If you are interested in raising Turkeys in your backyard, then there are going to be specific things that you need to consider and take into consideration. Keeping these birds can be very rewarding, but they do come with their own set of challenges that you will need to overcome.
So, how do you raise Turkeys in your backyard? To raise Turkeys in your backyard you need to first identify the type of Turkey you want to raise, then you need to prepare enough roaming space, provide shelter and optimize the environment for their needs (proving lamps, bedding and feeders). However, not all areas permit Turkeys to be kept, or there are restrictions in place. Always check with your local authorities ahead of time.
Today, we’ll be outlining all the steps you need to take in order to successfully raise turkeys on your own land. There will be a lot of tips here, so be sure to read until the end to ensure that you know exactly what you need to do and how to prepare in advance!
Step #1: Understand Your Local Laws
First and foremost, you need to discover whether it is actually possible to get a/some Turkeys in the first place.
Turkeys are considered farm animals, and as such, there are usually restrictions on how many you can own, or if you can own them at all.
For the most part, you should be okay – but it is important to check with your local authorities to ensure that it is actually legal to raise Turkeys on your property.
Additionally, if you do not own the land, you’ll need to check with the landowner to ensure they are happy and satisfied with you keeping them.
Ultimately, it is in your interests to get the go ahead in advance. This way it will ensure you do not have to potentially remove them at a latter date. A costly and somewhat challenging process.
So, check to see if you live in an area with any restrictions, and find out all about the laws that permit to owning livestock.
Step #2: Identify The Turkey Breed To Raise
With confirmation that you can raise Turkeys on your property, your next big decision is to identify the breed of bird to raise. Each one is different, so it is important to research into the different types – what they are like and what that will mean for you as an owner.You’ll also want to see what is available from breeders in your local area.
Below are the most common breeds of Turkey that are often raised in backyards.
The Bourbon Red breed gets its name from a combination of its reddish colored plumage and due to the fact they originally bred in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
The average adult male will reach 15 kilograms (33 pounds) in weight whereas the average adult female (hen) will reach 8.2 kilograms (18 pounds) in weight.
The breed’s feathers are usually a dark brown color, with white found in the tail and across their bodies. Typically, the tail and wings have chestnut coverts.
The Bronze Turkey is the most common and standard breeds. The name refers to its plumage, which consists of a bronze colored finish.
The average adult male will reach 11 kilograms (25 pounds) in weight whereas the average adult female (hen) will reach 7.2 kilograms (16 pounds) in weight.
The average Bronze Turkey has retained the ability to reproduce naturally (among other traits), so if you are looking to expand your flock, this breed will enable you to do so (without the need for artificial insemination)
Broad-Breasted Whites acquired their name due to the fact that they have shorter breast bones and larger breasts. For this reason, they cannot actually breed without artificial insemination.
These birds will provide more breast meat than other breads, and will weigh on average 16-18 kilograms (30-40 pounds)
If you are looking to own this breed, consider that they will not be able to reproduce without your assistance. This may be good or not for you, depending if you want to control or keep the flock size down.
Although, this breed is also more susceptible to joint issues and disease; due to the way in which they have been bred and the size that they have since reached (mostly for the meat industry)
This breed is not considered the most ideal to raise, but they are commonly found and usually cheaper than the other breeds outlined above.
Step #3: Prepare Sufficient Roaming Space
As with any poultry bird, Turkeys require sufficient space to roam in order to thrive and remain in optimal health.
They are quite big birds after all.
If you were to overpopulate with either too many Turkeys, or without providing sufficient space, you invite a range of issues which can range from food competition and territorialism all the way through to unsanitary conditions which increase the likelihood of illness and disease.
But how much space do Turkeys actually require?
If you decide to raise turkeys indoors, the University of New Hampshire’s Co-operative Extension recommends a minimum of 6 feet per bird. While this may seem quite a lot of space to offer up, keeping your Turkeys indoors will be easier to control predators and parasites.
That being said, you can keep them outdoors with some planning and consideraiton.
Either way, you’ll need to provide them with access to fresh grass and frequent opportunities to roam. Generally the more room you can provide the better. A good rule of thumb is to provide 1/3-1/2 an acre for every 10 birds.
Turkeys are large birds so need adequate space to move about and remain active. Moreover, they should have access to outside space to ensure that they can eat insects and bugs plus get an adequate amount of sunshine.
Free-ranging Turkeys are likely to be considerably happier and healthier too!
If you plan on keeping them outside, you’ll need to consider shelter options and defensive measures to prevent predators from attacking/killing your birds.
Step #4: Provide Shelter and Necessities
Turkeys are ideal targets for predatory animals including foxes, coyotes and other large birds of prey. Additionally, the eggs in which they lay are also targeted by other smaller predators including the likes of raccoons and sometimes snakes.
Ensuring that you have sufficient, guarded shelter is going to be very important. Especially when you are away and are not observing your flock.
Its also to important to consider the weather; wind, rain, sleet or snow can all pose problems to Turkeys. Providing shelter is as important for these reasons too.
The majority of Turkey owners provide a sealed building; with no open windows or areas of access. The floor is usually easily cleaned which makes clearing out muck much easier.
As stated above, each Turkey should have a minimum of 6 square feet of space, each.
Providing a concealed shelter will help you to manage the environment more effectively. You’ll be able to change the temperature accordingly; keeping your Turkeys warm in the winter and preventing heat stroke in the summer as the temperatures are higher.
You may have a sealed outdoor building available for your Turkeys, or a spare room in an existing barn. Failing this you can look to construct one too.
Brooder Area For Raising Young Poults
Poults is the name given to a young domestic fowl – whether this be a chicken or a turkey.
If you are looking to raise turkeys from young poults, then you will need to take some other things into consideration too.
Providing a Brooder station is imperative to keep them warm during this phase of development. You’ll also need to keep them more protected – keeping them confined to a specific controlled area, preventing the outdoor elements and stopping predators getting them too.
For poults, you need to specific and designate an area of at least 1-2 feet of space per poult. Ventilation is important, as well as ensuring the space is sufficiently tall to prevent poults from jumping out and escaping.
If you are looking to construct this area yourself, you can do so using a workable wood like plywood. From there, you can purchase a see-through screen which you can place on the front. Failing this, large fish tanks (like this) can also work here and will save you the effort of having to construct an area yourself.
It is recommended that you place some kind of substrate to the bottom of the brooder. Some Turkey owners will use pine shavings, others sand. Both work to help you clean and keep the area dry.
For poults, you need to ensure that a 250-watt lamp is placed into the brooder and shining on the young birds. A thermometer will help you monitor the temperature.
The brooders needs to be kept around 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, no more no less. Observe your poults and if there is any signs of discontent adjust the position of the lamp accordingly.
Your poults will begin to move closer to the lamp if they are too cold, move away if they are too hot. Move the position of the lamp accordingly to ensure the poults have a happy medium.
You can always turn the lamp on/off during the winter/summer. It depends on the internal temperature of the room.
Finally, you need to place a feeder and waterer designed for poults. This will prevent them from turning them over and not being able to acquire the nutrition/hydration they need. This is an excellent set available for a great price on Amazon.
When it comes to bedding you need to be very particular and careful with the type you opt for. If you get this wrong you can cause harm to your birds.
Cedar wood shavings should not, under any circumstance be used. This contains a toxic chemical which can greatly harm your birds if they are exposed to it). Additionally, sawdust and newspaper should not be used.
With sawdust, this can be accidentally ingested – especially by young poults causing respiratory issues. Sometimes, confused poults will eat the sawdust which will fill them up and this can result in malnutrition. Newspapers become can cause slipping when wet, where Turkeys are likely to fall and harm themselves.
Instead, you’ll want to opt for pine wood shavings; this is an excellent option from Amazon. Its 100% natural pine wood shavings that is very absorbent cleaning up muck and making it easier to take away and replace.
Step #5: Secure With Fencing
The final step when raising Turkeys in your backyard is to consider the fencing on the perimeter of your property. The taller and more resilient this is, the safer your birds will ultimately be.
Its not just to protect your birds from animals getting in; its also to prevent your birds from getting over it and escaping too! Turkeys are known to attempt the great escape, and you’ll be surprised to learn at how high they can get if they put their mind to it. They’ll actually attempt the fly.
A fence should be at least 5-6 feet in height to stop any chance of escape.
Building a fence is perhaps the most cost-effective way to do so. Its not overly complicated either. All you need to do is buy some chicken wire and some wood posts.
For the posts, you can even set concrete onto them for added weight/durability and longevity.
Another consideration is to bury part of the fencing a couple of feet (2-3) underground. This will help to prevent predators from attempting to dig and go under the fence too.
Make sure that you prevent any loose or sharp edges from dangling from the fence. This could of course cause injury to you or your birds.
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Benefits To Raising Turkeys
If you are yet to decide as to whether you want to raise Turkeys at all, or are leaning towards another type of bird (like chickens), let us quickly run through some of the benefits in doing so:
- Turkeys are typically cleaner than other species of poultry. Turkeys are not known for making a mess; they do not routinely spill their water/food nor do they tend to hurl their soiled bedding around.
- Turkeys are great natural predators of bugs, insects and other smaller wildlife. So, if you have ant infestations, or you just want to limit the amount of bugs you have in your backyard, your Turkeys will gobble them up. And their health will benefit in doing so too!
- Turkeys can be raised for their meat. If you did want to eat your Turkeys, you would be sure to know that they have been bred humanely, kept properly and raised appropriately. You can control how they live their lives, how much they roam and what they are fed.
- Turkeys are a great opportunity to care for and take responsibility. They can provide their owners with a great sense of purpose.
- Turkeys provide an ideal opportunity to teach young children and educate them about responsibility, life and care.
Negatives of Raising Turkeys
Like any pet that you take on, Turkeys are no different in the sense that they do bring their own negatives and downsides. Here are the main ones.
- Turkeys require quite a lot of space and a sufficiently large enough backyard to begin with. You are going to need to be able to afford ‘giving up’ areas of your backyard that you can house them and look after them.
- Turkeys are generally quite expensive to raise the first time you do so. You will need to buy a lot of items when you first get them to set up their environment and habitat. You’ll also have to be aware of ongoing costs like feed.
- Turkeys also provide little personal interaction when compared with other pets. For example, you cannot play with a Turkey like you can with a dog. Turkeys ‘do’ relatively little in comparison to other pets.
- Turkeys require a lot of time, monitoring and observation. You need to ensure they have everything they need at all times and routinely visit them. You need to stay on top of things like potential predators and vermin whom will pose a threat to your birds.
- Turkeys are not obvious to take care of and can be difficult to understand. You will need to research ahead of time and conduct a lot of research on them to ensure you are raising them properly and appropriately.
All in all, raising Turkeys is a rewarding, yet challenging opportunity – especially for individuals who have not taken care of birds like chickens before.
With the right setup and a bit of knowledge behind you, rearing Turkeys is not too much of a challenge.
In fact, you can actually raise them with chickens, if you so desired.
Just remember to be aware of the potential risks and dangers to your flock; and be sure to invest in the best products possible first time round. This will save you a lot of time, frustration and money in the long run.
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.