If you are looking to keep turkeys, then first and foremost you will want to know how long they live on average. This information can help set expectations and help you plan accordingly. I decided to do some research on the topic. I would like to share with you all that I have been able to find with you here today.
So, how long do domestic turkeys live? A domesticated turkey will live until the age of 10, on average. Factors that influence the lifespan of turkeys include, health, nutrition, environmental conditions, and the security of their coop. Turkey owners routinely report that raising turkeys is not too difficult so long as you know what you are doing and can take care of their needs and requirements.
Keeping turkeys is quite similar to keeping chickens, except that turkeys are more friendly towards humans. It can equally be a lot of fun and you will enjoy interacting with them. Not to mention that it can be a nice little earner depending on how and why you are looking to raise them and if you live on a farm or a homestead.
Nonetheless, lets now take a closer look at the lifespan of these birds and some of the primary factors that play a big role in their longevity.
Lifespan Of A Turkey
In the wild, the average turkey life expectancy is 3 to 5 years, with hens usually living three years and toms living for four years.
On the other hand, domesticated turkeys live almost double this time – for around ten years if kept well and fed appropriately on average.
Be aware that this does depend on that this average is calculated based on a number of factors: the breed of the Turkey, conditions and also the gender. For example, females may have a shorter life expectancy than their male counterparts, but this is dependent on whether they breed each mating season.
The oldest known domesticated turkey on record lived to 13 years, but this should be treated as an exception.
Domestic turkeys bred for their meat live only a few months. After a few months, they are usually at the right weight for commercial slaughter.
Turkey pairs kept for breeding may be held for many years.
Factors That Affect A Turkeys Life Expectancy
Raising turkeys is not dissimilar to raising chickens. However, turkeys require some extra considerations.
Be aware that there are some differences between domestic birds and their wild counterparts.
The most crucial time for your turkeys is within the first few weeks of their birth. Chicks require round the clock monitoring to ensure that predators, the cold, or disease do not affect them.
To ensure your turkeys survive the first few weeks, make sure that you have the following essentials in place.
Turkey chicks need a lot of warmth, keep the brooder at 95 to 100 degrees in week one, and decrease it by 5 degrees every week until your birds have all of their feathers.
You can place a heat lamp in the enclosure with your poults, but make sure that they have enough room so that they can move to a cooler part of the enclosure if they wish.
You can use a thermometer to help you control the temperature inside.
The enclosure must be draft-free and warm; this is more important than a heat lamp for your birds. You must place a good layer of bedding on the floor of the enclosure; pinewood shavings make ideal bedding as they are inexpensive and widely available.
Install a draft shield around the enclosure to keep your poults warm, as drafts can cause death in baby turkeys.
Food And Water
Never offer cold water to your poults as it can kill them. Make sure that their water is lukewarm.
Add an electrolyte and vitamin solution to your poults water before bringing them home; this helps them get over the trauma of having to be transported.
When it comes to feeding your baby turkeys, they need 28% protein within the first 6 to 8 weeks, after that, you can give them a diet consisting of 18% protein.
Turkeys, like chickens, require grit (like this from Amazon). However, when they are young they will require grit most suitable for them (also available on Amazon). You can sprinkle grit in your bird’s food.
Your poults need greens in their diet as they grow if you plan to keep your hens for egg-laying, grit, and calcium aid egg production.
Once your turkeys survive the first few weeks of life, many factors can affect their life expectancy, primarily turkey diseases.
Let’s discuss some of the most common diseases among domestic turkeys.
The caecal worm transmits blackhead. When turkeys ingest the caecal worm eggs contaminated with blackhead, the blackhead develops in the gut, moving into the caecal wall, causing diarrhea and inflammation.
The parasite then moves across the abdomen into the liver, where it causes severe damage, usually resulting in sudden death.
Coccidiosis is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite that reproduces by entering the cells of a turkey’s intestine.
The parasite goes on to destroy the cell lining of the intestinal wall damaging the wall. This damage impedes the gut’s capacity to absorb nutrients, inevitably leading to diarrhea and weight loss.
Turkeys can die from coccidiosis, but those most at risk are poults from the ages of 2 weeks to 2 months.
Erysipelas is a bacteria living in the soil; it can enter a turkey’s bloodstream through a wound. This disease can, at worst, cause sudden death, but is more common cases it can cause poor development and lameness.
Caring For Your Pet Turkeys
Just to recap, the most critical time of a domestic turkey’s life is within the first few weeks of its birth.
Baby turkeys are fragile and require the utmost care; after that, you still need to keep up with their care and maintenance. Let’s explore in more detail how you would continue to care for your pet turkeys:
Housing And Fencing
Many farmers allow their turkeys to live outdoors in a fenced pen that has a portable roost assembly. It is best for turkeys to range on short grass of about 4 to 6 inches long.
You must have a secure fence to keep out predators like foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and bears. Woven wire makes the best fencing.
You should look to feed your Turkeys pellets as the primary food in the diet. You can buy fowl pellets at many pet stores, but I find it a lot easier to purchase online. There are a lot of options available on Amazon.
Domestic turkeys generally take very well to pellets, even when young.
You should use a feeder that can hold around 100 pounds of feed as, by the time they are adults, they will consume about one pound of feed per day.
Along with pellets, you should look to offer fruits and vegetables. Along with this, leaves, weeds, and other wild food sources like Acorns can be eaten as they roam. Insects and small animals may be eaten too.
Turkeys love treats, and good options include adding oatmeal to their main feed. Equally, chicken eggs are enjoyed – and you can always crack one on the ground for them to eat up.
You can look to offer your turkeys bugs like crickets, mealworms, earthworms, spiders and beetles, which you can attempt to catch by hand. Or again, heading to a pet store/online are other options.
Be careful if you decide to catch bugs by hand as they can carry harmful pesticides. This is why it is generally better (and easier) to buy them online.
If you have about a dozen turkeys, you must provide them with at least 2 gallons of water per day.
Turkeys should be provided with sufficient space that they can roam and get the exercise they need. This will also help with their mental well-being.
Domestic turkeys can live up to 10 years if raised and cared for properly. Be aware that this is an average and does depend on several factors.
That being said, it is essential to prevent health issues in your birds before they arise – with good food, clean water, portable roosts, and fresh pasture this will go a long way to ensuring their health.
Turkeys do require pasture and plenty of roosting space – not only to meet their exercise needs but also for their well-being. Equally, their housing should be properly ventilated and secured from predators.
Lastly, if you keep chickens, it is recommended that you raise your turkeys separately as this can cause issues.
Will domestic turkeys run away? Domestic turkeys may run or even fly away. This is possible and you therefore need to consider your setup and how you keep them. If you get your turkeys as adults, you should pen them in so that they do not have enough room to run and get over a fence. After 3-4 weeks this can be relaxed. This is because in this time, your birds will realize that you provide food and care. Once they learn this they will look to stick around and a pen can be expanded, removed or relaxed. However, if you do not provide enough food and your turkeys are not penned in, they may wander or attempt to run away in search of food.
Are turkeys easy to keep? Turkeys are considered relatively easy to keep. They are hardy birds and are resilient even to harsh weathers. However, you do need to educate yourself to ensure that you can meet the needs of your flock. Feed and Shelter are perhaps the two most significant to consider.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.