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Free range turkey help

 
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Not sure where to put this post since there's not turkey section, but here it goes...

We have 2.5 acres well fenced with 4'high fencing that's also somewhat electrified and will be running our dairy goats and pigs back there. (This is the future plan, lol, we are finishing fencing and looking for goats to buy right now) I'm wondering about throwing some turkeys back there since they like wooded areas. Obviously we would brood them well - from what I'm reading, that would be about a month or so long? And then put them loose back there in the dense woods with feed and water. Is this a recipe for disaster? There's lots of high trees they can roost in, but I'm also concerned about them jumping over the fence....will owls get them if they're in dense woodland? Is this a terrible plan? Welcome to any advice!
 
pollinator
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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After a month in the brooder, the poults will still be quite small and thus easy prey.  They'll still be quite small after two months, and even three, come to that.  Once grown, they'll easily fly over a 4-foot fence (or hop onto it and then go over), though clipping their wings might mitigate that.

If you start with adults, they might be okay in your setup as described, but starting with poults and no shelter is probably going to result in some well-fed wild critters.
 
Posts: 75
Location: NW KS/NE CO State Line
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Your best approach is probably transitional.  
Poults not reared by a turkey (i.e. hand-raised) are not too bright, and have a tendency to commit hari kiri in the first 7-8 weeks.  

A tractor works well after they get the hang of staying alive in the brooder, but again, it's a transitional stage to get them used to foraging, seeking shelter from the rain, etc.  

Once they get bigger than a standard-breed hen, it's probably safe to day range them, penning them in at night.  Details of note include that land-based predators prefer prey they can easily dispatch and carry off, so they prefer pullets to hens and hens to roosters, so once the turkeys are bigger than the balance of the birds you've got around, you're unlikely to have issues.  At the same time, a 10# raptor isn't going to try and carry off a 5# bird and risk not being able to get off the ground if there's a 3# bird available.  As soon as they're feathered out and have figured out flying, noctural predators shouldn't be an issue because turkeys will go as high as the opportunity (and body weights) permit.  At 20#, my last two toms were flapping through a near vertical 5' jump to roost to top of the hoop house that serves as my chicken coop b/c my roost bars were too high to allow them to avoid hitting their heads.  

To avoid them going feral, or wandering off for too long, I'd suggest that getting them used to treats at bedtime is a good idea.  Go out about an hour before dusk starting when they're still in the tractor and giving them treats.  When you begin ranging them, start slow, with a couple hours in the afternoon, followed by treats at roost time, so they get in the habit of coming back to the same roost at the end of the day.  Then you can just start easing them into longer and longer range days until they're not actually penned in at night at all.

I wlll point this out.  Because it sounds like line of sight may become an issue at times, I would strongly encourage a very loud vocalization on your part as part of the training regimen (I used a high-pitched "turk turk turk") so that when they're out in the brambles eating rose hips and chasing rats you can still get their attention.  

Beyond that, the only other consideration is going to be breed choice... make sure that if your adult birds are going to be free-ranging that they don't look too much like the indigenous wild birds in the area or you may accidentally lose some during bow season.  
 
Katie Jarvis
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Thanks, that's all good to know. We have chicjens, ducks, and geese, but they all go into a locked coop at night and stay mostly around the cleared house and front pasture where we see them. The turkeys would be back where we couldn't see them most of the time. Granted, we do have a horse and a donkey that would be back there with the turkeys, but idk how much protection that would offer since they could be spread out over 2.5 acres. If they can still get over a 4' fence with clipped wings, then I doubt our plan will work. Thy're too expensive to risk them running off....and there are lots of loose dogs around, so they probably wouldn't survive if they jumped outin any direction. The dogs won't come in our fence, but they'll definitely take anything that jumps out. I was hoping the dense woods and shrubs would keep them safe from aerial predators (this is jungle so dense you can't walk through it), but again, an expensive gamble...
 
Chris Palmberg
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Location: NW KS/NE CO State Line
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Dogs can be a challenge, in part because their predatory instincts aren't as fine-tuned for wildlife cycles.  

I'd suggest looking at Storey's Turkey book for more comprehensive sheltering plans.  

If you use electric poultry netting with some serious voltage, it should keep the dogs at bay.  I'd suggest starting the turkeys up front until they get accustomed to the net (to make sure you don't have losses from tangled birds) where you can keep your eyes on them.  

The other thought is that I would expect the turkeys will quickly learn about avoiding the dogs, which should help with predation.  Also (and this is merely my personal working theory,) dogs aren't triggered by a meal issue, but rather by a game of fetch with a live animal, particularly with bird dogs.  All of the issues I've had with domesticated dogs have been because the birds squawk and run away.  Even the rogue Pyrennese that plagued our area this spring was chasing and catching livestock that ran away rather than necessarily hunting them.  My turkeys this year were more likely to get swolled up and strut in order to intimidate unfamiliar animals (and people) rather than flee.  
 
Katie Jarvis
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How do people keep them in poultry net if they can jump a 4' fence?
 
Katie Jarvis
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The dogs won't come onto our property, they'll just attack anything that jumps over our perimeter fence...so I'm not really worried about them. But I do need to keep the turkeys on our land, which is only 5 acres...
 
Wes Hunter
pollinator
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Katie Jarvis wrote:How do people keep them in poultry net if they can jump a 4' fence?



It might depend on breed.  It's been a while since I've been around them, but I don't think broad-breasted turkeys have much luck getting themselves airborn, so keeping them in electronet ought not be too much trouble.  Whenever I've given heritage breeds a range surrounded by electronet, they go over easy.  Clipping their wings (just one side) should help.
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