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How to Keep Turkeys so They Stay Healthy
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How to Keep Turkeys so They Stay Healthy

Turkeys are pretty impressive looking birds but they can be great fun to have around if you have enough space to keep them in. The other thing you need to bear in mind is that even when kept as pets, turkeys are still considered to be livestock by local councils and therefore you might not be allowed to keep them if you live in town.

Turkeys are large birds and they do need quite a bit of space, on top of this turkeys can be a little noisy, especially males, which are called stags. Females are called hens, and they too can be a little noisy boasting a pretty wide vocabulary all of their own. If you have neighbours close by, it might be worth letting them know if you intend on keeping turkeys at your property just to make sure there are no objections.

Keeping Turkeys is a Big Commitment

Just like any other animal, turkeys need to be taken care of every day of the year so if you are the sort of person who likes to get away whenever you can, you may find it that much harder to get people to look after your birds for you. Unlike other poultry like ducks and chickens, many people are not so keen on being around turkeys, simply because they are so large and as previously mentioned, they are quite impressive. Males can also be a little aggressive towards people they don't know which is something else you need to bear in mind.

A Well Ventilated Garden Shed Makes a Great Turkey House

A well made garden shed makes for the perfect turkey house and one measuring 8ft x 6ft would be around the right size to house six birds. However, this would only be enough space for the turkeys to sleep in, they would a larger open air and secure enclosure where they can spend the daylight hours. The shed would also need to be well ventilated, preferably with the air vents placed high and close to the roof.

When it comes to setting up perches you need to bear in mind that turkeys, being such large birds, need to rest their chests on something so they don't damage their feet and legs when they roost at night. You also need to make sure your birds can't get onto the roof of the shed which they will do if they are given the chance. If they roost outdoors it puts them in danger of being attacked by foxes and other predators and if the weather turns nasty, they would be exposed to it all.

Turkeys need to be shut away at night in a safe, dry and draught-free environment so they are safe and comfortable. Just like chickens and other poultry, in the evenings and at night, turkeys cannot see very well and this is when they are most at risk from being taken by predators.

When it comes to bedding, by far the best to use in a turkey shed is good quality, dust-free shavings, the type used for horses is ideal. Naturally, sheds must be regularly cleaned out because the more hygienic an environment is kept, the less chance of your birds getting ill or contracting any nasty diseases, hence they will remain that much healthier. Leaving old and stale droppings in their environment means more bacteria can build up which will eventually cause all sorts of health issues for your birds, including fungal and respiratory diseases.

Making Your Garden Secure

If you are planning to free-range your turkeys, it's important for the area is secure. You need to bear in mind that turkeys can fly over a low fence, so ideally, all fencing around a garden or enclosure needs to be at least 6ft high. With this said, once turkeys are settled in an environment where there's enough vegetation and things to eat, they don't tend to want to escape unless something frightens them, that is.

Diseases to Watch Out For

One of the biggest worries with turkeys, is a disease called Blackhead. This is caused by a protozoan worm that chickens carry which can make turkeys very ill, often proving fatal. If you keep chickens, you need to make sure that all your birds including the turkeys, are wormed on a regular basis which should be around every 6 weeks or so. The best and only licensed wormer for use on poultry in the UK is a product called Flubenvet, which is very effective when it comes to killing off the Heterakis worm which causes the problem, damaging the liver irreversibly which is why it often proves fatal.

What to Feed Your Turkeys

It is crucial that turkeys be fed a correct diet when they're young. Because they grow into such large birds, their diet needs to contain a much higher protein ratio than chickens need. Starter crumbs for turkeys must contain anything between 26 to 27% protein. You should never feed chick crumbs which have been formulated for chickens to turkeys either because not only do they not contain the right amount of protein, but often they contain an antibiotic which is very harmful to baby turkeys which are called poults"".

Many people who hatch out turkeys feed their poults hard boiled eggs which have been chopped up and mixed in with the ""poult crumbs"". It's a great way of encouraging them to eat and it provides the young birds with lots of extra protein and much needed nutrients.

Once poults are around 9 weeks old, they can be fed turkey grower pellets and at 12 to `6 weeks they can be fed mixed corn or turkey pellets. Turkeys need to have constant access to grit but you should avoid giving them oyster shell as this tends to compact a little too much in their crops which can lead to all sorts of other problems.

Great Treats to Feed Turkeys

Turkeys, just like any other poultry like anything that's sweet, but you should avoid feeding too many sugary things to your birds and instead offer your birds the occasional tasty morsel which could include the following:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Sweet corn
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cabbage

Turkeys also love to graze on grass and will devour any insects they come across. They will also tuck into any berries they find so you need to be sure there is nothing poisonous growing in your garden.

Conclusion

More people than ever have started to keep turkeys and although they are large and impressive looking birds, if well handled from a young age, they can be very comical characters. The bonus being that turkey eggs are brilliant if you use them for baking. They will also let you know when any strangers are around and although not as good as geese when it comes to guarding your home, they are a great deterrent when it comes to keeping unwanted visitors at bay.

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