Let’s Talk Turkey about Feeding Turkeys!

 

So you’ve found yourself raising a turkey (or maybe even a couple) for some unique companionship or healthy white meat. Whatever the reason may be, it’s pretty easy to realize that turkeys are much different from chickens and other birds. In other words when it comes to nutrition (and husbandry), turkeys are not just big chickens!

 

To that point, turkeys, at all stages of development, require different nutritional needs than your average backyard chicken. If you’re confused about what you should feed your turkey, keep reading to get informed about the basics of turkey nutrition!

 

Feeding Turkey Poults

 

While there are differences, turkey poults, i.e. turkeys that are one day or older, are raised pretty similar to baby chicks. The biggest difference is that in the first ten days of their life, poults need to be warmer than chicks do. If you’re raising turkeys when they’re young, set your brooder to 100℉ for the first week then drop the temperature by 5°F until they are six weeks old. As you’re doing this, make sure to follow these rules to ensure proper nutrition:

 

  • Feed and water need to be available to poults at all times!
  • Use a Turkey Starter Diet with at least 28% protein in crumble form (note: Chicken Starter and Grower diets are too low in protein, so feeding your turkeys these diets will result in reduced growth).
  • Feed a Turkey Starter Diet until your turkeys are around eight weeks old, then switch your feed!

 

Feeding Adult Turkeys

 

Once your poults have reached about eight weeks of age, it’s time to transition them to a grower diet. Follow these tips to select the correct diet, and as a note turkeys will grow quickly at this stage!

 

  • Turkey Grower Diets usually have 26% protein.The head and shoulders of a white turkey with a blue head and red snood with green grass in the background.
  • The feed you choose should be lower in protein than the starter diet.
  • If you’re raising turkeys for their eggs, make sure the hens’ diet includes calcium! Turkey layer diets will include calcium, and you can supplement this with crushed oyster shells or calcium carbonate.
  • Once laying season ends for your turkey, you can switch back to a grower diet feed.
  • If you’re planning on keeping your turkeys as companion animals, you should feed a lower protein diet for longevity and slower growth!

 

Foods to Avoid for Turkeys

 

If turkeys ingest these foods, it can potentially be life threatening or poisonous! Make sure to avoid these foods to ensure a good diet.

 

  • Avocados, Chocolate, Iceberg Lettuce, Citrus Fruits, Onions.
  • Processed Foods (high in salt/sugars like chips).
  • Foods High in Fats (like peanuts).
  • See this article on food toxic to chickens for a more complete list.

 

Following these above guidelines will result in happy and healthy turkeys at all stages of their growth!

 

Written by Reena Grewal, Joseph Gendreau, and Maurice Pitesky at the University of California, Davis.