How to Start Turkey Farming | A Beginner’s Guide

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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 purpose. 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 wants to start turkey farming. Before you proceed, I would want you to buy an Ebook Guide on Raising Turkeys on Amazon. Click the image below for details.

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

Beltsville Small White

Beltsville Small White Turkey
Beltsville Small White Turkey

Black Turkey

Black Spanish Turkey
Black Spanish Turkey

Blue Slate Turkey

Blue Slate Turkey
Blue Slate Turkey

Bourbon Reds Turkey

Bourbon Red Turkey
Bourbon Red Turkey

 Broad Breasted White Turkey

Broad Breasted Whites
Broad Breasted Whites

Midget White Turkey

Midget White Turkey
Midget White Turkey

Narragansett Turkey

Narragansett Turkey
Narragansett Turkey

Standard Bronze Turkey

Standard Bronze Turkey
Standard Bronze Turkey

Royal Palm Turkey

Royal Palm Turkey
Royal Palm Turkey

 White Holland Turkey

White Holland Turkey
White Holland Turkey

Terminologies in Turkey Farming

  • Tom: Matured male turkey
  • Hem: Matured female turkey
  • Poult: Very young turkey
  • Snood or Dew bill: 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 chim
  • Beard: Tuft of hair attached located in the upper chest region
  • Strut: Male turkey’s mating behavior

Other important information about turkeys is described as follows:

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

Nutritional composition of a turkey egg

Carbohydrate – 1.7%
Protein – 13.1%
Fat – 11.8%
Mineral – 0.8%
Cholesterol – 15.67-23.97 mg/g of yolk

Turkey Meat

A turkey meat is nutritionally recommended because a turkey can produce 30 grams of digestible protein from 100 grams of feed. Turkey’s dressing percentage is 80-87%, which is even higher than those of other poultry species.

Turkeys have a lean meat, and this is one of the reasons why people prefer the meat of turkey than other animal’s meat. The nutritional properties of turkey meat are as follow:

Energy – 162 Cal/100g
Fat – 6.6%
Protein – 24%

The meat contains magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, zinc and iron. It is also rich in vitamins (B6, B12 and Niacin), essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. The cholesterol in the meat is low.

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: Natural Incubation and 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 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 cold period. 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 weeks 1.25 2.5 2.5
5-16 weeks 2.5 5 2.5
16-29 weeks 4 6.5 2.5
Adult/Breeder 5 7.5 2.5


  • 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.
  • Feed should be provided in feeding troughs and not on the bare floor
  • Don’t change 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 avoiding feeding when the weather is hot

Nutritional Requirements of Turkey

AgeFloor Space (ft2)Feeder space (m3)Waterer space (m3)
0-4 weeks 1.25 2.5 2.5
5-16 weeks 2.5 5 2.5
16-29 weeks 4 6.5 2.5
Adult/Breeder 5 7.5 2.5


Body Weight and Feed Consumption Rate of Turkeys

Age (weeks) Average Body Weight (kg) Total Feed Consumption (kg) Cumulative Feed Efficiency
  Male Female Male Female Male Female
4 0.72 0.63 0.95 0.81 1.3 1.3
8 2.36 1.90 3.99 3.49 1.8 1.7
12 4.72 3.85 11.34 9.25 2.4 2.4
16 7.26 5.53 19.86 15.69 2.8 2.7
20 9.62 6.75 28.26 23.13 3.4 2.9

 

Turkey Feed Formula

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

Chick Mash Formula

IngredientQuantity (kg)
Maize 570
Wheat Offal 120
Soya Bean Meal 153
Groundnut Cake 120
Bone Meal 20
Limestone 10
Chick Premix 2.5
Salt 2.5
Methionine 1
Lysine 1
Total 1000


Grower Mash Formula

IngredientQuantity (kg/100kg)
Maize 45
Soya Meal 7.5
Wheat Offal 12
Limestone 5
Bone Meal 2.5
Palm Kernel Cake 12
Groundnut Cake 15
Premix 0.25
Toxin Binder 0.15
Salt 0.3
Super Liv 0.05
Methionine 0.15
Lysine 0.1
Total 100 kg


Economic Parameters of Turkeys

Male – Female ratio 1:5
Average egg weight 65gms
Average day old poult weight 50gms
Age at sexual maturity 30weeks
Average egg number 80 -100
Incubation Period 28 days
Average body weight at 20 weeks  
Male 7 – 8 kg
Female 4.5 – 5 kg
Egg production period 24 weeks
Marketable age  
Male 14 -15 weeks
Female 17 – 18 weeks
Marketable weight  
Male 7.5 kg
Female 5.5 kg
Food efficiency 2.7 -2.8
Average feed consumption up to marketable age  
Male 24 -26 kg
Female 17 – 19 kg
Mortality during brooding period 3-4%

 

Common Diseases of Turkey

DiseasesCauseSymptomsPrevention
Arizonosis Salmonella Arizona Poults 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 Disease Corona virus Depression, loss of weight, frothy or watery droppings, darkening of head and skin. Depopulation and decontamination of farm. Give rest period.
Chronic Respiratory Disease Mycoplasma gallisepticum Coughing, gurgling, sneezing, nasal exudates. Secure Mycoplasma free stock
Erysipelas Erysipelothrix rhusiopathidae Sudden losses, swollen snood, discoloration of parts of face, droppy Vaccination
Fowl cholera Pasturella multocida Purplish head, greenish yellow droppings, sudden death Sanitation and disposal of dead birds.
Fowl pox Pox virus Small yellow blisters on comb and wattles and scab formation Vaccination
Haemorrhagic enteritis virus One or more dead birds Vaccination
Infectious Synovitis Mycoplasma gallisepticum Enlarged hocks, foot pads, lameness, breast blisters Purchase clean stock
Infectious Sinusitis Bacteria Nasal discharge, swollen sinuses and coughing Secure poults from disease free breeders
Mycotoxicosis Fungal origin Haemorrhages, Pale, fatty liver and kidneys Avoid feed spoilage
Newcastle Disease Paramyxo Virus Gasping, wheezing, twisting of neck, paralysis, soft shelled eggs Vaccination
Paratyphoid Salmonella pullorum Diarrhea in poults Prevention and flock sanitation
Turkey coryza Bordetella avium Snicking, rales and discharge of excessive nasal mucus Vaccination
Coccidiosis Coccidia spp Bloody diarrhea and loss of weight Proper sanitation and management of litter
Turkey venereal disease Mycoplasma meleagris Lowered fertility and hatchability Strict sanitation


Vaccination Schedule for Turkey

AgeVaccineRoute of Administration
Day 1 1st NDV Lasota Spray or oral
Week 6 Fowl Pox Wing Web
Week 9-10 2nd NDV Lasota Oral
Week 12 Fowl Cholera Oral
Week 15 3rd NDV Lasota Oral


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