Ask the Experts


All of us have different regimes when it comes to our birds. I always find this fascinatin­g and informativ­e and a great way to pick up tips. I interviewe­d two turkey-keepers,

Eric Nevison from Nevison Farm, Minnesota, who keeps Narraganse­tt and Royal Palms, and Sheralan Marrott of Red Top Ranch, Tennessee, who keeps Bourbon Reds.

HOUSING: “Currently all our birds live in a barn together,” Nevison says. “I created a coop inside it — two stalls wide — but since the flock has grown so much bigger, we just keep the door open and let them walk around and roost where they see fit each night.”

Marrott has a similar setup. “I have a pen and big coop — part of a barn — for mine for nighttime that has plenty of roosting spaces,” he says. “They prefer a roof overhead to protect them from rain and snow. Mine free-range during the day, and in the summer, they need lots of shade, fresh air with a breeze and shallow dishes of water to stand in to cool down. If predators/extreme weather aren’t a problem, roosts under a shed roof would likely be fine for adult turkeys.”

FENCE HEIGHT: “Heritage breeds are lighter and better at flying than the broad breasted,” Marrott says. “I have a 4-foot fence, and my turkeys hop/fly over it — even with clipped wings! They then suddenly forget how to fly back, pacing the fence until I help them. In my, admittedly limited experience, grown toms don’t do this, but youngsters and hens looking for a spot to go broody do. I could only guess that a 6-foot fence might keep them in place if their wings were clipped.”

Nevison had a different take. “Turkeys are birds but are not keen on flying unless they need, too,” he says. “Most of ours roost 4 foot from the ground in our barn. I’ve never seen any of our turkeys fly up high, and I think this is possibly because they know that the barn/farm is a safe area with no predators, etc.”

FEED: Nevison feeds his birds corn, wheat mash and black oil sunflower seeds as a main base. “We also bring them all our scraps,” he says. “They will devour a smashed-up pumpkin or squash.”

Marrott insisted that turkeys need a higher protein diet than chickens. “For the first 12 weeks of life, I like a starter feed that’s 28% protein,” he says. “Then I go to a lower protein feed — but at least 20% — for the rest of the time.”

WORMING: Do turkeys need worming?this was a particular­ly interestin­g question for me as I’m very keen to remain as close to nature as possible with my particular birds.

Marrott hasn’t had to deworm his turkeys in the three years he’s had them. “They have access to wooded and pasture acreage all day, so this likely helps,” he says. “When they are poults, I add herbs to their food and water to keep their systems strong and prevent parasite overload.”

Nevison agrees. “We’ve never wormed any of our birds,” he says.

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