Falcos Poultry

3 Pointers to Raising Turkeys Well

Rachel FalcoThose 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.

Nellie Raising Turkey Poults

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?

Heritage Breed Standard Bronze Turkey Tom

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.

Hatching Your Own Chicks

Rachel FalcoHatching out your own chicks using an incubator can initially seem to be a daunting task. My preference is to allow hens to hatch their own chicks, but you may want to use an incubator until you have a few great broody hens willing to do the work for you. In this case, a few pointers to go from a 20% hatch rate to an 85% hatch rate are in order.

Egg Selection

To ensure that the majority of your eggs are fertilized, have one rooster who is about two years old to four years old per 9-12 hens. Select eggs during spring or fall for best results. Select the best, unspoiled by dirt or poo eggs within a 10 day period of time. Store potential eggs in an egg carton in a room which is about 65 F until enough eggs have been gathered. Do not remove the natural bloom on the egg shell. Candle each egg to ensure that the shell is sound and the yolk and white looks properly balanced. Using a pencil, mark the date the egg was laid, the hen and rooster (if available) and an “X” on one side of the egg to assist in turning during incubation.


There are quite a few incubators on the market, but I only can recommend the Brinsea brand. It maintains a constant, dependable temperature, thus you will get a consistent hatch. Get your incubator up and running at least one day before you place eggs to ensure a consistent temperature. Place each selected egg pointed-side down or on its side if no egg holder is provided in the incubator. Chicken hens incubate their eggs for 20-22 days. The incubator should remain at a constant temperature of 99.5 F. Hens turn their eggs twice per day, rotating them to ensure that the chick doesn’t stick to the side of the egg and for proper development until day 18.

Your eggs will lose weight daily while creating an air pocket. Candle your eggs every three days to ensure the proper development of the air pocket and the chick. If it isn’t developing as it should, vent some of the moisture from the incubator so that it can properly dry and create the space. If you find that some eggs didn’t develop properly, discard. You do not want to pollute the moist, warm environment with bacteria.

You may buy an automatic egg turner or you may place a book under one side of the incubator in the morning and switch sides in the evening – every day for 18 days. On day 18 of incubation, stop turning your eggs. During incubation, a humid environment should be maintained at 45% during incubation and a humidity level of 60% during hatching. You can use a wet sponge in the bottom of the incubator or you may fill the channels provided at the bottom of the incubator.


On day 20-25 (add a few extra days just in case) adjust the level of humidity to ensure the shell will not stick to the newly hatched chick. Wait and be patient. I do not advise assisting with a hatch. If the chick is struggling, please do allow it to struggle. Birth is a difficult thing. I am not saying every chick will make it, but interfering in an attempt to help can cause damage to the chicks intestine and other organs. Once the down of your chicks starts to dry and pouf, you may remove the chick to your brooder cage or transfer, at night, to a broody, motherly hen.

Hatching chick

Photo by Fotolia/sakdinon