A Beginner’s Guide to Turkey Farming

Turkey farming is the process of raising turkeys for the purpose of producing meat or eggs for food or money. Turkey, chicken, guinea fowl, duck and quail are all domestic birds that nutritionally and economically contribute to any country.

Turkeys are kept or reared for meat purposes. Their meat is recognized as the leanest of all poultry species. Additionally, they are consumed by almost every country across the globe. Turkey farming is popular in countries like the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK and Netherlands. This post is a beginner guide for those who want to start turkey farming.

The scientific name of Turkey is Meleagris gallopavo, and it is a large gallinaceous bird that is native to North America but domesticated in Europe. The breeds of turkey include:

  • Beltsville Small White
  • Black Turkey
  • Blue Slate Turkey
  • Bourbon Reds Turkey
  • Broad Breasted White Turkey
  • Midget White Turkey
  • Narragansett Turkey
  • Standard Bronze Turkey
  • Royal Palm Turkey
  • White Holland Turkey

Terminologies in Turkey Farming

  • Tom: Matured male turkey
  • Hen: Matured female turkey
  • Poult: Very young turkey
  • Snood or Dewbill: Fleshy protuberance close to the base of the beck
  • Caruncles: Fleshy protuberance on a turkey’s head and neck. It is usually red or pink in color.
  • Dewlap: Large flap skin seen immediately below the chin
  • Beard: Tuft of hair attached located in the upper chest region
  • Strut: Male turkey’s mating behavior

Other important information about turkeys is explained below:

  • De-beaking. This is the reduction of the beak’s length in order to prevent cannibalism and feather picking. It is carried out at 4-5 weeks of age. While debeaking, the tool must be very hot and should not be too close to the nostrils.
  • De-snooding. This is the removal of the snood or dewbill in order to prevent the head from getting injured while fighting or picking. Pressing the snood at a day old using the thumbnail or finger would remove it. A sharp scissor can be used to cut off the snood when the poult is 3 weeks old.
  • De-toeing or toe clipping. This is the removal of the toenail and it is usually done at a day old.

A sexually mature female turkey should start laying in the 30th week of age and the egg-laying period lasts for 24 weeks starting from the day the first egg is laid. Under proper artificial lighting and feeding management, a female turkey will be laying around 60-100 eggs every year. Turkeys usually lay their eggs in the afternoon, and their eggs are tinted and weigh around 85 grams. The eggs are also pointed at one end with a very strong shell.

Turkey Colors

The varieties of turkeys are categorized under domestic turkeys and wild turkeys. While both domestic and wild turkeys share some common characteristics, they still express some differences. One major difference between the two types of turkey is that domestic turkeys cannot fly while wild turkeys can fly.

Apart from the ability to fly, domestic and wild turkeys can be identified by their feather colors. Turkey colors help one to guess the type of turkey and breed. The importance of turkey colors cannot be farfetched. Some people use the feathers for decorations and boa and shawl makers are concerned about the colors of the turkey feathers.

The following are common turkey colors.

  • White
  • Black
  • Red
  • Gray
  • Blue
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Bright red

Management Practices in Turkey Farming

Incubation

A fertile turkey egg has an incubation period of 28 days. The eggs can be incubated in two different ways which are:

  1. Natural Incubation
  2. Artificial Incubation

Natural Incubation

Turkeys normally can brood on their eggs and they can hatch between 10-15 fertile eggs. To achieve a higher hatchability rate, only clean, well-formed eggs should be set for incubation.

Artificial Incubation

Under this method of incubation, an incubator is used in hatching the eggs. The temperature and relative humidity in the setter and hatcher are as follows:

  • Setter: 99.5oF temperature and 63% humidity
  • Hatcher: 99.5oF and 85-90% humidity

The eggs should be turned hourly every day and their collection should be done frequently in order to avoid breakage and soiling and to improve hatchability.

Brooding in Turkey Production

Day-old Poults are brooded for 4 weeks or to about 6 weeks in the cold period. A gas brooder or infra-red bulb could be used as a source of heat or the traditional brooding systems such as coal stoves could be adopted. Click here for more information on brooding turkey poults

Turkeys are not the best starters in their life and will really need some tender loving care to get them safely through the first four weeks of life. The average mortality rate is 6-10% during this period. Young poults by nature are reluctant to eat and drink in the first few days of life, primarily because of bad eyesight and nervousness. Hence, they have to be force-fed.

Floor, Feeder and Waterer Space Requirement of Turkeys

AgeFloor Space (ft2)Feeder space (m3)Waterer space (m3)
0-4 weeks1.252.52.5
5-16 weeks2.552.5
16-29 weeks46.52.5
Adult/Breeder57.52.5
  • Turkeys can be fed with pelleted feeds or mash.
  • They need higher energy, protein, mineral, and vitamins than chickens.
  • Male turkeys are raised separately from the female for best performance.
  • The feed should be provided in feeding troughs and not on the bare floor
  • Don’t change the birds’ diet immediately but gradually.
  • Provide them with constant clean water always.
  • To avoid leg weakness, provide your turkeys with shell grit (20-40 grams/day)
  • When the weather is hot, give them more water to drink.
  • Feed when the weather is cool and avoid feeding when the weather is hot.

Nutritional Requirements of Turkey

NutrientMale Age (weeks)0-44-88-1212-1616-2020-24Adult
Female Age (weeks)0-44-88-1111-1414-1717-20
Energy ME/kg diet2800290030003100320033003300
Protein (%)28262219161414
Lysine (%)1.61.51.310.80.650.6
Methionine (%)0.50.450.380.330.280.230.2
Calcium (%)1.210.850.750.650.52.25
Phosphorous (%)0.70.60.50.50.40.40.6
Vitamin A (IU)4000400040004000400040004000
Vitamin D3 (IU)900900900900900900900
Choline (mg)19001800130011009508001800
Niacin (mg)70705050404030

Body Weight and Feed Consumption Rate of Turkeys

Age (weeks)Average Body Weight (kg)Total Feed Consumption (kg)Cumulative Feed Efficiency
 MaleFemaleMaleFemaleMale Female
40.720.630.950.811.31.3
82.361.903.993.491.81.7
124.723.8511.349.252.42.4
167.265.5319.8615.692.82.7
209.626.7528.2623.133.42.9

Turkey Feed Formula

Feed your turkey poult with chick mash for the first 6 weeks of their life. Then continue with grower mash after.

Turkey Poult Feed Formula

IngredientQuantity (kg)
Maize570
Wheat Offal120
Soya Bean Meal153
Groundnut Cake120
Bone Meal20
Limestone10
Chick Premix2.5
Salt2.5
Methionine1
Lysine1
Total1000

Growing and Adult Turkey Feed Formula

IngredientQuantity (kg/100kg)
Maize45
Soya Meal7.5
Wheat Offal12
Limestone5
Bone Meal2.5
Palm Kernel Cake12
Groundnut Cake15
Premix0.25
Toxin Binder0.15
Salt0.3
Super Liv0.05
Methionine0.15
Lysine0.1
Total100 kg

Economic Parameters of Turkeys

Male – Female ratio1:5
Average egg weight65 grams
Average day old poult weight50 grams
Age at sexual maturity30 weeks
Average egg number80-100
Incubation Period28 days
Average body weight at 20 weeks  
Male7-8 kg
Female4.5-5 kg
Egg production period24 weeks
Marketable age 
Male14-15 weeks
Female17-18 weeks
Marketable weight 
Male7.5 kg
Female5.5 kg
Food efficiency2.7-2.8
Average feed consumption up to marketable age  
Male24-26 kg
Female17-19 kg
Mortality during the brooding period3-4%

Common Diseases of Turkey

Common Diseases of TurkeyCauseSymptomsPrevention
ArizonosisSalmonella ArizonaPoults unthrifty and may develop eye opacity and blindness.
Susceptible age 3-4 weeks
Elimination of infected breeder flock and hatchery fumigation and sanitation.
Blue Comb DiseaseCorona virusDepression, loss of weight, frothy or watery droppings, darkening of head and skin.Depopulation and decontamination of farm. Give rest period.
Chronic Respiratory DiseaseMycoplasma gallisepticumCoughing, gurgling, sneezing, nasal exudates.Secure Mycoplasma free stock
ErysipelasErysipelothrix rhusiopathidaeSudden losses, swollen snood, discoloration of parts of face, droppyVaccination
Fowl choleraPasturella multocidaPurplish head, greenish yellow droppings, sudden deathSanitation and disposal of dead birds.
Fowl poxPox virusSmall yellow blisters on comb and wattles and scab formationVaccination
Haemorrhagic enteritisvirusOne or more dead birdsVaccination
Infectious SynovitisMycoplasma gallisepticumEnlarged hocks, foot pads, lameness, breast blistersPurchase clean stock
Infectious SinusitisBacteriaNasal discharge, swollen sinuses and coughingSecure poults from disease free breeders
MycotoxicosisFungal originHaemorrhages, Pale, fatty liver and kidneysAvoid feed spoilage
Newcastle DiseaseParamyxo VirusGasping, wheezing, twisting of neck, paralysis, soft shelled eggsVaccination
ParatyphoidSalmonella pullorumDiarrhea in poultsPrevention and flock sanitation
Turkey coryzaBordetella aviumSnicking, rales and discharge of excessive nasal mucusVaccination
CoccidiosisCoccidia sppBloody diarrhea and loss of weightProper sanitation and management of litter
Turkey venereal diseaseMycoplasma meleagrisLowered fertility and hatchabilityStrict sanitation

Vaccination Schedule for Turkey

AgeVaccineRoute of Administration
Day 11st NDV LasotaSpray or oral
Week 6Fowl PoxWing Web
Week 9-102nd NDV LasotaOral
Week 12Fowl CholeraOral
Week 153rd NDV LasotaOral

For additional information on Turkey Farming and Management, check this turkey farming eBook

Signup today and receive free updates straight in your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Author

Akinbobola A.

I'm a livestock farmer, certified animal scientist and agro consultant. You can follow Livestocking on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to send me an email
Buy Chicks Online

20 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Turkey Farming”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article. I’m glad to have come across it. It is indeed very helpful for someone interested in poultry farming like me.

    Reply

Leave a Comment