Does it seem like this has been a really long winter? Are you wishing for a break in the weather, sunshine, anything that might indicate springtime?
I’ve been leafing through seed and hatchery catalogues for months. Seeds are ordered, the garden is planned, and in about a month I’ll be starting the plants that are languishing in their seed packets here on the shelf.
It’s the hatchery catalogues that I dream over now. Maybe just a few more chickens? Maybe another heirloom breed would fit in my small flock. Meat birds this year? Quail?
A friend and I have nearly decided to work together to raise turkeys this year. And that’s where I hit a wall. I—well, we—don’t know anyone in our area who has raised turkeys that could give us some advice.
|Heritage Turkeys in MD Photo credits:|
Can you help us? We have specific questions that small flock “turkey people” could answer. We’ve thought since I have experience raising chicks, I could handle that part of the project. My friend has no poultry on her homestead, but has plenty of land, so she would plan to raise the turkeys once they were feathered.
From the beginning—would you recommend hatching eggs, poults from a hatchery, older chicks? Neither of us have incubators, although I often have a broody hen or two. Have you ever purchased fertile turkey eggs? How did it work out for you?
I have always used a heat lamp setup in our attached garage, with shavings for bedding. For chicks, I have made a circular pen that can expand as they grow. What problems have you experienced with young turkeys?
What breed of turkey would you suggest? We would (yes—we would) want a couple for our freezers and probably one for our Thanksgiving tables—and I know enough about turkeys to know that some of the market type birds can’t reproduce. Have you raised heirloom turkeys? Have you had any luck breeding them –because that’s something my friend might consider.
Housing—any suggestions, hints, or comments that you could offer? Would a “chicken tractor” type shelter work for turkeys?
And feeding—I’ve read that turkeys require a higher protein feed than laying hens. What would you feed the poults, when would you change the type of feed—or don’t you?
Is there a particular book you use for reference? A website?
Please offer your best advice in the comment section – and we’ll keep you updated. If we decide our winter dreams of turkey farming can become a reality, you may follow along with the progress of the project.