Raising turkeys is similar to raising chickens in many ways. But when it comes to nutrition requirements, turkeys need different nutrients than chickens to prosper. Turkeys are larger birds, with larger feathers, they lay larger eggs and their feed should support these differences.
For the most part, I feel comfortable with what we feed our turkeys. They are robust, healthy and large for their breed size. Last year we hatched out 3 healthy offspring who have surpassed their parent’s size in just under 6 months!
Our current practice is to feed a 28% Game Feed when they are poults. As they get older, we mix the 28% with a 20% grower. If we plan to slaughter them, they stay on this feed until early November which is when we harvest. If I plan to keep the flock for breeding, I reduce the protein levels to 16% mixed with the 28%. Ideally, they should be switched to a turkey feed made specifically for turkeys, but I haven’t been able to locate a turkey feed at any stores near our home. Once the turkeys are full grown, they no longer need the additional protein, but Game Feed has vitamins and nutrients that are important to a turkey’s health.
The turkeys also have access to the chicken feed most of the year, which is all at 16%. We raise our turkeys and chickens together during the cooler months. In winter, when the hoses freeze, it makes things easier to haul the buckets of water to the same coop. They are separated again come spring when the turkeys start laying and sitting on eggs.
When they are together, we hang the turkey feed higher where the chickens have a hard time reaching it.
Around molting time I throw a scoop or two of the game feed to the chickens. It helps them recover from the molt. I’ve noticed that since we’ve been raising turkeys and have the higher protein feed on hand, that the chicken’s feather grow back much quicker.
Our chickens and turkeys also have access to our 14 acres during the day. Heritage breeds like our Black Spanish adapt well to free range diets, however standard breeds like our Bronze Breasted will have to have supplemental feed.
In the spring, when the turkeys start laying, I offer oyster shell free choice. They also enjoy fresh greens, pumpkin, and extra chicken eggs scrambled.
We do offer grit to both our chickens and turkeys, but because our birds free range, they consume most of their digestible grit from the ground. When they range, they pick up bits of dirt and gravel naturally. This helps break down and digest the food in the gizzard.
Though I am pleased with our feeding routine, it never hurts to do a little research. I like to double check our practices and make sure we’re caring for our animals in the most healthy way we can provide.
After doing a Google search, I found more articles on feeding wild turkeys than domestic which was interesting. I did find some help over at the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC).
According to the article How to Raise Heritage Turkeys on Pasture by Jeannette Beranger, Jeff May and Marjorie Bender, “poults need a 28% game feed, growing birds need 20% and breeding adults can be sustained at 17%.” The article goes on to say that “high protein levels in the diet of breeding bird can effect the hatchability of the egg.” ALBC.
Our protein levels are a little higher than what the ALBC recommends, but so far we haven’t seen any problems. Our hatch rate last year was about 80% and I’m happy with that, but I will keep this advice in mind come spring.
Do you raise turkeys? What are your feeding practices? I’d love to hear what works for you. Tell us by leaving a comment below, or visit the Community Chicken’s Facebook Page.