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Keeping poultry is very popular these days and lots of people keep chickens as well as ducks in their back yards. Of course it goes without saying that living in the country makes it a lot easier to keep a flock of chickens, some ducks and a few geese, but what about keeping a turkey or two? How easy is it to keep turkeys? Turkeys are pretty large birds and these days a lot of people like to keep a few along with other poultry not for the meat they provide at Christmas but for the eggs. Turkey eggs are very good eating, but they are an acquired taste – rather like a duck or goose egg which are both that much stronger in taste than a chicken egg.
Turkeys were introduced into England back in the 15th century. They were brought over from Spain and these proud birds were to become what we now refer to as Norfolk Blacks. Today there are ten types of standardised turkeys in the UK although there is a bit of concern over the threat of extinction in many of the breeds. As such the Turkey Club UK promotes the conservation of many of these threatened breeds and encourages people to keep them as well as attempt to breed from them. Most people just think of turkeys as a bird that appears on their tables at Christmas time, but there are lot of other poultry keepers who have come to realise what wonderful pets they make too. Turkeys are great characters and some birds become great guard dogs – better than geese. A good guard turkey will soon tell you when there is a stranger around the yard.
Turkeys are impressive birds to look at especially when they are all puffed up and displaying. They are also very inquisitive creatures and when treated correctly can turn out to be very docile and friendly birds to keep around a yard. Obviously, they are bigger birds than say other poultry like chickens or ducks, so if you are thinking about getting a couple of turkeys, you need to make sure you have enough space to keep them in. Keeping turkeys is not hard, there are just a few common sense things to bear in mind when it comes to their housing. As for feeding turkeys this is pretty much the same as feeding other poultry. If you have got the space for a trio of turkeys, and they are young birds, you will need to put them on a grower ration to begin with. As soon as the birds are mature, they will need to be fed a maintenance diet to keep the birds healthy and in good condition.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you get hold of very young turkeys (poults), you will need to feed them a high protein diet which means a lot of poultry feeds are not suitable for them. Failing to give young turkeys the right amount of daily protein could lead to growth problems further down the line. Another thing about poults is that when they first hatch out, they need to feed and drink as soon as possible which is very unlike chicks and ducklings. Turkey hens usually lay an egg every other day from around March to the beginning of September, but this does depend on where you live. On the whole you should expect to get around 90 eggs every year from a single hen bird but it does depend on the condition you keep your turkeys in.
When it comes to providing turkeys with good housing, the perfect place for them is in a small shed. You need to think about finding a shed that is big enough to accommodate the turkeys if the weather is bad and they need to remain inside for a day or two, so for a trio your best bet would be to invest in a 6 x 8 foot shed. It goes without saying the shed needs good ventilation, but to avoid putting the birds in a draughty place because all birds hate draughts. Turkeys like to perch so you need to provide them with a sturdy one that is quite wide because they need to lean their chests on it. Poults do try to perch from a very early age but it is best not to let them do this as they often damage their chest bones if they do. It is a good idea to cover the floor of your turkey house with a layer of wood shavings because this will absorb any moisture from the bird's droppings. Wood shavings also makes the air in the shed that little bit sweeter for the birds to breath. A good layer of shavings also provides a nicer landing for the heavier birds when they come off their perches in the mornings and this decreases the chances of your birds developing what is known as 'bumble' foot.
Turkeys are pretty hardy creatures though and are quite happy to go out when the weather is cold. However, like any other bird they do not like wind, rain and snow so you need to provide them with enough shelters against the elements when they are outside. If the weather is very hot, then you will need to provide them with adequate shelter from the sun too because they are not fond of the heat either.
Like any other poultry, turkeys need to be cared for every day of the year and because some people do find them a little intimidating, you might find it harder to get someone else to look after your birds should you ever need to go away for a period of time, like say on holiday. With this said if you do know you are going away, then you need to organise someone to take care of your birds well in advance so that you have peace of mind that your birds are being cared for correctly when you are not there.
Turkeys are great characters, however, some birds can turn a little aggressive but this does depend on how they have been treated in the past. As long as you are kind to your birds and take care of them as they should be looked after, you will find that turkeys are extremely nice creatures to have around a back yard or on a small holding.
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