Keeping Turkeys on a Small Scale,Smallholding or Garden

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Keeping turkeys as pets or prospective meat sources is becoming increasingly popular. They are fascinating birds, very decorative and relatively easy to rear.

I have kept turkeys for over 10 years, and would not be without them, but they do have some different needs to other poultry. Size is one of the most obvious differences. A male turkey, called a stag in UK and Tom in the US, is a big bird when fully mature. They are mostly docile, but can be aggressive in the breeding season and sometimes they just take exception to people. They like to roost, and require stout roosting bars, raised off the ground to prevent damage to tail feathers. Mine are in a large shed, and they like to see out of the window. They are very vocal  birds, well known for the 'gobble', but make chirruping noises and a very plaintive quark,quark noise when looking for friends or food.

A lone male can be a problem, as he may attempt to mate with a variety of birds and objects. My brother had one called 'Bladderhead' who would spend ages attempting romance with garden gloves. One of my stags knocked over a small child and was found on her back, thankfully she was none the worse and her mother found it amusing! He also squashed an elderly chicken who was pottering around the garden in the twilight of her life, he mistook her sunbathing as an invitation for something else and that was that!

Hen turkeys are endearing cratures, but a bit thick! They are very curious, and will wander into the house, chatting away. They are a nightmare when laying starts if not confined, as they will lay in a hedge or bush, they think this is safe, but i have lost several to the fox this way, they sit very tight and a bronze turkey is very well camoflagued in a bush.

There are several excellent books available, Turkeys at Home from Gold Cockerel and Starting with Turkeys from Broad Leys, both usually available in my shop.  Another  gorgeous book is Not Just for Christmas, by Janice Houghton-Wallace of the turkey club.  The Turkey Club UK is well worth joining, members can advertise eggs and stock for sale or wanted, and post questions on the forum. You can also obtain revised breed standards from them, turkeys are not in great attendance at poultry shows yet and pure breed birds not easily obtainable. Turkey eggs are pointed, usually an off white with brown spots, one egg is about the equivalent of 3 large hen eggs. Incubation is 28 days, poults are active quite quickly after hatch. When hatching turkeys remember that stags are not a problem like cockerels, as you have a wonderful dinner prospect, if you can bear to eat them!

Hen turkeys require saddles if running with stags, especially when breeding starts. FoxfieldSharon  sells several styles of  saddles, it is a requirement under the turkey welfare code for turkeys to be saddled. The saddles prevent damage to the back and flanks of the hen during mating, when you see turkeys mating you will understand the need! It can be rather drawn out and noisy, a bit x-rated really...

I hope this short guide will help you if you are considering keeping the birds. A book is a good start, also try to see some live  turkeys to guage size and breed types.

See 3w,s, turkeyclubuk dot co dot uk for more information



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