Ask a Poultry Farmer

Advice from a man with sixty years of experience with chickens, turkeys and waterfowl. With community blogger Dale Wheelock.

Ask a Poultry Farmer: How do I raise baby turkeys?

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By Dale Wheelock
Monday, May 9, 2016

Raising turkeys is similar to raising chickens, but there are some differences you should know.

There are two types of turkeys: heritage breeds and broad breasted breeds. The heritage breeds are also called "ornamental" breeds. They include Royal Palm, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Slate and Black among others.

Broad Breasted White and Broad Breasted Bronze are larger and typically raised for meat. We'll refer to them as whites and bronze.

Here's a handy reference from Oklahoma State's Animal Science Department. (

Once you understand the breeds, you can decide which one you'd like to raise.

You raise the heritage breeds the same as you would raise chickens, including the feed. They are usually no more trouble than chickens. The whites and bronze, however, are a different story. You must use a 26% to 28% starter feed. I recommend a medicated feed to prevent coccidiosis. Click here for our entry on Feeding 101. When they are ready for grower, I recommend a 20% grower in pellets if you can get them. This eliminates wasted feed around the feeder.

All poults (babies) need a starting temperature of 95 degrees F. Be careful not to get over 95 degrees, and you must lower it by five degrees per week.  Stress can be a real problem for the poults. It's caused by overcrowding or being too hot. They must have plenty of room to move around. You can tell they're too hot two ways:

1. At 2-5 days they get weak, have trouble standing and die. 

2. At 10-14 days they start picking at each other. Birds almost always pick at the rear end, and once in a while at the wings.  Left alone, they will pick each other to death in a matter of hours.  If you notice picking, lower the temperature, make it dark in the brooder and put a piece of tape over the picked part. Put white tape on the lighter turkeys and dark tape on the bronze. Masking tape and electrical tape work well. This helps camouflage the wounds.

Some times in your turkey raising you find one of your bigger turkeys died. If you find the bird on its back that's a heart attack. This is not unusual in larger birds. However, if you find them on their breast it is a concern. Try to figure out what may be wrong. Make sure they have clean feed and water at all times.

As always, ask further questions in the comment section.

Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com. Dale is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management. Have a question for Dale? Send him an email at askapoultryfarmer@gmail.com.

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