Livestock News > Pros and Cons of Raising Turkeys

Pros and Cons of Raising Turkeys

Feb 22, 2021

By Jennifer Sarte, MannaPro

Turkeys are amazing creatures, and though some people began with the Black Spanish turkey flock with the intention of filling the freezer each fall, many have found turkeys have wonderful personalities and make amazing pets as well.
With the exception of the space that turkeys require, the birds are easier to keep than chickens. They are docile and regal, and move with a certain air of sophistication. They create tight family bonds and are fairly intelligent.
If you’ve raised chickens, then you have a good basis for raising turkeys. Like chickens, they need quality feed, fresh water, a secure living space and run, clean bedding, roosting poles, and ground-level nesting boxes.
But there are a few differences between chickens and turkeys. Below is a list of pros, cons, and helpful facts to get you started raising turkeys.

  1. They are cleaner than chickens.
Most turkey pens are always cleaner than chicken pens. This is because turkeys don’t have the constant instinct to scratch. Chickens dig through bedding throughout their waking hours, and throw soiled bedding everywhere. When you feed turkeys, their food stays where you put it, the water stays bedding free, and the droppings are not scattered as they are in chicken pens.
  1. They’re delicious.
Homegrown turkeys have so much flavor! Many people have the impression turkey is a rather bland meat, especially the white meat. However, when you look at the surveys a large segment of people actually prefer turkey as opposed to chicken.

  1. Turkey poults are delicate
Turkey poults are delicate and sensitive to slight changes including drafts, dampness, temperature changes, etc. They’re slower-moving than chicks and have less of an instinct to run/defend themselves from danger. Because of this tendency, it is important to start turkey poults separately from chicks. Chicks can tend to run the poults over and boss them away from feeders.
  1. They need a lot of space
Everything concerning a turkey is bigger. The run, the coop, and the nesting boxes all need to be larger because of the size of the birds, so they need more space. Unlike chickens, which can easily be housed in recycled dog houses, etc., turkeys require more room; a large shed or small barn will work well. The more space you give them, the better they do.
  1. They eat a lot
Again, larger birds equal more feed. Turkeys also need to be fed a higher-protein ration, such as a game bird feed, to get them to table weight, which can be more expensive per pound. Breeding pairs can be fed a lower-protein feed when kept for maintenance and breeding.
If you’re thinking about raising turkeys, I encourage you to research heritage breeds. Heritage breeds may not grow to the huge sizes that the white production turkeys reach, but they are full of flavor. They reproduce efficiently and your breeding pairs will live longer lives. By raising heritage breeds you are also helping to keep these breeds alive. Many heritage breeds are in danger of extinction because backyard keepers aren’t raising turkeys like they were before farm factories were invented.

Looking to learn more about what it takes to raise backyard poultry? Find your nearest Co-op location here.

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