Chickens carry the parasite that carries the bacteria that causes Blackhead in turkeys. This is why it's not recommended they stay together. Frankly, I've had no problems, but mine free range.
We've only lost a few turkeys over the past two years. Only one was fully grown-- coyotes. It was a mess; he fought hard. I would not say they're more prone to dying than chickens, with the exception of poults. They will drown in a waterer in a heartbeat.
A caveat, turkeys are territorial at certain times of year. They will kill chickens, guineas, cats if they could., and even you. That said, they can also be perfectly decent, beautiful animals to have wandering about.
A friend of mine gave me 6 turkeys. The neighbor dogs got a few of them and the rest learned to roost on my deck. They got HUGE fast. I was told they were genetically engineered to go to market in 9 weeks. Ha, like I would take them to market.
If anyone wants to buy good fertilizer, get turkey poo! As God is my witness, the spot below where they roosted grew a tree from a seed to a 18 foot sapling in one summer. When I cut it down the circumference was 3 inches.
After a few more untimely deaths, my remaining Turkey grew rather mean. I think he was trying to avenge the deaths of his friends at the hands of dogs, but he became downright vicious towards canines. We used to laugh hysterically at him going after the dogs, who soon became terrified at this huge 40 pound monster.
Oh it was funny until the day when I was weeding my garden and I heard the angry Turkey noise and wheeled around to find that I was the prey! WHAM. WHAM. Ever been punched by a Turkey? There I was with my belly up in the air, crawling backwards like a crab, kicking this bird in the chest every step. That bird had a wicked one two punch.
Then the Turkey thought there was a very sexy turkey who lived in the magic window downstairs. All day long he would strut back and fourth and puff up his feathers.
I hated him. He was vile and a big white mutant. I sold a horse to someone and told them there was a free turkey with every sale. They thought he was great.
I heard later that he started to punch their kids....
I don't know about the production birds. I have Bronze Standards. The posts so far sound like they could all be my birds. Seriously, turkeys and kids don't mix! We don't allow children at our place for exactly that reason. Me and SO have no problem. One peck, and Mr. Tom is getting punted, all 40 lbs of him. If you've ever kept roosters, you'll think turkeys are sissies. Turkey flogging is a massage by comparison, but the beak smarts a little. You do need eyes in the back of your head, or a good enclosure. Heritage birds can fly.
According to some pasture based farmers I know, the production turkeys make production broilers (Cornish Cross) seem smart by comparison. So..yes, they are rock stupid. Cornish Cross broilers are by far the dumbest chicken out there.
I'm looking to raise a batch of Heritage Turkeys this year on pasture for the first time to sell to clients and try myself. Right now I'm thinking Bourbon Reds are my best bet. I guess I'll find out just how easy or hard they are compared to chickens but at least the old fashioned birds have retained some instincts.
This is a timely thread - I just this morning put in an order for 9 Buff Turkeys. Won't get them 'till the spring, but I'm excited about it. We already have the Heritage hogs, and the Heritage turkeys appeared on Craigslist, so what the heck!
Oh, and fun fact. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Buff Turkeys were used to create the Bourbon Red breed, then when the Buff became extinct, the Bourbon Red was used to recreate the Buff. Thought that was interesting.
I raised Bronze Breasted Turkeys 3 years ago, they were awesome! I was hoping that I could get them to breed, but no such luck, I'm now raising Royal Palm turkeys. I love the Bronze Breasted, they were fun and friendly. As they mature, 1 or 2 years old, they do get territorial and mean, so as long as you are just keeping them to raise for the freezer, go for it!
Here is a youtube video of my turkeys following me back to the barn. I would call them and they would follow me all over the place, they were hilarious!
DDB - we have American Guinea Hogs. Just purchased them in August and haven't had any reach market weight yet, but they are super cool and easy to have around. Also on the ALBC's critical list - smaller lard pigs with excellent dispositions. We were able to let ours free-range over 40 acres of hay fields this fall - it was so much fun to watch them head out of their house for the day, and return again just before dark.
There are other hog breeds that looked interesting, but these guys stay a very reasonable size (250 pounds is at the high end), which was a factor. Those Red Wattles and others get so stinkin' BIG!
I raised the market turkeys and so long as you got them through the poult stage they were fine. I have had more than one drown itself in a rain storm but my favorite suicide was a poult that managed to over eat. They are extremely dumb and they hurt like hell when they do get after you. Not nearly as bad as geese though. Dad brought home a pair of geese one summer, it was not pretty and I am still afraid of geese.
Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
Originally Posted by alicen:
What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.
Wow, I'm not sure if I'm lucky or what but I LOVE my turkey!
...of course, she thinks she's a dog. She eats dog food, sleeps by them during the day, drinks from their water, takes treats from them, goes with me and the dogs to meet the bus every afternoon and even takes walks with us.
She's a Bronze and we've had her for 4 years (vet said they can live 12) and was ironically raised by my Guinea hens. She didn't take to the other turkeys when we got more but they have since been picked off by coyotes (as were the guinea's). Apparently she was the smartest and has managed to stay alive.
She has one interesting trait where she LOVES anything red. Whether you are wearing it or it's just sitting there, she will stick very close. She is also fond of music and in the summer when I take the stereo outside she will roost next to it on the table.
I guess we lucked out with ours, too. We raised bronze turkeys one summer when I was a teen. A lot of the poults were killed when a dog got in the brooder house, but we ended up with 3 toms named Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
Those guys were really social and I don't think they knew they were turkeys. Even as youngsters, they'd follow people around just to say 'hi' and be near you. They were great in the garden. Unlike chickens, they didn't peck the produce and, wow, they'd study a broccoli plant for ages to find and pick out all the little green worms. They also knew people came in cars, so it was hysterical to see three puffed-up gobblers galloping over to greet the new arrivals.