Raising a Thanksgiving Turkey - Part One
People have several reasons for raising birds. Among the most common is raising them for healthy, natural meat. Many people want to focus specifically on raising their own Thanksgiving Turkey. Aside from being a centuries-old traditional mainstay, turkey meat is lean, healthy, and nutrient rich, and is considered by many nutritionists to be ‘superior protein’. Turkeys also give more meat per pound of feed than any other common poultry bird. But where to begin?
Turkeys give more meat per pound of feed than
Any other common poultry bird
The first step of raising your own Thanksgiving Turkey is breed selection. Pick the breed based upon three factors. First, how much meat it gives, especially in comparison to how much feed it will take. Secondly, how easy it will be to take care of. Some breeds are naturally a little bit more difficult to take care of or have a slightly higher mortality rate. Thirdly, consider how easy it will be to aquire eggs or poults (another name for turkey chicks). You do not want to pay too much for them and, if you are getting poults, you do not want them to have to travel very far. Even if you only want one mature turkey, it is probably wise to get a few birds. There is a chance of it dying, and you probably won’t have time to attempt to raise another bird in time for Thanksgiving. If you end up with more birds than you want it shouldn’t be to difficult to trade or sell the extra birds.
If you bought eggs, incubate them to the hatching point, then place them in a brooder. If you bought poults, put them directly into the brooder. Make sure the brooder is as sanitary as possible. Detailed instructions on these incubation and brooding phases are available in other blog posts, specifically those under the label ‘Learnings of a First-Timer’ or the article ‘How to Care for Newly Hatched Chicks’.
Watch the poults carefully, especially when they are very young. Look for sicknesses. The article ‘Treating a Sick Chicken’ is specifically about chickens, but the advice will work well for poultry in general. Also watch for their droppings to become stuck to their backsides. This is called “pasting-up” and can cause disease or infection leading to death. If this occurs, DO NOT try to remove it, just put a few drops of mineral oil on it and it will slowly come off on its own.
After 16 to 28 days, the poults should be moved out of the brooder. Move them to a ‘brooding-house’. This is a larger area, still protected from the elements, that is something of a hybrid between a brooder and the outdoor area the birds will live in later. Specifics on how to properly construct a brooder house will be covered in a later post.
When they are about ten weeks old, they will be ready to be moved outside full-time. More details on how this should be done will also be covered in a later post.