Breed and Varieties
Technically, only one breed of turkey exists, but many varieties of turkey are available. If you are interested in raising turkeys, it is important to choose a variety that meets your particular needs.
Commercial and Heritage varieties
An important distinction to understand is the difference between a commercial-type variety and a heritage variety. Commercial-type varieties have been bred specifically for commercial producers to address consumer preferences and production efficiency. Heritage varieties retain the characteristics of turkey varieties bred long ago in Europe and the early United States.
Turkeys are used primarily for meat production. Most U.S. consumers prefer breast meat, or white meat, of a turkey. The US consumers have a general preference for breast meat as it is lean meat compared to other muscles. To accommodate this preference, producers have carried out generations of genetic selection that have resulted in broad-breasted turkey varieties. These commercial-type varieties also have rapid growth rates and high feed efficiency.
Many small flock owners raise commercial-type turkeys because of their high breast meat yield, fast growth, and high feed efficiency. The most popular varieties for small flock production are the commercial varieties: Broad-Breasted Bronze (also called Bronze) and Broad-Breasted White (also called Large White).
The Broad-Breasted Bronze has plumage resembling that of a wild turkey, and the Broad-Breasted White has been selected for white feathering and fast growth. Although both types are good for small flock production, a disadvantage of the Broad-Breasted Bronze is that dark pin feathers sometimes remain on the meat after processing.
GENERAL TURKEY MANAGEMENT
The incubation period is 28 days in turkey. There are two methods of incubation.
(a) Natural incubation with broody hens:
Naturally, turkeys are good brooders and the broody hen can hatch 10-15 numbers of eggs. Only clean eggs with good eggshells and shape should be placed for brooding to get 60-80% hatchability and healthy young ones.
(b) Artificial Incubation:
In artificial incubation, eggs are hatched with the help of incubators. The temperature and relative humidity in setter and hatcher are as follows:
|Temperature(degree F)||Relative humidity (%)|
Egg should be turned at hourly intervals daily. Eggs should be collected frequently to prevent soiling and breakage and also to get better hatchability.
In turkey, 0-4 week’s period is called a brooding period. However, in winter brooding period is extended up to 5-6 weeks. As a thumb rule, the turkey young ones need double hover space as compared to chicken. Brooding day old young ones can be done using infrared bulbs or gas brooder and traditional brooding systems.
Points to be noted during brooding:
- The floor space requirement for 0-4 weeks is 1.5 sq.ft. Per bird.
- The brooder house should be made ready at least two days before the arrival of young ones
- The litter material should be spread in a circular manner with a diameter of 2 meters.
- To prevent the young ones from wandering away from source of heat, a fence of at least 1 feet height must be provided
- Starting temperature is 950F followed by weekly reduction of 50F per week up to 4 weeks of age
- Shallow waterers should be used.
The average mortality rate is 6-10% during the first four weeks of life. Young ones by nature are reluctant to eat and drink in the first few days of life, primarily because of bad eyesight and nervousness. Hence, they have to be force-fed.
Starve out problem is one of the major factors for early mortality in young ones. So special care should be taken for supplying feed and water to turkey poults. In force feeding, milk should be fed at the rate of 100ml per litre of water and one boiled egg have to be given at the rate of one per 10 young ones up to fifteen days. This will compensate the protein and energy requirements of the young ones.
Young ones can be attracted to the feed by gentle tapping of the container with the fingers. Coloured marbles or pebbles placed in feeders and waterers will also attract young ones towards them. Since turkeys are fond of greens, some chopped green leaves should also be added to the feed to improve the feed intake. Also, coloured egg fillers can be used for the first 2 days as feeders.