Keeping turkey as pets (or for Christmas) is becoming increasingly popular, and if you’ve ever spent any time with these magnificent birds then you won’t struggle to see why.
They can be noisy, especially adult male birds (stags), which is something to consider if you live in close proximity to neighbours who wouldn’t be as enamoured with your new pets as you are.
These impressive birds are very majestic looking, particularly stags in full summer plumage, and hens have surprisingly pretty heads for big birds.
Although turkey eggs are not commonly found in the shops, they make a wonderful alternative to chicken or duck eggs and can easily be swapped in when cooking. Personally, scrambled turkey eggs are our favourite way of eating them!
Original old breeds of turkey, not commercial hybrids, are fairly hardy birds. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t need shelter from the elements, and of course you’ll need to offer them protection from predators overnight.
If you’re considering buying your first turkeys then there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind when thinking about their housing.
The great outdoors
Turkeys, unlike some other breeds of poultry, prefer to spend as much of their time as possible living outside. This means that a secure, good sized poultry pen, is a must have for any turkey keeper.
Turkeys also like to spend a considerable amount of time grazing, grass makes up around 50% of their diet, so the pen is best located on pasture. They’ll need a covered roosting area and it is best to purchase housing designed specifically for turkey keeping, rather than modifying chicken housing.
Electric fence around the perimeter of the house, pen and pasture will help to deter predators.
Home sweet home
For a trio of turkeys, usually a stag and two hens, housing of 8ft x 6ft should be plenty big enough.
If you’re thinking of keeping a few more, up to six, then a 12ft x 8ft house will give them ample room overnight.
Of course, the more space the better, and you may prefer a walk-in shed style design for easy cleaning, egg collection, and increased ventilation.
Your turkeys will be able to live outside during the day from around 8-12 weeks of age. If you already keep chickens then a single turkey should happily live with them. However, turkeys are always happiest when they have companions of the same species.
Ideally any turkey housing should be moveable, skids or wheels make moving housing easy, to prevent a build-up of manure and allow for thorough cleaning.
The roosts/perches ought to be built all at the same height to prevent your turkeys fighting over the top spot. Lightweight metal or fibreglass roof panels will provide protection from the elements.
For young birds (under 5-6 months) a bale of straw will provide hours of entertainment and a suitable night-time resting place until a purpose built perch is added into the house.
As we said above, turkeys love to graze, so they’ll need access to pasture outside of their pen. Remember that turkeys can, and will fly, meaning that fencing will need to be at least 4ft high.
You might also want to consider netting over your fence to provide extra protection and prevent your turkeys roosting in neighbouring trees!
Photo credits: Poultry Pages, Amy Martin Pachay, Heritage Turkeys