Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Starting to raise turkeys

Dale, aka Turkeyman, started raising Thanksgiving turkeys more than 30 years ago when he and his wife brought a few baby turkeys home from a swap on a whim. From 4H shows to  free range flocks, he's been hooked ever since. 
Baby turkeys are called poults, young males are called jakes, old males are called toms  and all females are called hens. 
Broad White Tom

There are basically three kinds of domestic turkeys: Broad Breasted White, Broad Breasted Bronze and Heritage breeds (as recognized by the American Poultry Association). The white and bronze have been bred to grow fast and have a large breast.

White turkeys are the commercial breed because their looks are more appealing to buyers. When dressed, if a few pin feathers are missed you never notice on a white but can see them across the room on a bronze. Plus bronze turkeys have a darker liquid in the pin feathers. If the pin feathers break in the picking process it will make the skin darker. It doesn’t hurt anything.

The heritage breeds are the old fashioned kind. They are not bred for meat, but they are colorful and free-range very well.

To feed your turkeys:

The whites & bronze require a 26 to 28% starter feed. At four weeks switch to a 20% grower. The heritage will do fine on regular chick starter and grower. For more details on what these percentages mean, click here for the entry on poultry feed.

As always, post questions in the comment section.