Keeping Turkeys

How To Go About Keeping Turkeys

In some areas, keeping turkeys has become just as popular as having cats and dogs as pets.  They actually are quite intelligent, have their own special temperament and require little grooming.  That being said, if you are considering bringing one home, you should know that they do have some special requirements when it comes to housing and food.

If you are thinking that keeping turkeys might be fun, you should first know that a domestic male can mature at a massive 86 pounds, which is about 4 times the size of a wild turkey.  Males grow to be four feet long with females about one foot shorter.  These birds can have a wingspan of six feet wide.

Some domestic turkeys are able to fly while others are not.  They have been reported at running 35 miles per hour when needed but have much worse hearing and eyesight than the wild variety.  Females make their well-known clucking sound for communication while the males will charm you with their gobble.  Interestingly, only the males have the ability to put on a show by fanning their tail feathers, a talent females do not share.

Housing

If you are keeping turkeys that are unable to fly, they are easily housed in a fenced in yard, those that can fly require some sort of net to keep them enclosed.  Two turkeys can be comfortable in an area that is 90 square feet with at least a fence at least 6 feet tall however, they are much happier with more room.  For turkeys that can fly, chicken wire should surround the top and bottom to not only keep them in but also keep other animals out.

The turkey should be provided with some type of shelter to protect them from the wind, rain, snow, sleet and hail.  This can be something as simple as a tarp or a nice barn stall.  The pen needs to be kept clean at all times.  Every day waste needs to be raked out and then new hay or dirt should be added.  No one said keeping turkeys is an easy or glamorous hobby.

Feeding

The majority of the turkey's diet should be pellets.  They also love vegetables, fruits, weeds, leaves, acorns, nuts, grapes, grass, kale and berries.  On occasion they will eat oatmeal, cracked chicken eggs, insects and even small animals if any manage to find their way into the pen.

Some young turkey will not accept pellets at first so you may need to feed them crickets, spiders, earthworms, meal worms and beetles that you can catch yourself or purchase at pet store.  It is important that if you catch the bugs yourself to be sure that they have not been exposed to insecticides.

Crushed oyster shells added to their food are an excellent source of calcium.  Also, turkeys need grit or small rocks for their gizzard to actually grind up their food.  These should be provided at all times or your turkeys will not be able to properly digest their food.  Fresh water must always be available either in a bowl or a special poultry water dispenser that you can find at a farm store.

General Care

If you are keeping turkeys, it is important that they are provided with space that allows them to exercise.  Their lifespan expectancy is around 12 years when cared for properly.  With overfeeding and inadequate exercise, domestic turkeys are in danger of becoming too large to carry their body weight.

Domestic turkeys are prone to having blackhead disease, which is actually a dangerous type of parasite.  While chickens are not affected by these parasites, they carry them and pass them onto the turkeys.  Blackhead causes turkeys to have enlarged livers, yellow spots and it is generally fatal.