Did you know that today is Adopt A Turkey Day? We know, this may seem like something of an uphill battle. Needless to say, many turkeys are not going to have a good month. However, if you are interested in backyard poultry, or maybe just want to give that one lucky bird a pardon, this is a perfect time to do so. A Galena, MD vet discusses turkey care basics below.
Turkeys definitely have some charms. They’re cleaner than chickens—likely because they don’t scratch or peck as much—and won’t scatter their food and bedding everywhere. They’re also quite personable, and are really fun to watch. Many also get quite attached to their owners. (This, of course, can actually be a con if you’re raising birds for meat.)
On the downside, turkeys need quite a lot of room. They’re also not great at defending themselves, and are therefore vulnerable to predators. Another thing to keep in mind is that turkey babies—called poults—are extremely delicate. Even slight drafts can affect their health! They also eat more than chickens, and are therefore pricier to keep.
Turkeys don’t require fancy habitats. A garden shed or a small barn will do, as long as it offers adequate ventilation. Just don’t overcrowd your birds. In general, the more space they have, the better. Your feathered buddies will need perches, but these don’t have to be elaborate. A 3-inch pole a few feet off the ground will do. You’ll need to clean the housing daily.
There are several different breeds to choose from. If you want to breed your feathered pals, opt for a heritage breed, such as Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, or Narragansett. Many of the newer breeds require artificial insemination.
Turns out that Les Nessman from WKRP In Cincinnati was actually right: turkeys can fly. Somewhat. Although they aren’t particularly graceful in the air, they can easily reach a barn or house roof. Fencing is still important, though, as it’s your best bet for keeping predators out. 6-foot deer fencing is a good option.
One health issue you’ll need to be aware of is blackhead. This deadly disease is spread by worms carried by chickens. If you keep both turkeys and chickens, you’ll need to be diligent about testing and deworming.
Do you have questions about turkey care? Contact us, your Galena, MD pet clinic!