backyard chickens Urban Homesteading

When your backyard flock grows. From chicken rearing to turkeys!

We were out of chick starter so a trip to the local farm supply store was on the agenda for the day. When visiting the farm supply store we have to visit the baby chick area if the kids are with us because kids LOVE to see baby birds and rabbits (even though the backyard is already full of them).

Did I mention that we got 12 additional baby chicks at the start of this spring? We did! They were on rebate at our local store, we got 10 for free. Can’t pass up free chicks! But we didn’t just get them because they were free… Our current flock of 6 produces from 2-4 eggs per day right now, our oldest hens are about 4 years old… That’s when egg production tends to decline. We used to get an egg a day from each hen. So we knew that we’d eventually need new layers for optimal egg efficiency.

Anyway, now the spring chicks are outside in their own confined run, growing and eating lots while they grow accustomed to our older hens through the protection of wire fencing… Did I mention they are eating lots?!

Today we were on a mission to buy some much needed feed and on the way past the live birds we were reeled in by yet another great deal. $2.00 clearance Turkeys! We had to buy a minimum of 6 turkeys, costing $12 but we are now the proud owners of 6 broad breasted turkeys, 3 bronze and 3 white.

The livestock grows on our little homestead. We are now raising Turkeys!

I don’t know that we’ll choose a broad breasted turkey in future turkey raising endeavors, we typically avoid altered foods and the broad breasted turkey is an altered breed. It’s designed to grow rapidly and is bred to get pretty large compared to heritage turkey breeds that grow slower and live longer. If we ever order turkeys I’m sure we’ll research more and probably pick a different breed but for now we are doing a practice run with these broad breasted turkeys.

We are really brushing up on our turkey raising knowledge right now. It is exciting to be trying something new this year and it’s a welcome distraction from waiting till our house sells 😉

How long until you have turkey to eat?

In as little as 3 1/2 months we could process them and fill our freezer with homegrown turkey! Although, we will likely want to wait as long as possible to butcher if circumstances permit. I’m thinking if they aren’t huge and if they are they are free ranging = not costing us a fortune in feed costs then I’d be glad to let them live until right before Turkey day… The longer they live the less space they are taking up in my freezer. However, this means they’ll need to be alive for the next 7 months. Typically at approximately 20 weeks or 5 months they are slaughter ready. At the 20 week mark the hens can be close to 30 lbs and the toms can be 40-50 lbs.

Broad Breasted Turkey mating, hatching and egg production.

Turkeys are sold as straight run, so there are toms and hens mixed when you buy. If we don’t have to butcher them this summer and we can put them off till fall we cold even have some turkey eggs to enjoy! Turkey hens lay eggs at 6-8 months of age. I’m sure the eggs are huge and delicious too. Which brings us to the idea of hatching your own turkeys…

Broad breasted turkeys are said to be physically unable naturally breed due to their breast size so your turkey eggs are likely to be infertile. The Toms could try mating with the hens but they physically don’t achieve successful fertilization for a number of reasons.

One Backyard Chickens member states:

“They can breed it is just that it is not efficient and the tom will crush/kill more hens then he would get bred and fertilized. You can successfully breed a BB back to a heritage. Hen will lay and the eggs will hatch, she will not lay as many as a heritage and she will not be able to sit on the nest as she will crush the eggs, more likely then not. But yes they can bred and it can be done just not very efficient.”

How much does it cost to feed a turkey? What will your finished turkey have cost you?

The estimates I’ve seen say that a turkey will eat the equivalent of 80lbs of bagged feed from hatching to the 20 week mark which puts them at costing about $1.20 per pound of live weight at a 20 week processing. That means feed costs for a 20 week slaughter could be as low as $36ish for a hen and up to $60 in the case of a large tom. This is cool by me since when we looked at buying free range local birds for thanksgiving last year they were running $75 each.

We figure we can adjust our slaughter timing based on feeds costs and growth rates. We are thinking we’ll have the means to free range them very soon and that will likely make things more cost effective and possibly will allow for a longer life span.

Can I raise Chickens and Turkeys Together?

This was our first question in the store. We don’t have room for separate runs and confinement. The only issue with cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is Blackhead Disease.

Blackhead disease is primarily a disease of young turkeys. Chickens are more resistant to the effects of the infection but may act as carriers of the disease-causing organism.

Turkeys may acquire the blackhead disease directly from the droppings of infected birds. Read more about blackhead disease here.

Disease aside, the only other issue to look out for in cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is aggressive behavior and territory battles. Things like turkeys trying to breach a chickens neck and such…

We plan to raise our birds together. We figured we could be economical to just add turkeys to our existing flock of chickens.

One down side to our impulse poultry buying is that we’ve found now ourselves with 6 poults (baby turkeys) and no turkey feed. Unlike chicks, turkeys need a higher protein containing feed. Our assumption that they could eat our baby chick starter food was WRONG. Don’t make the same mistake.

Poults need 28% protein to fuel their fast growth in the first 8 weeks of life, any higher protein amounts will cause growth problems. After they are 8 weeks old they can be reduced to a feed with 20-22% protein, at 14 weeks they can have something closer to 18-20% protein. The un-medicated chick starter we have contains 18% protein and our regular layer crumbles are only 16% protein.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament with only chicken feed when you come home with poults this little trick will save you. You can make an emergency poult feed from 50% rolled oats & 50% cornmeal by pulsing it in a food processor until it resembles typical poultry crumbles. I just made some and the poults, whom were rejecting the offered chick starter feed, are now eating! Note, this emergency feed should only be used in a pinch and for no longer than a day or you could wind up with some majorly deficient turkeys that could even die.

Feeding chickens and turkeys the same feed isn’t advised because of the varied protein requirements. Plus, the vitamin and mineral requirements of turkeys are much different from chickens… So until the turkeys are older and foraging for most of their own food, they’ll need their own special feed that is separate from the chickens. Guess I’ll be off to the farm supply store tomorrow for some turkey starter!

Have you raised turkeys before? How did it go?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
<p>A city girl turned farmer. Yes women do farm ;) Owner and operator of direct to consumer, Ryder Family Farm in Southern Illinois.<br /> Wearing many hats I'm also a mother to 3, a wife, a yogi, a farmer, a 4-H & Girl Scout leader & hospitality manager.</p>

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