Ever think about raising a turkey or two? You know, for a holiday meal?
Broad breasted turkeys are similar to what you find at the grocery store. The ‘broad breast’ meat makes them ideal for special feasts. Raised on our own land, knowing what they eat, how they are housed, and that they have a happy life is our goal for the two turkeys that we are raising.
First, a bit of history on this type of turkey. Bronze turkeys have been the most popular turkey variety for most of American history. Bronze turkeys originated as a cross between the domesticated turkeys that the European colonist brought to America AND the eastern wild turkey. They received their name from their bronze coloring.
The broad breasted bronze turkey derived from the bronze turkey being crossed with larger, faster growing breeds. Because they are broad breasted, it is difficult for them to mate naturally. Many times they are bred through artificial insemination.
Bronze and white broad breasted turkeys are available at most poultry hatcheries and also at many farm stores (in the spring). Proving themselves popular, they sold quickly this year in our area!
We decided this spring would be a great time to add turkeys to LL Farm. We ordered a male and female broad breasted bronze the same time that we ordered our chickens from the hatchery. Within 24 hours both turkeys were dead!?!?!?! Sad, but determined to not give up, we called local (and nearby) farm stores…all were sold out! Seems many others had the same idea as us this year. After searching on line for other farm stores, we made an almost two hour drive to get their last two.
Raising baby turkeys is similar to raising baby chickens. To get started, you will need a brooder and a few supplies. The turkeys will spend the first 7 – 8 weeks living in the brooder, so it is important to have everything ready before you bring the turkeys home. Along with the brooder, you will need a brooder light and red light bulb, a poultry thermometer, food container and food, water container and water, and bedding (such as pine shavings). Click HERE to read about getting your brooder and supplies ready.
You will also need a place that is draft free to keep the turkeys in while they are in the brooder. They grow fast and can be messy and smelly, so plan accordingly. A basement or heated barn/garage are good options.
Broad breasted turkeys need high protein diets because they are fast growing. We are feeding our turkeys a commercial poultry starter/grower food made for a variety of poultry, including turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, and quail. Supplement more protein in their diets if needed.
When you first get the turkeys home dip their beaks into the water and food. Always have clean water and food available for them. Clean their bedding as needed. As they grow, add a roost for them to perch on. An appropriate size branch should work.
Broad breasted turkeys grow fast (that’s why they are popular meat birds). We put a wore covering on top of the brooder so they could not get out. Imagine my surprise one morning when I went to the basement to check on them and there they were perched on top of the brooder. Lesson learned – fold wire down and/or add weights to sides.
For the first week, keep the brooder temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Each week, bring the temperature down 5 degrees by raising the heat lamp a few inches. Once you reach 60 degrees, you can remove the heat lamp.
At 7 – 8 weeks, if the outside temperature stays consistently at or above 60 degrees, the turkeys are ready to be moved outside. During the day, they can free range or be in a fenced area on your property. They will need a coop that they can be locked in at night to protect them from predators.
Our weather has been dipping into the 40’s overnight, so we have not moved the turkeys outside permanently yet. They have spent some time in their coop and fenced area for a short time during the day, then back to their brooder in a heated garage at night. Once the weather warms back up, we have the turkey house and fencing ready for them.
Our turkeys still have not made the GOBBLE GOBBLE noise. They make a noise similar to a person whistling. Turkeys like human interaction. While handling them, I have found that ‘petting’ their necks seem to calm them down.
TRUTH or MYTH? Benjamin Franklin nominated the turkey to be America’s national bird?
Part 2 of Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys will include our DIY turkey house, fencing, clipping their wings, expectant weight, and when to process.