Raising turkeys can be a great way to diversify the livestock on your farm. Whether you're looking to add a new revenue stream or you're just looking for a little entertainment, turkeys are sure to delight!
One of the main complaints we hear from our farmers is how difficult it can be to raise turkeys successfully in the brooder. Generally, we find that these farmers are treating their turkey poults like broiler or layer chicks, which is what leads to problems. Turkey poults are very different from other chicks and they need to be raised differently in order to be successful.
Here are some key things to consider:
1) Turkeys Need a Little Extra Help
Turkeys need help figuring out their feed and water situation. During the first 48 hours, you need to visit the brooder A LOT. This can be the perfect job for a child that wants to help. What you need to do is play with the feed and water often. Every time you run your finger through the feed or splash some water, all the poults will come over to investigate. This ensures they are finding the feed and water and taking in enough to be healthy. Turkey poults are not as good as other chicks about figuring this out!
2) Turkeys Need More Protein
Turkeys need a higher protein feed than other chicks. You need to start your turkey poults on a 26-28% protein ration. They also have higher requirements for vitamins and minerals, so make sure your ration has enough in there! If you aren't sure, contact our animal nutrition team and we'll be happy to let you know if your feed is up to par for your poults.
3) Air Quality is Key
Making sure your turkey poults are breathing in clean air is incredibly important. Poor air quality can lead to respiratory disease and an overall lowered immunity to illness. We can even see a decreased appetite with poor air quality. Make sure your bedding is clean (no wet spots or clumps) and that there's good ventiliation. Remember: If you smell ammonia, you NEED to make changes immediately!
4) Turkeys Need Roost Bars
Even baby turkeys need roost bars! If you can provide them in the brooder, you'll notice they start using them pretty quickly. This helps them sleep sounder and feel safer, as roosting is a natural tendency for them.
5) Turkeys + Grit = Love
Turkeys need grit! Turkeys will eat their carcass weight in grit by the time you process them. Starting Day 2 in the brooder, your turkey poults need access to grit. Grit comes in multiple sizes so make sure you're feeding the appropriate size for your birds. You can have grit mixed into your feed (25 lb/ton), top dress the grit, or put it out free choice.
6) Turkeys Need a Parent Figure
Yep, you read that right. Turkeys need a parent figure. You'll quickly realize that turkey poults actually like people. They're incredibly curious and they will become accustomed to hearing your voice very quickly. What that means is that you're essentially raising X number of puppies with feathers. Or toddlers, however you prefer to think about it. Your turkey poults will want to 'help' you do everything, which can certainly get frustrating if you're in a hurry. The best thing to remember is that you'll raise happier, healthier turkeys if you slow down and do your chores at 'turkey pace'. Letting your turkeys assist you will not only make them happy, but it will make caring for your flock much less frustrating for you as well.
Have any questions? Comment them below! We're happy to help you with all things turkey!
Casey is a Livestock & Poultry Specialist with The Fertrell Company. She specializes in poultry and swine and has a love for turkeys like no other.