This year I want to raise my own turkeys for Thanksgiving. I already have chickens and a coop. [I recently one the right to have them legally, check out my facebook page if you want: www.facebook.com/LegalizeChickensInSantee] I found a thread on BackyardChickens.com http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/270352/if-i-want-to-raise-my-own-turkeys-for-next-thanksgiving They say anywhere from 4-6 months to slaughter. So I'm thinking late April early May? But what else I wanted to know was if any of you have experience with keeping chickens and turkeys together. Some people mentioned bullied to death as well as blackhead disease. Should I not keep them in the same coop? And my last question is I would never just have one chicken because it would be lonely so should I get at least two turkeys so that they can be buddies?
Thanks for your help and information!
Stay in trouble,
Tyler Ludens wrote:I was not able to raise turkeys for Thanksgiving by starting them in the Spring. I raised Royal Palms, which take a long time to mature. I wanted them for Thanksgiving, but they were so small by then I ended up buying a store turkey.
Hey Tyler! I did Royal Palms too. I did eat them though at Thanksgiving. They were about 8 lbs but for a family of 4 that was perfect! We had enough for Thanksgiving dinner, 1 day of left overs, and soup. I kept a few and they did breed. We had more guests but 2 8 lb turkeys was better than 1 16 pounder because my husband and daughter like the legs and this way there were more to go around!
It's true this doesn't look like a store bought turkey:
but it was delish!
Tyler Ludens wrote:... baby turkeys seem like death magnets compared to baby chicks.
You got that right!
Well, I didn't have any deaths when I bought the baby turkeys but every turkey I hatched died! Every single one. I though I was going to to better than the hen who wound up with 4 surviving chicks. She'll laid 16 eggs, 8 hatched, a 4 died various deaths.
Alan Stuart wrote:So I'm thinking late April early May? But what else I wanted to know was if any of you have experience with keeping chickens and turkeys together. Some people mentioned bullied to death as well as blackhead disease. Should I not keep them in the same coop?
April to May is fine for heritage breeds, really July is fine for broad breasted.
My turkeys live in a paddock (wings clipped but they roost in trees) so they don't share a coop with the chickens but they hang out together during the day. I think you either have blackhead or you don't. Keep the turkeys separate when they are young and fragile but after 2 months they should be able to mingle.
That photo was taken last March and the Toms look impressive (they still didn't weigh more than 10 lbs). I slaughtered 2 of them for Passover (sometime in spring) but the breast meat was kind of gooey. I don't know if this happens in Texas but up north killing turkeys in the spring is messy because of what I later found was called "sponge." It has something to do with how they store energy to get through the winter. I guess hunters cut that part away. I cooked them whole but just didn't serve the gooey part. The rest tasted fine.
We've never raised turkeys but we're going to get 20 poults this year and see how it goes. We're getting Naragansett and Spanish Blacks.
CJ those Royal Palms are gorgeous.
The next year, also in late March, I ended up with a tom and a hen. The hen was crushed to death a few weeks later when the tom tried to mount her. I kept the tom penned and he gained weight fast. He started gobbling in September and I was nervous about the neighbors. About two weeks before Thanksgiving (one week before his scheduled demise) he had a heart attack during the night and died. It was a very warm night and we didn't notice him until late morning, so I decided to dispose of him. The vet wanted $60. The pound would do it for free, so I took him to the pound. He was huge. His breast muscles were as big as my thighs. I had to have my son help me load him in the van. The worker at the pound didn't believe me when I told him the carcass was over 40 lbs and he almost injured his back, letting out a loud involuntary groan when he hefted it out of the van.
That was my last venture into turkey raising. If I do it again, for food, I will get more broad breasted. I like the Bronze, they look better in the yard. I will wait until late May to buy the poults, to get a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. I don't think they gain much extra weight after 4 or 5 months, plus you will likely have less time gobbling and less risk for heart attack. Don't put the poults on newspaper. They can seriously injure their knees. As soon as you recognize hen from tom, separate them. Hens are easier to handle, for the most part. If you get a tom and feed him for more than 4 months, plan on getting a very large oven, or you will have to cut him into sections to cook. Also, consider a good sheltered pen, especially for a tom. You will get better conversion rates in a pen, but it is nice to see them free-range.
The broad breasted are bred to eat (and be eaten), like the broilers. You won't be doing them any favors to starve them. If you time it right, you won't risk an unscheduled demise and you won't torture them by withholding feed.
I like having turkeys in the yard. If I get them for ornamental purposes, I will get a nice heritage breed, like Narragansett. I still worry about the gobbling and aggression of the toms (the hens noise sounds like a small dog yapping, so a 6 foot solid fence will keep the neighbors guessing).
The climate I live in seems to be fairly healthy for poultry. I had my original six hens I bought at the feed store for 7 years before they started to die off. I still have two. I don't know about any health complications in mixing turkeys with chickens, ducks and geese, etc.
I raise them in the same movable pens that I use for our pasture raised broilers.
That is impressive. What did you do with 300+ pounds of turkey? Did you divvy them out to friends and family? Seems a bit of a shame to freeze fresh home-grown turkey, but still satisfying, to be sure.
I wonder if I would have had heavier hens that first year, if I had penned them rather than letting them free range? On the other hand, I have wondered if I had exercised my tom regularly the second year, if he would have made it to Thanksgiving?
The local feed stores here don't carry poults after Memorial Day. I can't keep more than a few birds on my property without risking a call to the city from the usually tolerant neighbors (no poultry permitted, yet). Those are impressive weights for 3 and 4 months (or even 4 and 5 months, depending on when in August you started). I had not considered waiting until late summer to start, but I may have to reconsider, but only if I can divide an order with 2 or 3 others.
You were using movable pens. Did your turkeys eat acorns, along with grass and bugs? I couldn't get mine to eat them unless I shelled them first (I and my son tried for some time to teach them to eat acorns whole, first). They would run from the other side of the yard if they saw me leaning over and reaching for the ground. I assumed they were spoiled with the mash and pellets, and no adults to mimic in the yard other than laying hens. The second year, my son prepared the acorns and put them in with the pellets for the tom.
Beautiful pictures everyone thanks for sharing. When I get the phone upload issue resolved here Ill post some of our flock.
the remaining three will be my breeding stock for the next few years. I'm hoping to raise twenty or so each year. they're a lot of fun, though fond of escaping. the neighbor kids love to make noises so the tom will gobble. I don't think it's stressing him out, though it does look like it takes a lot of energy to stay all puffed up like that.
the "sponge" business is interested. I was just thinking our tom's breast was pretty mushy when I gave him a cuddle yesterday (he's not very affectionate, but he's so soft).
My husband just wants to give them a swift kick - but that is just two males fighting.
Everytime my Tom or Goose thinks of being aggressive I grab them in a big bear hug. I hold them, pet their head and neck, talk baby talk, scratch thier backs, tummy and under the wings. Every once in a while I'll even sit down on the ground and hold them for a while. They absolutely HATE this.
When they see me coming they know it is 'hugging' time and they get as far away from me as possible.
I raise Narragansetts, and keep an assortment of chickens around for their eggs and for entertainment. They are kept together - ranging about over a couple acres during the day and coming into my horse pen at night (where my hound dog keeps them safe from racoons).
They do fine together health-wise, but a few "interpersonal problems" did have to be worked out. The chickens I have are adults, and the poults (baby turkeys) get picked on a bit when very young, mostly by the roosters. It never gets bloody, but I keep an eye on them. I do have well-behaved roosters, as the bad actors are butchered. As the poults grow and get about the same size as the chickens, they start standing up for themselves, and the bullying stops cold.
My turkeys, both the toms and the hens, are gentle and pleasant to be around. Partially it's due to the breed characteristics, partly from lots of gentle handling. I've not ever been much of a turkey-hugger, as contact like that can cause dominance issues as the (toms especially) grow older, but I hand feed them treats, and spend time in and amongst the flock on a regular basis. They know to come when called, which is very convenient.
Adult turkeys eat grass and weeds happily. It's a preferred food. The chickens are more predatory and will go after meat of all varieties much more readily. Narragansetts, along with all the other true heritage breeds, forage for food, breed naturally (needing no artificial insemination like the broad-breasted varieties do), generally are good brooders and mothers, and grow MUCH more slowly than the "meat" birds we are used to seeing in the stores. They should have a nice heft to their breast, but will never compare to the broad-breasted type. They take a year or longer to reach maturity. I prefer the heritage breeds for these reasons (well, I don't worry about how long it takes them to get really large, as I don't need a big bird for my solitary eating). I refuse to have an incubator or brooder, as they take electricity, plus I value animals that retain the ability to care for themselves and their young. Raising these birds helps ensure the survival of these traits in a world of factory farming and intensive growth methods that select only for huge-breasted meat birds.
All of the broad-breasted varieties will succumb to heart-attacks or leg and joint problems if allowed to get too big/old. Another reason they cannot reproduce on their own. They are perfect for one thing only - to serve as dinner for a crowd, and they do that admirably. They would be the way to go if you want to raise your own holiday bird. If they are allowed to forage a natural diet in addition to giving them a high-protein diet, you'll have yourself a delicious dinner
Hope this helps someone!
By tread, do you mean mount, or just sort of step on? My boys didn't ever mount the chickens, and any stepping was purely accidental as far as I could see. They mount the female turkeys (not lots, but enough, if you know what I mean!). They will on occasion go after the roosters, but no bloodbath ensues....it makes me chuckle, since the roosters were such schoolyard bullies before
I am by far the worst offender of stepping on any of my animals, be they chicken, turkey, dog, cat or rabbit. I'm sorta clumsy that way, and the darn critters are always milling about my legs. You'd think they'd learn! Thankfully I have a filly who is large enough for me to avoid her toes
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