How to Rear Your Own Turkeys

By Martina Mercer

A month ago we invested in lavender ducks and chickens for our small holding as although we’d kept hundreds of birds before, we’d had a break of a few years and so wanted to start again small.

Instead of the incredible layers of Aylesbury ducks or the Rhode Island Red we chose chickens and ducklings that would also make ideal pets.

Our daughter, at 8 years old, has had a difficult time accepting responsibility as although she is loving as a middle child, she likes the world to revolve around her, leaving little left over for love and care for other family members. Therefor we wanted to introduce animal care in a bid to appeal to her better nature while introducing responsibility.

We were delighted when she embraced the task of taking care of the ducks and chickens, even if the other two children, (2 and 12) were not allowed near as she told them, “I’ve put in the hard work, you haven’t, so they’re MY birds”. She has been cleaning them out, feeding them before and after school and even digging for worms to give them extra treats. So when we found one dead one morning, we were reluctant to break the news.

I paid a visit to our local breeder but one man had come and bought his entire stock leaving him with turkeys only. In a bid to limit the tears I took two.

Our daughter did sob over the dead bird but soon perked up with the turkeys, at only a week old they needed a heat lamp and quite a lot of care, yet we didn’t really count on them being nice but dim.

What a Turkey Doesn’t Understand

Even at a week old a turkey won’t readily go to water or food, even if it is absolutely parched! It also won’t try to get warm under a heat lamp if cold, or run away if being bullied by other chicks. If you lose a turkey chick (turkling, turkoid?) through a gap in the fence, don’t expect it to find its way back!

Tips to Train a Turkey

In nature, obviously the mother would train the turkey and if you have decided to rear turkeys alone you may have to take the place of the mother for a while, or borrow a broody one.

The ideal solution though, is to pair baby turkeys with chicks or ducklings as although they are a little lacking in the brain department they do know how to follow. Even now at four weeks old our turkeys still copy the actions of the hens, rarely taking the initiative themselves, yet they do love being handled so are currently great pets.

The Eggs

Now our daughter is attached, there’s absolutely no way we’ll be having these turkeys for Christmas dinner so we’re hoping their eggs are scrumptious!