Raising Turkeys as Pets

When thinking of the definition of commercial poultry, people often forget that poultry extends to all domestic fowl such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. While the most common practice of backyard poultry farming includes mainly chickens and ducks, it’s also possible to raise turkeys! With November quickly approaching and Thanksgiving being right around the corner, it might be a good idea to plan for the next year and consider homesteading your turkey for next Thanksgiving… or just as a new pet! 😊

Best breed for backyard turkeys?

Considering the reasons as to why you’re raising backyard turkeys, it’s important to remember and note which breed of birds is best for which purpose. For example, if you’re raising turkeys for homesteading purposes and plan to use your birds as meat birds, it might be a good idea for you to consider a strain known for its broad breasts – Broad-Breasted Bronze and/or Broad-Breasted White. On the other hand, if you’re simply raising your birds to keep as pets, it might be better to focus on heritage turkeys – Standard Bronze, White Holland, Narragansett, Royal Palm, etc. These turkeys are known for their long, productive life span and slow growth rate. Also, Heritage varieties can reproduce naturally and not have to undergo artificial insemination (Jacob, 2015).

 How long does it take to properly raise a turkey? 

It takes nearly two years for a Heritage turkey to reach its full size whereas broad-breasted birds take only five to six months. Young turkeys, or poults, should be raised on a Gamebird/Turkey starter feed. Raising a turkey is not the same as raising a chicken – turkeys not only require more space and are more social creatures but as babies, they require a higher protein diet due to their increased growth rate and different vitamin requirements. Turkeys are “creatures of habit” and are easily able to be taught. For example, poults will not automatically know where to feed and drink. You will have to direct them to their water and feed, at least three to four times, for them to learn where and when they should eat and drink. 

 

How is the temperament of backyard turkeys? 

From working with commercially raised turkey throughout my schooling, I was not impressed by their behavior. A lot of times they were snippy when I would enter their cage; one day, though, a few from the group of five, let me rub and pet them! I was shocked to find out that a lot of turkeys, in general, are sweet and enjoy human company.

 Can you raise turkeys and chickens together? 

It’s important to note that if you decide to raise backyard turkeys, it might be a good idea to have them in a separate area from your chickens. Blackhead Disease, or Histomoniasis, is a disease that can wipe out an entire turkey flock. Caused by the protozoan, Histomonas meleagridis, a cecal worm egg, chickens are a reservoir for this protozoan and often do not show signs (asymptomatic); however, it has yet to be cured when spread in turkeys, seeing that Histomonas do not respond to antibiotics and immunization is deemed as an impractical approach (Editor, 2009). Because chickens are carriers of the protozoan and because turkeys are highly susceptible, once a turkey flock has been infected, nearly 70 percent to 100 percent of the birds may die (Happy Chicken Coop, 2019). 

So, as you decide to potentially raise your own turkey for next Thanksgiving or whether you’re deciding to try raising a new breed, remember that chickens and turkeys are not the same thing.  Each require a different amount of nutrients, time, attention and space.  With these tips and administering Chicken DeLyte (which can be used for ALL types of poultry), you’re sure to have a prize winning turkey sooner than you can blink!

Editor, 5M. (2009, January 12). Control of Blackhead Disease. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://thepoultrysite.com/articles/control-of-blackhead-disease.

Jacob, J. (2015, May 5). What type of turkey is best for small and backyard poultry flocks? Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://articles.extension.org/pages/65434/what-type-of-turkey-is-best-for-small-and-backyard-poultry-flocks.

Happy Chicken Coop. (2019, May 11). The Happy Chicken Coop. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/raising-turkeys-and-chickens-together/.

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