Those who visit my farm immediately realize my affection for turkeys. They are, by far, my favorite bird. Extraordinarily social and affectionate, my turkeys outshine all of my other birds with their expressive personalities.
Raising heritage breed turkeys for profit can seem unmanageable. Heritage breed turkeys are not harvestable until they are about 7 months old. Feeding turkeys this long is expensive; very, very, very expensive. If you decide to raise an industrial breed they do not mate naturally and require artificial insemination (no thank you), have leg, heart and lung problems and they eat a lot while having absolutely no skills in order for survival. The poults are expensive to purchase, costing a minimum $10 plus shipping when purchasing from a hatchery. Also, poults die frequently and seemingly attempt suicide. Furthermore, breeding heritage turkeys really isn’t successful until they are at least two years old. Wow!!! Are you asking why they are my favorite?
Here are three helpful pointers to ensure you are successful at raising turkeys:
1. Raise turkey poults using broody chicken hens, in brooder pens and immersed in a population of chicks. Really your turkey babies are not suicidal. Larger birds require more time and tender, loving care during their early days. They are more dependent on their mothers and flock mates than smaller birds. Make sure you have clean bedding, fresh water laced with apple cider vinegar, molasses and honey, fresh sprouts for feed and fresh patches of grass to forage upon to avoid diseases passing from chickens to turkeys. Raise the poults in this environment for at least 3 weeks.
2. Sprout for their feed. Raising turkeys the right way can be very, very expensive. Instead of bagged feed, sprout barley, a legume mix and sunflower seeds until the 5th day. Feeding your heritage breed turkeys this way is an effective penny-on-the-dollar approach and is the only viable and profitable way to raise turkeys, in my humble opinion.
3. Keep a breeding quartet. Having one turkey tom and three turkey hens that are 2-7 years old will produce numerous turkey poults to ensure a “cash-crop” of turkeys each year. Turkeys can mean big bucks for your farm. I charge $9 per pound for my true free-ranged, heritage breed, non-gmo fed turkeys and I have a waiting list each year because they are well-worth the cost and taste fantastic.
Raising turkeys is very enjoyable if you keep these three pointers in mind. Enjoy these beautiful birds.