Raising Turkeys For Meat and Profit
Most families in Canada will buy a turkey once or twice a year, often for their Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinners.
There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between raising chickens and raising turkeys, but turkeys are one of the very best animals to raise for meat and profit.
Turkeys will require more attention and babying than their chicken counterpart. They are more social than chickens and want lots of attention from their humans.
To Buy or to Breed, That is the Question
The very first thing you need to do is purchase your baby turkeys, referred to in the industry as poults.
Prior to making any purchase of poults, you need to decide whether you will want to breed turkeys for future use, or buy poults every year as needed.
Suffice it to say, it is easier to buy poults every year rather than breeding and hatching. Hatching your own is much cheaper. Just sayin’.
It takes approximately six to eight months for a poult to become a mature, adult turkey able to breed. It takes about a month to hatch turkey eggs.
B.C. Turkey Farmers report that in 2009 there were sixty-four turkey farms in British Columbia, which produced 24.3 million kg. of meat and generating 39.1 million dollars in cash receipts.
Canada actually has a turkey breed all its own. The Ridley strain is a Bronze turkey. The Ridley Bronze remains Canada’s only surviving homegrown strain of heritage turkey. Their numbers are critically low and at dire risk of extinction. They are a calm, hardy, meat turkey that can reproduce naturally and is a turkey strain unique to Canada. Among the rare breeds are, the Ridley Bronze, Blue Slate turkeys, Royal Palms and Narragansetts.
However, if you decide to go with the type of turkey you would purchase at the grocery store, you would purchase Broad-Breasted Turkeys. They get bigger, faster and are the “modern” eating turkey. Although similar to the ones you’ll find in the store , pasture fed turkeys are far more flavorful.
Caring For Your Turkeys
You will need to buy or make a brooder box. The temperature will need to be kept at 35 degrees Celsius for the first week. After that you can decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week.
If your birds are huddling close together in front of the heat lamp then you’ll know they are cold and you might need to raise the heat a little.If they are staying far away from the heat lamp then you’ll know that they are hot and might want to drop the temperature slightly. You need to get to know your birds.
As the birds get bigger, you can slowly introduce them to their turkey coop. People often keep their chickens and turkeys together, but you need a bigger space for turkeys and they’re best kept in an open area with no wall. Each turkey will need a minimum 61/4 feet of space and roosts to sleep.
Be sure to provide fencing to protect your turkeys from predators. Turkeys are flighty, so your fence needs to be at least 4 feet high.
Allow your turkeys to free range, and grow your own feed if possible.
You can feed your poults game bird feed and then switch them to a basic feed when they begin to forage. After the poults are foraging, you can feed them garden scraps and basically anything else you would use to feed chickens.
When Your Turkey is Ready to be Butchered
Broad breasted turkey will reach butchering weight faster and at 16-22 weeks they should be dressed out at around 12 to 14 pounds. A heritage breed will mature at 25-30 weeks.
Whether you make the decision to buy poults or breed your own turkeys, you are sure to enjoy the amazing benefits. You will appreciate the profit, both personal and financial, gained from raising fresh poultry for your own table and others.