought them back into the brooder.  Whereupon they ate and drank like we hadn't given them water and food on the deck (which, of course, we had).  That area has 4' high tarp around it, and a couple heat lamps, with pine shavings (large flake) on the floor.  I guess they're just not "emotionally" ready for that move just yet.
 
Cindy Skillman
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I just put four 4 week old BBWs out in a Suskovich tractor with 25 red ranger meat chickens for company. They’re all fairly well feathered. I’m pushing it since they’re not fully feathered and Spring is still dithering as to whether or not she wants to come out just yet. I put in two Heat lamps (it’s a big tractor) and tarped both ends that are designed to be unclothed wire. I’m putting up and taking down those tarps depending on Spring’s mood of the moment but I’m leaving the lamps on 24-7. Everyone seems to be doing okay with this arrangement. (Photo below)

Obviously the BBWs are a lot faster growing than heritage breeds. I have heritage ones coming in about a week along with more laying chickens and they’ll grow more slowly. Hopefully Spring will get over her stage fright soon and get on with the sunshine stuff.


0C2EDB18-9B23-4567-ACEF-A4F436A6D9E1.jpeg
four 4 week old BBWs out in a Suskovich tractor with 25 red ranger meat chickens for company
four 4 week old BBWs out in a Suskovich tractor with 25 red ranger meat chickens for company
 
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