By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1409: Turkey Raising
Author: Lee, Alfred R., Marsden, Stanley J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1409: Turkey Raising" ***

Transcriber Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italics_ and =Bold=. Whole numbers and
fractional parts denoted as 12-3/4.

  |                                                                    |
  |                       U. S. DEPARTMENT OF                          |
  |                            AGRICULTURE                             |
  |                                                                    |
  |                    FARMERS' BULLETIN No. 1409                      |
  |                                                                    |
  |                                                                    |
  |                          TURKEY RAISING                            |
  |                                                                    |
  |                                                                    |
  |                          [Illustration]                            |
  |                                                                    |
  |                                                                    |

Turkey raising is usually carried on as a side line on general farms,
though in some parts of the United States it constitutes the chief source
of revenue from farming.

The number of turkeys in this country decreased for a time after the 1890
census, but during recent years the industry has been growing, largely
because of improved methods of controlling turkey diseases and better
methods of management.

This bulletin has been prepared primarily to inform those interested
in turkey raising on modern methods of management. Most of the
recommendations are adaptable to both small and large scale production.

  Washington, D. C.                    Issued April 1924
                                       Slightly revised February 1939

                             TURKEY RAISING

_By Stanley J. Marsden and Alfred R. Lee_, _associate poultry husbandmen,
Animal Husbandry Division, Bureau of Animal Industry_[1]

Jull, senior poultry husbandman, and A. R. Lee.



  The turkey industry of the United States       1

  Varieties                                      2
    The Bronze                                   3
    The White Holland                            4
    The Bourbon Red                              4
    The Narragansett                             4
    The Black                                    5
    The Slate                                    6

  Standard weights of turkeys                    6

  Selecting breeding stock                       6

  Managing breeding stock                        8
    Breeding pens or enclosures                  8
    Mating                                       9
    Egg production                              10
    Care of hatching eggs                       11
    Feeding                                     12
    Combating diseases and pests                14

  Incubating turkey eggs                        16
    Natural incubation                          17
    Artificial incubation                       17

  Raising poults                                18
    Brooding                                    19
    Sanitation                                  21
    Litter                                      22
    Early development                           23
    Marking                                     23
    Feeding growing turkeys                     23
    Feed consumption and cost of growing        28

  Equipment for raising turkeys                 30
    Containers for feed and water               30
    Houses and fences                           33
    Protection against dogs                     36
    Devices that prevent tail-feather picking   36

  Range management of growing turkeys           37

  Fattening turkeys for market                  38

  Marketing turkeys                             39
    When to market                              39
    Selecting birds for market                  40
    Withholding feed before slaughter           40
    Killing and picking                         40
    Cooling                                     42
    Packing                                     43

  Dressed-turkey grades                         43


TURKEY RAISING has long been an important enterprise in the United States
because great quantities of turkey meat are required annually and its use
throughout the year is becoming more popular. Producers should endeavor
to make turkey raising more profitable by overcoming heavy losses from
diseases that heretofore have been a serious handicap.

The enterprise is very adaptable, extending to practically all parts of
the United States. The more important areas of production are the Middle
Western, Northwestern, and Southwestern States, where large numbers of
small flocks are raised annually on farms and ranches and where there are
also many large commercial flocks. The number of turkeys in this country
began to decrease about 1890, but by 1910 interest in turkey raising
revived, and in recent years the industry has been growing, largely
because of increased knowledge of blackhead disease and its control.

According to the census there were 3,688,000 turkeys on farms in the
United States in 1910 and about the same number in 1920. The 1930 census
showed 16,794,000 turkeys, but this was the number raised to market age
instead of the number of breeding turkeys kept. This new census figure
provides a much better measure of the industry's actual size. The 1930
figure indicates a moderate increase between 1920 and 1930 in the number
of breeding turkeys kept. The nine States leading in turkey production,
as shown by the 1930 census, are Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota,
California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, and Idaho.

Where conditions are suitable and proper methods of management are
followed turkeys can be raised successfully with very simple equipment;
therefore the capital outlay in the enterprise may be quite small. Except
during the growing season managing the flock is fairly simple. Of course,
constitutional vigor must be maintained in the breeding stock; the flock
must be kept relatively free from disease; and the soil, especially where
the poults are fed, must be kept sanitary. Moreover, turkeys, even when
veil fed, will make good use of at least a limited range and in doing so
will destroy many injurious insects, eat great quantities of succulent
green feed, and pick up much waste grain, weed seeds, and other sources
of nutriment. This fact reduces the cost of production and increases the

[Illustration: Figure 1.--Bronze turkey, male.]


All domestic varieties of turkeys have descended from the North American
wild stock, comprising the eastern wild turkey, which ranged over the
eastern part of the United States from Maine to Florida; the Florida
wild turkey, which ranged over southern Florida; the Rio Grande wild
turkey, which ranged over southern Texas and northwestern Mexico; and
the Mexican wild turkey, which ranged over Arizona, western New Mexico,
southern Colorado, and Mexico. It is probable, however, that these four
wild turkeys were of common origin and that most of our domesticated
varieties, especially the Bronze, have descended from the Mexican wild

Six standard varieties of domestic turkeys are recognized by the American
Poultry Association, an organization having as its primary function the
promotion of standard qualities in all breeds and varieties of poultry
in North America. The association publishes the Standard of Perfection,
which contains concise descriptions of breeds and varieties of poultry,
with illustrations of the most important ones.

The following is a brief description of each of the six varieties,
namely, the Bronze, White Holland, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Black, and

[Illustration: Figure 2.--Bronze turkey, female.]


The Bronze, often called the Mammoth Bronze, is the heaviest and also
the most popular variety. The male (fig. 1) is distinguished by (1) the
rich, iridescent, red-green sheen of the plumage on the neck, wing bows,
wing fronts, wing coverts, breast, front half of the back, and lower
thighs; and (2) the lighter, brilliant, copper-colored bronzing of the
rear half of the back, tail coverts, tail itself, and body. The bronzing
in the tail, tail coverts, and body is bordered by a distinct narrow
black band, which in turn is bordered by a wide edging of pure white.
The rear portion of the back has the broad bronze bar with the narrow
edging of black but does not have the white tips. The plumage of the
female (fig. 2) is similar to that of the male, except for an edging of
white on the black bars on the back, wing bows, wing coverts, breast, and
body. This white edging is narrow in the front of the body and gradually
widens toward the rear. Both sexes have the same color pattern in the
large wing feathers and in the main tail feathers and coverts. The main
tail feathers and coverts have brown penciling (narrow bars) on a dull
black background; the large wing feathers are evenly barred with black
and white, the bars of the secondaries becoming indistinct as the back
is approached. Creaminess, yellow, or yellowish brown in the pure white
edging of the main tail feathers and coverts of the Bronze indicates
an admixture of wild-turkey blood and is a serious defect in the
standardbred Bronze. Lack of the copper-colored bronzing or a tendency
for it to be greenish is also a serious color defect.


The White Holland (fig. 3) probably originated as a "sport" from the
Bronze or the wild turkey. Its plumage should be pure white in color and
free in all sections from black flecking or ticking. The shanks and toes
in this variety should be pinkish white.


The Bourbon Red male (fig. 4) is of a rich, deep brownish-red color
in all sections except the wings, tail, and breast. The primaries and
secondaries of the wings are pure white, and the main tail feathers are
pure white except for an indistinct bar of red crossing each feather near
the end. The breast feathers are red with a very narrow edging of black.
The color of the female is similar to that of the male, but there is a
very narrow edging of white on the tips of the breast feathers. More than
one-third of any other color except white showing in the large feathers
of the wing or tail constitutes a standard disqualification in this
variety. The rich reddish color, without some black, is rather difficult
to obtain and this black ticking or flecking is a rather common fault. A
faded red, approaching buff, is also undesirable.

[Illustration: Figure 3.--White Holland turkey, male.]


The Narragansett (fig. 5) generally resembles the Bronze in color
pattern, but has no iridescent red-green sheen and no bronzing. The
Narragansett colors are metallic black with light steel-gray edging and
barring bordered, in certain sections, by a narrow black band on the
end of the feathers. The plumage, as a whole, has a dark background of
metallic black with a broad, light steel-gray edging, showing more of
the light color in this edging as the body is approached. In the male,
the colors of the wing fronts, wing bows, and wing coverts are the
reverse of the colors found elsewhere, being light steel gray, ending
in a narrow band of black. The wing coverts form a broad silvery bar
across the folded wings. The neck and saddle are black, ending in a broad
steel-gray band. The back is rich metallic black, free from bronzing.
The breast, body, and fluff are black, the feathers ending in a broad
silvery-gray band edged with black. The large wing and tail feathers and
the primary coverts are barred with black and white similarly to those of
the Bronze, the barring of the upper secondaries becoming indistinct as
the back is approached.

The plumage of the female is similar to that of the male in this variety,
except that an extra edging of silvery gray is added to the ends of the
feathers on the back, wing bows, wing coverts, breast, and body. The
light edging should be narrow toward the front of the bird and broader
toward the rear. The female in general presents a lighter appearance than
the male. There should be a rich metallic black but no bronze barring
in either sex. The offspring of a Narragansett mating sometimes have a
bronze color, but such birds should not be kept for breeders.

[Illustration: Figure 4.--Bourbon Red turkey, male.]


The Black (fig. 6), known in England as the Norfolk turkey, is lustrous
greenish black in all sections of the plumage. Objectionable white
tipping in the feathers of young turkeys of this variety often disappears
after the first molt. Any variation from the solid black color should be
carefully avoided in breeding this variety. The shanks and toes should be
pink in mature birds and almost black in young birds.


The Slate (fig. 7) has an ashy-blue or slate-colored plumage, sometimes
dotted with tiny black spots, which are undesirable. Feathers of
any other color, such as white, buff, or red, constitute a standard
disqualification. This variety does not breed true to color, and many
of the offspring have both solid white and solid black as well as
black-and-white ticking and splashing. The shanks and toes should be pink.


The standard weights of the different varieties of turkeys as given in
the Standard of Perfection are given in table 1.

Table 1.--Standard weights of turkeys at various ages

                 |           | Yearling |           |         |
                 | Adult     | cock (1  | Cockerel  | Hen     | Pullet
     Variety     | cock (2   | year old | (less     | (1 year | (less
                 | years old | and less | than 1    | old or  | than 1
                 | or over)  | than 2)  | year old) | over)   | year old)
                 | _Pounds_  | _Pounds_ | _Pounds_  |_Pounds_ | _Pounds_
  Bronze         |    36     |    33    |    25     |   20    |    16
  White Holland  |    33     |    30    |    23     |   18    |    14
  Bourbon Red    |    33     |    30    |    23     |   18    |    14
  Narragansett   |    33     |    30    |    23     |   18    |    14
  Black          |    33     |    30    |    23     |   18    |    14
  Slate          |    33     |    30    |    23     |   18    |    14

[Illustration: Figure 5.--Narragansett turkey, female.]


The breeding stock is the foundation of the turkey industry, and the
greatest care must be used in selecting both male and female breeders.
Failure in this respect has undoubtedly been one of the principal
reasons why satisfactory results have not been obtained on many farms
and commercial plants. One of the first steps in improving conditions,
therefore, is more careful selection of the breeding stock.

The most satisfactory time of the year to select breeding stock is in
November or December, especially before large numbers of turkeys are
sold for the Thanksgiving and Christmas markets. Selecting birds early
in the season makes possible a choice from a larger number and, what is
more important, saves the best-developed and most vigorous birds for
breeding instead of marketing them. New blood may be introduced into the
flock or a beginning with turkeys may be made by obtaining hatching eggs,
day-old poults, or breeding stock, but the purchase of eggs or poults is
recommended. New breeding stock should be treated for worms and lice and
should be quarantined for 2 or 3 weeks to detect any disease.

[Illustration: Figure 6.--Black turkey, male.]

Turkeys are raised for meat rather than for egg production. The breeders,
therefore, should have compact, meaty bodies. The breastbone should be
straight, the back broad, especially at the shoulders, and the breadth
carried well back toward the tail. The body should be deep, with the
breast so broad, full, and well rounded that the breastbone does not
protrude prominently. Other important points are full, bright eyes, a
broad head, and stout legs set well apart and rather short. Above all
else, the birds should be vigorous. When, pedigrees and performance
records of the birds' ancestors are available, selection should be
based on fertility, hatchability, livability, early maturity, and other
desirable factors, as well as on the physical points mentioned above.

It is wise to select or build up a flock of purebred turkeys. It costs
no more to raise purebred stock than mongrels and the purebreds are
usually heavier and command higher market prices. Also, if good standard
qualities of shape and color are maintained, some of the birds can be
sold for breeding purposes at increased prices.


Results in turkey raising depend to a large extent on the kind of
breeding stock used each year and the manner in which it is managed.


Until a few years ago breeding flocks were ordinarily allowed free
range throughout the breeding and laying season (fig. 8). This practice
often gives unsatisfactory results because the nests cannot be found
readily and therefore the eggs cannot be gathered daily. Many breeding
flocks are now kept in good-sized breeding pens or enclosures with
nests conveniently located inside or outside the roosting shed (fig.
9). For a pen of 12 to 18 birds a yard of 10 to 15 square rods is large
enough. Frequently an orchard is very satisfactory. A hog-proof fence
about 6 feet high will confine the turkeys; they are not likely to fly
over the fence, because they cannot rest on the top wire. Fences should
be tightly stretched and should be dog-proof, because dogs and coyotes
are very destructive in turkey flocks. Solid-top fences, gates, and
buildings less than 9 feet high should be topped with strips of poultry
fence 3 feet wide to prevent turkeys from perching on them. If turkey
hens persist in flying over the fence the flight feathers of one wing
may be cut, but the wing of a breeding male should never be clipped, as
the clipping may interfere with mating.

Sanitation in the breeding yards must not be neglected. Either the fences
and shelters should be made portable and moved each year to clean ground,
or double yards should be constructed for use only in the breeding
season, during which time one yard is occupied for 2 successive weeks and
then the other, which in the meantime has been kept free of all poultry.

[Illustration: Figure 7.--Slate turkey, male.]

If two or more breeding pens are maintained, they must be isolated from
each other. This can be done with double fences, 12 feet or more apart,
or with single fences built solid for about 3 feet above the ground, so
that the turkeys cannot see those in other pens.


Best results in mating are obtained when from 10 to 15 females are mated
to 1 male, although as many as 18 hens can be mated to 1 young tom under
favorable conditions. As a rule good fertility will result when several
toms are kept with a flock of hens. However, if the toms are quarrelsome
and mating is seriously interfered with the males must be alternated, 1
tom being allowed to run with the hens 1 day and another tom the next
day. Surplus toms should be penned out of sight of the breeding birds.

[Illustration: Figure 8.--Breeding flock of Bronze turkeys on
free range.]

The soundest breeding program is one of using yearlings and 2-year-old
hens which have been selected as breeders alter they have passed through
one full breeding season successfully. However, if pedigreeing can
be done, it is practicable to use well-matured pullets selected from
parents that lived through their first breeding season and showed good
production, fertility, hatchability, and poult livability. The breeding
males may be young or old but, in general, well-matured young toms give
better results. Proved sires, of course, are valuable and can well be
used so long as they will breed. Reserve breeding toms should always be
kept, especially when older toms are used, as the latter are sometimes
sterile. The spurs of a yearling or older tom should be trimmed smooth,
as should the toe-nails of all breeding males, regardless of age, to
avoid needless tearing of the backs of the females.

All breeding hens and toms that are not to be used for another breeding
season should be marketed about June 1. If older hens are used in
breeding, it is advisable to replace 3-year-old females with young birds,
since egg production decreases rapidly after that age. Immature stock
should never be used but, as mentioned before, well-matured young toms
and pullets make good breeders especially if trap nesting and pedigreeing
can be carried on, thus enabling the breeder to cull properly and sell
as market birds the offspring of all hens that die during their first
laying season.

It is not advisable for the average producer to inbreed turkeys, as this
practice has been found to lower the vitality of the stock. When only one
breeding pen or flock is kept, it is advisable to obtain new blood every
season from a reliable outside source.


The time of year at which turkeys naturally lay depends largely on the
climate of the region in which they are raised, being earliest in the
South. However, climate need not be permitted to hold back egg production
as artificial light can be used to obtain early eggs, as with chickens.
Soon after mating begins, the female looks for a nesting place, and
about 10 days after the first mating she begins to lay. One nest should
be provided for every 3 or 4 hens. The number of eggs produced per bird
depends on the breeding of the stock as well as on management. Under
ordinary circumstances in the Northern States, young turkey hens should
average 35 to 40 eggs and yearling hens 25 to 30 eggs each during the
normal breeding season if they are broken up whenever broodiness occurs.
By normal breeding season is meant the time between the date the first
egg is laid (late in the winter or early in the spring) and June 1. If
artificial lights are used, starting about February 5, the breeders
should average 50 to 55 eggs each, or an increase of about 15 eggs by
June 1, due to the lighting. A few turkey raisers have used lights in
December or January, thereby securing very early hatched turkeys and
further increasing turkey-egg production.

Turkeys are not extensively trap-nested, but the practice is carried
on by producers who wish to pedigree the poults and carry on selective
breeding. One trap nest is needed for each two hens. The hens should have
free access to the trap nests before they start to lay, and they should
be carefully watched to see that they do not lay their eggs anywhere
except in the trap nests. Secluded places in the house or yard should
be eliminated. A simple form of trap nest is illustrated in figure 9.
The turkey enters at the front, through the trap door, which closes
automatically when the turkey is inside. The door at the top of the coop
is opened to release the bird from the nest.

When incubators or chicken hens are used to hatch the eggs, the turkey
hens may be broken of their broodiness so that they will continue laying.
Breaking the hens of broodiness by confining them to a wire-floored
coop is very desirable because it permits the hatching of a relatively
large number of early turkeys and a larger number from each hen. The
birds hatched no later than June are the ones that grow and mature most
satisfactorily and therefore attain the best size for the Thanksgiving
and Christmas markets. Early hatched birds should be marketed at
Thanksgiving or before, and those of later hatches can be used to supply
the Christmas and New Year demand. There is some demand for freshly
dressed turkeys at all times of the year. To meet this demand turkeys
may be hatched from eggs laid during summer and fall. By the use of
artificial light and proper feeds, hatchable eggs can be produced in the
winter and early in the spring.

It is natural for turkey hens to seek secluded places to lay their
eggs. Yards that have comparatively short vegetation and are free from
bushes or other places of concealment are best, because such conditions
discourage the birds from laying outside the nests provided for them. A
lookout for hidden nests must be maintained, otherwise eggs may not be
collected regularly and may be frozen, partly incubated, or destroyed by
animals. Sometimes the hidden nests can be found by watching the turkey
hens carefully as they make their way to them, but an easier and quicker
method is to confine the hens early some morning soon after they come
from the roosts and then let them out about 2 p. m.; the laying hens
will make straight for their nests in order to lay the eggs they have
been holding. Nests are easily made of boxes or barrels placed inside
the shelter or outside in the yards. Some turkey growers prefer to build
nesting batteries with nests about 12 by 24 inches.

[Illustration: Figure 9.--Turkey trap nests. The dimensions of
this nest are as follows: Width, 14 inches; depth, 24 inches; height in
front, 19 inches; and height in hack, 45 Inches. The trap-nest fronts may
be home-made, or commercial fronts may be used.]


Hatchability can be seriously damaged by holding eggs at temperatures
above 65° or below 35° F. It is most important to hold eggs in a room
that can be kept below 65°, preferably between 50° and 60°. Eggs should
be collected several times daily and held on their sides or on the small
end. It is best to turn eggs gently once daily while they are being held
for hatching, but this is probably not necessary unless they are to be
kept longer than a week. For best results they should not be held longer
than 10 days but if they are held at a suitable temperature and are
turned once a day, fair hatchability will be retained for as long as 3


Feeding young breeding turkeys is a matter of supplying a growing ration
in the fall and early in the winter, a laying ration late in the winter
and in the spring, and a maintenance ration during the summer. Unless
breeders are to be kept over for another year, they should be marketed,
if possible, about June 1 in order to reduce feed costs and to aid in
preventing the spread of blackhead and other diseases that may affect
adult turkeys during the summer. If breeders are to be held over for
the next season or until fall and if a good summer and fall range is
available well away from the growing stock, the breeders are best carried
through the summer on a daily feeding of whole grain such as a mixture of
equal parts of corn, oats, and wheat. This mixture should be fed at the
rate of one-fifth pound per hen daily as a supplement to feed obtained
from the range. The toms, if ranged with the hens, should have access to
grain in a feeder too high for the hens to reach. A better method is to
pen the toms in a separate range lot and give them each one-half pound of
grain daily in troughs.

Breeding stock so managed during the summer respond economically to a
fattening diet offered in the fall. Beginning about 4 weeks before they
are to be marketed, usually early in October, the birds may be offered
all they will eat daily of the grain mixture. Within 4 weeks they will
acquire a fine finish and make a gain in weight of 2-1/2 pounds or more
per hen and 4 pounds or more per tom. About 5-3/4 pounds of grain per
pound of gain is required for the 4-week fattening period. A little
better finish is acquired in 6 weeks; but the grade is not improved, and
the gains are more expensive. Breeding stock that are to be kept over
should be held in the range lots as long as possible and should also be
fed liberally in the fall, in order to put them in good condition for the

Later in the fall and through the winter the rations for breeders,
especially young breeders, may be the same as the growing rations
normally fed to young stock. Scratch grain and a simple mash, such as
that suggested for growing poults, make a good feed for carrying the
breeders through the winter, since they meet the demands of the birds for
continued growth or for maintenance. If the climate is such that green
feed and sunshine are not available, as in the Northern States, add 5
percent of alfalfa-leaf meal and 1 percent of cod-liver oil to the mash.
The birds should have all the mash and scratch they will eat during the
fall and winter. Breeders will not become too fat if fed in accordance
with this method. They will be fat, but this is desirable if heavy egg
production is expected.

For the production of large numbers of hatchable eggs turkeys require
a ration containing the various nutrients and vitamins. Good results
can be obtained with a simple laying ration, such as laying mixture No.
1, if the birds get an abundance of fresh green feed and have range.
When ground oats or ground barley is included in any mixture it should
be finely ground. Alfalfa leaf meal should be bright green in color.
The cod-liver oil should be a standard good-quality product, or the
equivalent in fortified cod-liver oil may be used if thoroughly mixed.

_Laying Mixture No. 1_

       MASH                      _Parts by |       SCRATCH
                                   weight_ |
  Yellow corn or barley (ground)        20 | Mixture of equal parts of
  Wheat middlings or ground wheat       15 |  yellow corn, wheat, and
  Oats or barley (ground)               20 |  heavy oats. (Grain sorghum
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent            |  may be used in place of the
    protein)                            10 |  corn.)
  Fish meal (60- to 70-percent protein) 10 |
  Wheat bran                            12 |
  Ground oystershell or limestone        7 |
  Dried milk                             5 |
  Salt (fine, sifted)                    1 |
                                       --- |
       Total                           100 |

Laying mash should be kept before the birds at all times beginning
about a month before eggs are expected. Scratch mixture should be fed
in troughs, at the rate of one-fifth of a pound per day per bird, so
that the consumption during laying will be about equal parts of the mash
and scratch. The birds must have access to growing green feed, direct
sunshine, and water.

If the birds cannot obtain fresh succulent green feed and direct sunshine
in abundance, as in the case of those kept in confinement or in cold
climates, the ration must be more inclusive. Such a ration may be
compounded as follows:

_Laying Mixture No. 2_

       MASH                      _Parts by |       SCRATCH     _Parts by
                                   weight_ |                     weight_
  Yellow corn or barley (ground)       26  | Yellow corn or grain
  Wheat middlings or ground wheat      20  |  sorghum               40
  Wheat bran                           12  | Heavy oats             37-1/2
  Alfalfa leaf meal                    10  | Wheat                  20
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent            | Cod-liver oil           2-1/2
    protein)                            8  |                       -------
  Dried milk                            8  |     Total             100
  Fish meal (60- to 70-percent             |
    protein)                            8  |
  Ground oystershell or limestone       7  |
  Salt (fine, sifted)                   1  |
                                      ---  |
       Total                          100  |

As with the simpler ration, the mash should be kept before the birds at
all times, and the scratch can be hand-fed in troughs at the rate of
one-fifth of a pound per bird per day. Clean water should be provided
at all times. The same ingredients can be mixed and fed as an all-mash
ration with good results. The all-mash formula is as follows:

_Laying Mixture No. 3 (All-mash feed)_

                                 _Parts by |                   _Parts by
                                   weight_ |                     weight_
  Yellow corn (coarsely ground)        30  | Dried milk              5
  Oats (finely ground)                 20  | Fish meal (60- to
  Wheat middlings (standard or brown)  21  |  70-percent protein)    3
  Wheat bran                            6  | Ground oystershell or
  Alfalfa leaf meal                     5  |  limestone              4
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent            | Cod-liver oil           1-1/4
   protein)                             4  | Salt (fine, sifted)       3/4
                                           |                       -------
                                           |    Total              100

This all-mash mixture is kept before the breeders at all times. Just
enough to carry the birds through each day should be given. In this way
its freshness is assured, an important consideration in all-mash feeding.

If desired, the oyster shell or limestone may be fed separately in
hoppers, but mixing it in the mash saves labor and prevents excessive
consumption. Gravel or granite grit should be provided to furnish
grinding material. Clean water, placed in contamination-proof vessels,
should be provided at all times. Alfalfa hay probably cannot be depended
upon to supply adequate amounts of green-feed substitute for hatching-egg
production. Only by fresh green feed or green-feed substitutes and fish
oils can those requirements be met. The oil should be freshly mixed in
the feed every week or two.

All feed should be fed in feeders, never on the ground or in the litter.
Feeders should be constructed so as to prevent waste and contamination
with droppings. Turkey hens consume a little less than one-half pound
of mash and scratch grain per day when practically all of their feed is
furnished. Toms consume about 0.7 pound daily; eating mostly scratch


Turkey raisers, to be permanently successful, must follow some system
of sanitation. Many growers have prevented disease and the attacks of
parasites in their flocks by providing range on clean soil; that is,
soil on which no poultry manure has been spread; feeding their birds
from feeders that cannot be contaminated by droppings; and keeping the
quarters sanitary at all times. _Separation of the turkeys from chickens
and other poultry at all times is essential._

Diseases and parasites of turkeys are discussed in detail in Farmers'
Bulletin 1652, Diseases and Parasites of Poultry. Coccidiosis often
causes heavy losses in young turkeys. It is best combated by carefully
cleaning the brooder house and changing the litter once a week during the
brooding period, keeping the litter dry, and using wire-covered feeding
platforms. Turkeys are subject also to the attacks of various species
of worms, but treatment for worms should not be undertaken until the
presence of worms has been determined by examining the droppings or by
post-mortem examination.


Although other infectious diseases sometimes affect turkeys, blackhead
is by far the most destructive ailment. It is caused by one of the
Protozoa and is primarily a disease of the caeca (the blind pouches
of the intestines) and the liver, but the fact that the head of the
affected bird often becomes discolored has given the disease its common
name, blackhead. It attacks turkeys most frequently, but chicks are
often affected by it without showing symptoms; thus the chickens carry
and spread the infection to turkeys when allowed to range with them. A
combination of spotted liver and ulcerated caeca indicates that the birds
have blackhead infection.

Although blackhead affects adult turkeys, it occurs principally among
poults between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 months. It is found to a greater
or lesser extent throughout the United States. The turkeys affected by
blackhead, like all birds having infectious diseases, should be removed
immediately from the flock to prevent the spread of the disease. The best
procedure is to kill the sick birds and burn or bury the bodies, as no
treatment has been found satisfactory. Move the flock to clean ground,
if possible; but if this cannot be done, clean out and disinfect the
roosting place, plow the ground in the yards, and install a system of
yard sanitation. Keep chickens and all other poultry away from turkey
yards at all times in order to prevent infection from this source. The
organisms which cause the disease may be carried by flies, blown with
dust, conveyed in contaminated soil on the feet of the caretaker, or
spread for considerable distances in other ways.

Several measures for preventing blackhead are practiced, the chief of
which are: (1) Obtaining eggs or stock from flocks known to be healthy;
(2) quarantining and worming all new stock; (3) cleaning and changing
the litter at least weekly during the brooding period; (4) keeping both
young and mature turkeys on clean ground at a considerable distance from
chickens; (5) excluding, so far as possible, pigeons, sparrows, and
persons from the turkey houses and yards; (6) frequently cleaning and
occasionally disinfecting growing houses, feed troughs, and all other
equipment; (7) feeding only in clean feeders, never on the ground; (8)
immediately killing and deeply burying or completely burning all diseased
birds; and (9) eliminating all stagnant water pools where the turkeys
range. Clean range, clean quarters, clean feed, and clean water are most


Lice may cause high mortality among young poults, those badly infested
gradually becoming weaker until they die. Head lice are the most
troublesome and are found close to the skin near the top of the head,
above and in front of the eyes, and under the throat. Applying an insect
powder, preferably sodium fluoride, when the hen is set, is an easy
method of preventing lice from getting a start among poults. Apply the
sodium fluoride among the leathers, working it well down next to the
skin, 1 pinch on the head, 1 on the neck, 2 on the back, 1 on the breast,
1 below the vent, 1 at the base of the tail, 1 on each thigh, and 1
scattered on the underside of each wing when spread. If this treatment is
not applied, hen-hatched poults are almost certain to have lice.

If the hen has been treated in this manner before being set and the
poults are not exposed to infested stock or premises, they will remain
free from lice indefinitely. It is well, however, to examine the poults
occasionally and, if lice are found, to apply sodium fluoride sparingly.
It should not be applied until the poults are at least a week old, and
then only two very small pinches should be used. Distribute one of these
on the neck, the top of the head, and the throat, and the other on the
back and below the vent. After the poults are old enough to roost,
control lice by applying nicotine sulphate solution in a thin line on
the top surface of the roosts. Repeat as often as necessary to keep down
the lice and be sure that each bird is exposed to the treatment. Sodium
fluoride applied as directed for delousing setting hens or as a dip will
completely eliminate all species of lice from mature stock.

The dipping method consists in immersing mature fowls in a large tub
of solution made by mixing 1 ounce or sodium fluoride to each gallon
of tepid water. Immerse the birds for only a few seconds, raising the
feathers at the same time to allow the dip to penetrate to the skin. Dip
the birds on a warm day, preferably in the morning, so as to give them
time to dry before night.

Destroy red mites in the roosting quarters by painting the under side
of the roosts and the roost supports with anthracene oil, crude oil,
crank-case oil, or any coal-tar disinfectant. Make the application light
but thorough, and do it preferably in the morning.

The fowl tick or blue bug is one of the worst pests of turkeys in the
Southwest. It can be controlled by the methods advised for controlling
red mites.


Protection from adverse weather conditions and enemies is required
if turkeys are to be raised successfully. An open-front shed with a
reasonably tight roof and dry floor, so arranged that the north, west,
and east sides can be closed against storms, will give ample protection
for full-grown turkeys. Boosts may be made from good-sized poles or 2
by 4's nailed flat to supports which should be slightly higher at the
rear than at the front, where they should be about 2-1/2 feet above the
floor. The space between the roosts should be about 2 feet and the space
underneath enclosed with poultry wire. In the southern part of the United
States there is little need for well-built turkey houses, but during
damp, cold, or stormy weather the turkeys should have protection of
some kind. They should not be exposed to dampness, but they can stand a
considerable amount of dry cold.

In many localities protection from dogs must be provided in some way.
High roosts or well-built shelters provide this at night. Keeping the
birds confined to high roosts or in dog-proof shelters at night and
during the early morning hours gives a good protection. An attendant or
a good watchdog is needed to protect the turkeys when they are off their
roosts or out of their shelters.


The vigor of the breeding stock, the manner in which it has been fed and
managed, and the care given the eggs will determine to a high degree
the hatchability of the eggs. An important measure of success in turkey
raising is the number of fully matured turkeys raised in proportion to
the number of hens in the breeding flock. An average of 25 mature birds
raised per hen is considered very good in well-managed turkey flocks,
whereas in most general-farm flocks 10 to 15 mature birds per hen would
be a good average.

The period of incubation of turkey eggs is 28 days, and the method
is much the same as that used with chicken eggs. Turkey eggs can be
successfully hatched by turkey hens or chicken hens, or in incubators.
Hatching in incubators is best and is coming into more general use,
especially on farms and ranches where turkeys are raised in large
numbers. Turkeys hatched and reared by hens, especially chicken hens, are
likely to contract disease and become infested with parasites at an early
age. Sitting turkey hens can cover from 15 to 18 eggs; chicken hens, from
7 to 10 eggs.


Hatching the eggs under turkey hens is widely practiced and is often
the most practical method. When the turkey hen becomes broody and has
remained consistently on the nest for 2 or 3 days, she should be given
her eggs. If several turkey hens are sitting at the same time, care
should be taken that each gets back into her own nest. Nests are most
conveniently arranged on the ground, in boxes about 2 feet square or in
barrels. If rats are a menace, the nest should furnish protection against
them and should always be made proof against larger animals so that the
turkey hens will not be disturbed or the eggs destroyed. The nests should
be flat and shallow, as deep nests may result in crushed eggs or crushed
baby poults. Nests with damp sod bottoms and only a little straw to
keep the eggs from rolling into the corners are generally satisfactory.
Nesting batteries in which each hen is provided with a small individual
run so that she can get off and on the nest at will are very good. With
this method the only care necessary is to see that feed and water are
always before the hens and that each one remains broody. If individual
runs are not provided, the hens should be taken off daily, allowed to
exercise and eat, and then returned to their own nests. Plenty of water
to drink and clean, wholesome grain feed, such as a mixture of wheat,
oats, and corn, should be provided, and fresh green feed or good alfalfa
hay should be made available.

Turkey or chicken hens, before being set on turkey eggs, should be
treated with sodium fluoride, as previously directed.


Correct incubator temperatures are much the same for turkey eggs as for
chicken eggs, but the greater size of the turkey eggs may necessitate
some adjustment of the apparatus used in measuring the temperature.
This is true in nearly all kinds of incubators except those of the
forced-draft type. The relative position of the thermometer in the
egg chamber is important in the accuracy with which it records the
temperature. For hatching turkey eggs the proper position of the
thermometer is usually indicated in the directions that are furnished
by the manufacturer of the incubator. As a general rule, with the
bottom of the bulb 1-7/8 inches above the egg tray, the thermometer
should read 100.5° F. for the first week, 101.5° the second, 102.5° the
third, and 103° the last week. Forced-draft incubators are usually run
at about 99.5°. Temperature can best be regulated, however, by using
the thermometer that goes with the machine, placing it in the position
recommended by the manufacturer, and then following the manufacturer's
instructions for hatching turkey eggs, making sure that the egg trays do
not sag.

Turkey eggs lose about 3.5 percent less moisture during incubation than
do chicken eggs, notwithstanding the fact that turkey eggs require about
7 days longer to hatch. Excellent hatches have been obtained when the
loss of moisture based on the weight of the eggs just before they were
set, ranged within the following limits: After 6 days of incubation, 2 to
8 percent; after 12 days of incubation. 4.1 to 6 percent; after 18 days
of incubation, 6.2 to 9 percent; and after 24 days of incubation, 9 to 12

On this basis, a dozen turkey eggs of normal size should lose about 1
ounce for every 6 days of incubation. The air cells of turkey eggs are
smaller in proportion to the size of the eggs than are those of chicken
eggs because normal evaporation in turkey eggs during incubation is
considerably less than that in chicken eggs. When more moisture is needed
in the incubator it can be provided by putting in water pans, or by
placing burlap wicks in the pans. When less moisture is needed the water
pans may be removed or the ventilation increased.

As a rule the eggs should be turned at least 3 and preferably 4 to 6
times daily. Four times daily, every 6 hours, day and night, is an
excellent plan. They should be tested preferably on the eighth or ninth
and again on the twentieth to twenty-second days, and all infertile eggs
and those having dead germs should be removed. Cooling the eggs once or
twice a day until they feel slightly cool to the face may be of value
in small incubators. Turning and cooling should be discontinued about
the twenty-third day, and the incubator door should be darkened and kept
closed until hatching is completed. The poults may then be left in the
incubators for about 24 hours or else put in the brooder and fed as soon
as hatching is completed and the poults thoroughly dried off. Poults
held in the incubator should be kept at about 95° F. and should have a
rough surface such as 1/4-inch-mesh hardware cloth to stand on. Keeping
the incubator dark helps to keep the poults quiet and tends to prevent
spraddle legs. There is no good reason for withholding feed longer than
24 hours. If feed is withheld for a much longer period when the poults
are in the brooder, they may eat the litter. Therefore, poults should be
fed when they are put in the brooder house.

Shipping day-old poults in specially built strawboard boxes has been
found to be satisfactory. The container is larger than that ordinarily
used for baby chicks, 60 poults commonly being placed in each box.


There are few turkey-raising problems so important as brooding and
rearing the poults, because the greatest losses in turkey raising usually
occur in the first few weeks of the birds' lives. Heavy mortality among
the poults may indicate that the breeding stock used was low in vitality
or was poorly managed, but it more often indicates poor feeding or
management of the poults. The importance of keeping both the poults
and the breeding turkeys on ground free from infection and away from
chickens cannot be overemphasized. Improper brooding methods cause great
losses, because turkey poults are very susceptible to cold, dampness,
overcrowding, overheating, unsuitable feeds, and unsuitable litter, and
they succumb readily to attacks of diseases and parasites.


The poults may be brooded naturally by turkey hens or artificially by
brooders. Brooding by turkey hens provides a never-failing source of
heat, allows the poults to be raised in small flocks, and permits taking
advantage of free-range conditions. Its disadvantages are that the
young turkeys may contract disease or become infected with parasites
from the hens and they may wander too far and be killed by storms or
predatory animals. Artificial brooding makes it easier to maintain proper
sanitation, keeps down costs, puts the poults more directly under the
control of the operator, and is more adaptable to large-scale production.


Brooding poults by turkey hens is not difficult, although several details
should receive careful attention. As soon as the hatch is completed and
the poults begin to run out from under the sitting hen, transfer the hen
and her brood to a coop. A coop of simple design, such as the =A=-shaped
type (fig. 10), large enough to accommodate a turkey hen comfortably,
and well built to protect the brood from rains and natural enemies, is
all that is required. It should be about 5 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3
feet high, with a raised, rat-proof floor. Provide good-sized screened
openings for ventilation in hot weather. These openings should be so
fixed that rain will not beat into the coop. Have a separate coop for
each hen, and if there are several broods, place the coops some distance
apart on well-drained soil where the grass is fairly short.

[Illustration: Figure 10.--A well-built brood coop which can be
used either for setting a turkey hen or for raising a brood of poults.]

For the first day or so it is well to confine the poults in the coop
with the mother hen. Then make a small yard, using boards or wire around
the front of the coop, and allow the poults to run in and out at will.
However, they should not be allowed to run in long, wet grass, and during
heavy rains they should be confined to the coop. Move the coop and yard
to fresh ground every few days, clean it once a week or more frequently,
and disinfect it occasionally. When the poults are about a week old
the mother hen may be allowed to roam with her brood, but care should
be taken to see that the entire brood returns in the evening and is
protected at night from predatory animals. Good results may be obtained
by keeping the mother hens confined and allowing the poults to range, but
the brood should be properly sheltered during rainstorms or damp weather,
which are likely to cause high mortality. The poults may be kept with the
mother hen for 3 months or more, but better results are usually obtained
by moving them to a separate rearing field on clean ground when they are
from 8 to 10 weeks old. If they have shelter and will roost, they are
better off without the hens after that age. A turkey hen will raise up to
20 poults successfully, but more than 20 can sometimes be placed with a
hen in warm weather.


The practice of brooding poults artificially is becoming more popular and
is usually more successful than brooding with turkey hens. The methods
used in artificial brooding are very similar to those used in raising
chicks, which are discussed in Farmers' Bulletin 1538, Incubation and
Brooding of Chickens. However, one point of great importance in brooding
poults artificially is to make sure that they do not crowd together
while in the brooder house. This can be avoided by frequent attention,
by providing an even temperature, and by having good ventilation in the
brooder house. A colony house or permanent brooder house that is suitable
for brooding chicks is equally suitable for turkeys, but fewer birds
should be put in the house, as turkey poults are larger than chicks.
Between 75 and 125 poults should be placed under one 52-inch hover in the
average colony brooder House. Larger hovers and larger brooding rooms
will accommodate 225 poults or more, but only an experienced operator
should attempt; to raise groups larger than 150. The prevailing custom
is to use brooder stoves in portable colony houses or permanent brooding

The colony houses may be moved several times each season, thereby giving
the poults plenty of free range on clean soil. Since blackhead is closely
associated with insanitary conditions, special effort must be made to
keep the houses, runs, and yards clean. If permanent brooder houses are
used, a floor of concrete from 12 to 14 feet wide or a small gravel or
cinder-floored yard is often used in front of the house. A skeleton
framework covered with to 1-inch-mesh wire may also be used to floor the
outside run either with the permanent brooder houses or with the colony
houses (fig. 11). Poults are regularly confined to this small yard for
the first 8 weeks and in some cases have been successfully reared to
market age in it. However, a clean yard containing growing green feed is
an advantage in brooding. If it is used only for about 8 weeks each year,
there seems little danger of contamination.

The brooder and brooder house should be operated to keep the young
turkeys comfortable. A dim light under or above the hover at night has
a quieting effect on the poults. The temperature should be high enough
to keep the poults comfortable but not high enough to be detrimental to
their health. When the poults are first put into the colony house with
the brooder stove, the temperature 3 inches above the floor under the
hover should be from, 95° to 110° F. This temperature should be lowered
gradually as the poults get larger until they are 6 or 8 weeks old, when
they require little or no heat, especially in the daytime. It is a common
practice in cold weather to keep the general room temperature at the
floor rather high, about 75°, to prevent crowding. The exact temperature,
however, is of minor importance provided the poults are kept comfortable
and good ventilation is maintained. The poults, if comfortable, will
be active and contented. This is the real test of temperature. All
warm points and surfaces except those at the brooder itself should be
eliminated. Free access from all parts of the brooder room to the hover
must be provided. All corners in the brooding room, especially back of
the hover, should be rounded, preferably by using 1/2-inch-mesh poultry
wire. A fence of the same material should be set up around the hover
for the first 2 or 3 days until the poults become accustomed to their
surroundings and learn to return to the source of heat. Flat roosts 2
to 2-1/2 inches wide and slightly tilted up at the rear may be placed
at graduated levels in the brooder house when the poults are from 2 to
3 weeks old, to encourage them to begin roosting at an early age. This
provision lessens the danger of night crowding. The front roost should be
6 inches above the floor and each of the others a few inches higher than
the one in front of it and about 8-1/2 inches apart, center to center.

[Illustration: Figure 11.--Young turkeys in a colony house
equipped with wire-floored sun porch.]


The brooder house should be thoroughly cleaned and the litter changed
once every 7 days, or oftener if disease occurs, regardless of the type
of litter used. This cleaning schedule must be adhered to rigidly if
blackhead, coccidiosis, and other diseases are to be prevented.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect brooder houses and equipment used for
turkeys at the end of each brooding season or oftener if disease occurs.
First clean the house thoroughly and burn all litter and droppings or
haul them to land that is not to be used for poultry and from which
there will be no drainage into the turkey range. Then scrub the floor
and sides of the house, if it is of board construction, with boiling hot
lye solution (one-third of a can to a pail of water) and allow them to
dry out. Next, thoroughly spray the entire inside of the building with
a 3- or 4-percent solution of cresol compound or any other approved
disinfectant. Give the same treatment once a year to the quarters
occupied by the breeding stock. The "fire gun", a large kerosene torch
which involves the blow-torch principle, has proved to be valuable in
disinfecting, if it is properly used and the house has been thoroughly


Sand or gravel is recommended for litter for the first 2 or 3 weeks;
after that, clean wheat straw is advised as a means of saving labor.
Gravel or sand makes the best litter; but with large flocks, using it
for more than 2 or 3 weeks may require too much labor. Straw or hay, if
used during the first 2 weeks, may cause a stunting of growth and a high
mortality. Many growers have been successful in using, as a substitute
for litter, 1/2-inch wire mesh stretched tightly a few inches above the
floor of the house, but it requires much labor to clean this, and it
seems to have no advantage over clean litter. A wire-floored sun porch
makes a good substitute, for an outside yard during the brooding period
although, as previously stated, a clean yard in grass is preferable.


The poults, when first hatched, are covered with soft down. When they
are about 10 days old, feathers begin to appear where the wings join the
body, and in about 3 weeks the tail feathers begin to appear. From then
on feather growth is rapid, and when the poults are 2 months old they
are well feathered. About the fifth week fleshy protuberances called
caruncles begin to appear, and by the seventh week they begin to extend
down the neck. The appearance of caruncles in the poults is termed
"shooting the red." On the top of the head of both males and females
a fleshy protuberance develops into what is called the "dew bill" or
"snood"; on males it is larger and more elastic than on females.

The sex of young turkeys can be distinguished by the appearance of a
tuft of hairs on the breast of males between 3 and 4 months old. The
tuft usually does not appear on the breasts of the females until they
are much older, and the hairs of the tuft are shorter and finer than
those on males. The hock joints on the males are much broader and heavier
than on the females. The sex of well-grown Bronze turkey poults can be
distinguished by examining the mature breast feathers which appear at 12
to 14 weeks. Those of the males are bronze black with no white, whereas
the tip of those of the females have a narrow white edge. Day-old poults
may be sexed as is done with baby chicks by examining that part of the
sex organs that can be seen at the vent.


When large numbers of turkeys are raised it is advisable to adopt some
system of marking the poults that enables the grower to keep a record of
the age and breeding of the different broods, as this is of assistance in
selecting early hatched birds for breeding and slaughter purposes. Such
a system also makes it possible to separate the poults out of special
matings from the rest of the flock or from neighboring flocks. The poults
may be marked by punching holes in the webs between the toes or slitting
these webs. Different webs may be punched or slit for different broods,
and thus provide a record of all turkeys raised.

Heavy, aluminum, clinch pigeon-wing bands are well adapted for marking
young turkeys. The bands can be applied in two ways:

  According to the first, the band is first made round and clinched,
  then slipped over the baby poult's toes and flattened so that it will
  not come off but at the same time will allow for some growth of the
  leg. When the poult is about 4 weeks old the band is transferred to
  the wing by unclinching and inserting it in a hole made in the middle
  of the web between the first and second joints of the wing and about
  one-fourth inch from the edge. The band is again clinched and made
  round so that it is not easily flattened and its lettering can be read
  easily. According to the second method of application the band is put
  directly into the wing at hatching time, a thin knife blade being used
  to make the hole for the band, near the edge of the web and midway
  between the joints of the wing. Turkey poults, when good sized, may
  be tattooed on the wing for identification. When the breeding turkeys
  are selected as they approach maturity, heavy wing bands or heavy
  permanent leg bands may be used if the birds were not marked at an
  earlier age.


Success in turkey raising depends mainly upon the combination of feeds
given the young poults. Poor-quality feeds, lack of vitamins, and
shortage of proteins, especially if the poults are closely confined, are
the more common causes or failures. Some difficulty may be experienced
in getting artificially brooded poults to eat, as a young poult is much
less active than a chick; but if several small troughs are provided
there should be no serious trouble from this cause. Dipping the beaks of
backward poults in milk or water, or feeding oatmeal flakes may induce
them to eat. Poults brooded with hens, of course, do not need this
special attention.

After the poults are from 6 to 8 weeks old they may get some of their
living from a good range, but the use of additional feed, preferably a
balanced ration of mash and scratch grain, will give better growth and
result in early maturity and greater returns above feed cost.

In natural brooding the turkey hen, while confined to the coop, should
be fed mash and given some tender green feed. Water and gravel or grit
should, of course, be kept before her all the time. In feeding the hen
and her brood it is advisable to feed the poults outside the coop and the
hen inside in order to prevent the hen from wasting the feed intended for
the poults.

For the first 24 to 72 hours after hatching, poults can live without
feed, the yolk of the egg which they absorb before hatching being
sufficient to maintain them for that length of time. As soon as they are
put into the brooder house or with the hen they should be fed. If they
are not fed for the first day or two they should be kept in a darkened
coop or incubator. However, leaving the poults in a darkened incubator
for only 12 to 24 hours and feeding them as soon as they are removed to
the brooder seems to be better and is now becoming a general practice.

[Illustration: Figure 12.--Cross section of trough feeders for
turkey poults of various ages; _A_, Lath feeder for first week; _B_,
feeder for second to fourth weeks; _C_, feeder for fifth to twelfth
weeks. Feeder _C_ will give better results if equipped with a reel, at
the top, similar to that shown in figure 14.]

The first feed may be a mixture of finely chopped, tender green feed,
and dry starting mash. Hard-boiled eggs, ground or crumbled, may also be
added if desired. This feed should be placed on clean boards or in little
feeders made of laths as illustrated in figure 12. It is a good plan to
keep the feed before the poults at all times from the very beginning so
that the backward poults will learn to eat and their growth rate will not
be retarded. Milk, if not too high priced, may be kept before them in
easily cleaned crockery, tin, wooden, or graniteware receptacles which
the poults cannot get into or contaminate. After the first few days the
green feed, unless it is available in the yards, may be spread on top
of the mash in the feeders. Turkey poults appear to be easily harmed by
eating large quantities of tough, fibrous litter or green feed; hence the
selection of a tender green feed is most important.


The use of a well-balanced, all-mash ration is the simplest and most
practical method of feeding poults during the first few weeks of their
lives. Many commercial starting mashes are available or good home-mixed
mashes may be used with excellent success. The protein, mineral, and
vitamin contents are the main points to be considered. Milk in some form
is very desirable, dried milk being preferable. Liquid milk is a fair
feed, but the dried form is preferable at least for starting rations.

The following starting mashes are recommended for feeding turkey poults
during the first 6 to 8 weeks. Mash No. 1, fed without liquid milk, is

  STARTING MASH NO. 1                       _Parts by
  Yellow corn (ground)                          17
  Whole oats (pulverized)                       15
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent protein)        12
  Wheat bran                                    12
  Wheat middlings or shorts                     12
  Dried milk                                    10
  Alfalfa leaf meal                             10
  Fish meal (60-percent protein)                10
  Cod-liver oil                                  1-1/2
  Salt (fine, sifted)                              1/2
      Total (crude protein 25 percent;
        crude fiber 6 percent)                 100

  STARTING MASH NO. 2                       _Parts by
  Yellow corn (ground)                          33
  Wheat middlings or shorts                     20
  Wheat bran                                    10
  Whole oats (pulverized)                       10
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent protein)        10
  Alfalfa leaf meal                             10
  Fish meal (60-percent protein)                 5
  Cod-liver oil                                  1-1/2
  Salt (fine, sifted)                              1/2
      Total (crude protein 19 percent;
        crude fiber 6 percent)                 100

Starting mash No. 2 is advised for feeding when liquid skim milk or
buttermilk is kept before the poults at all times. Some water is
furnished, allowing one dish of water to several of milk. These starting
mashes are fed without scratch grain; but water, green feed, and hard
grit such as fine gravel, coarse sand, or commercial granite grit should
be supplied. The green feed should be chopped fine and scattered on top
of the mash in the feeders once or twice daily, allowing all the poults
will consume in about half an hour. Tender alfalfa tops, onion tops,
lettuce, and tender, short lawn clippings, preferably those containing
clover, are all good feeds. Tough green feed should be avoided as it may
cause impaction. Green feed as picked by the birds from the yards is
most desirable. In that case hand feeding is not necessary. The mash in
dry form should be kept before the poults at all times, but only enough
mash to last for a day or two should be supplied at one time. About 1
inch of feeder space per poult (including both sides of the feeders) is
desirable. This should be increased to 2 or 3 inches after about 2 or 3
weeks. Plans for feeders are shown in figure 12.


Rations for growing the poults after the age of 6 to 8 weeks may include
mash and whole grain or liquid milk and whole grain. Many turkeys are
grown and fattened on grain supplemented with whatever insects and
green feed can be obtained from the range. A better plan is to provide
sufficient protein and minerals to give normal growth. The minimum
feeding advised is to allow each day one liberal feeding of a 20-percent
protein mash, or to furnish all the milk the birds will drink with a
feeding of whole grain. Either the mash or the liquid milk should be used
with liberal feedings of whole grain for fattening in the fall.

Good growing mashes suitable for different conditions may be made as

  GROWING MASH NO. 1                        _Parts by
  Yellow corn or barley (ground)                25
  Oats or grain sorghum (ground)                25
  Wheat middlings or shorts                     20
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent protein)        19
  Wheat bran                                    10
  Salt (fine, sifted)                            1
      Total (crude protein 19 to 21 percent)   100

  GROWING MASH NO. 2                        _Parts by
  Yellow corn or barley (ground)                32
  Soybean oil meal                              26
  Wheat middlings or shorts                     15
  Wheat bran                                    10
  Oats or grain sorghum (ground)                10
  Steamed bonemeal                               4
  Ground oystershell or limestone                2
  Salt (fine, sifted)                            1
      Total (crude protein 19-1/2 percent)     100

  GROWING MASH NO. 3                        _Parts by
  Yellow corn (ground)                          35
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent protein)        15
  Wheat bran                                    10
  Wheat middlings or shorts                     10
  Oats or barley (ground)                       10
  Alfalfa leaf meal                             10
  Dried milk                                     9
  Salt (fine, sifted)                            1
      Total (crude protein 20 to 21 percent)   100

  GROWING MASH NO. 4                        _Parts by
  Yellow corn (ground)                          20
  Wheat middlings (standard or brown)           15
  Oats (finely ground)                          15
  Wheat bran                                    10
  Alfalfa leaf meal                             10
  Yellow corn gluten meal                       10
  Dried milk                                    10
  Meat scrap (50- to 55-percent protein)         5
  Steamed bonemeal                               2
  Ground oystershell or limestone                2
  Salt (fine, sifted)                            1
      Total (crude protein 20 percent;
        crude fiber 6 percent)                 100

These growing mashes are all fed with scratch grains consisting of such
grains as corn, wheat, barley, and oats. Corn, wheat, or barley may be
used as the only scratch grain except with growing mash No. 4, which
should contain from 50 to 75 percent of oats. A good grain mixture may be
made of 40 parts of corn, 40 parts of wheat, and 20 parts of oats. Mashes
1 and 2 are for flocks having access to a good green range. In mash No. 2
soybean oil meal, which has proved to be a good source of protein and is
also good for fattening, is substituted for meat scrap. Mash No. 3 is a
more complete ration and is advised for all conditions where the turkeys
do not have an abundance of growing green feed.

Other combinations of grains and byproducts may be used successfully,
the exact selection depending largely on availability and cost of feeds.
It is best to use at least two grains, and preferably three or four, in
the ration. Corn is the grain most commonly used in feeding turkeys. Not
more than 60 percent of the entire growing ration should consist of
oats or barley or a combination of the two. Yellow corn tends to produce
a deep-yellow skin color while white corn, barley, and wheat produce
turkeys with light-colored skins.

If the birds have all the milk they will drink along with whole grains,
they will consume enough milk to make good growth, if no water is fed.
A mixture of 30 percent of corn, 30 percent of oats, 20 percent of
wheat, and 20 percent of barley is satisfactory; so is a free choice of
several grains. However, the whole-grain and liquid-milk method works
well only when the birds are on a good, green range and is practical to
use only when milk products are cheap. Some loss from pendulous crops is
to be expected when liquid milk is consumed liberally and this is one
of the chief objections to its use. The milk receptacles should be set
on a wire screen and covered to protect them from the weather and from
contamination with droppings. Sanitation is especially important when
milk is used.


Feed should be kept before the birds constantly from hatching to market
age. During the first 6 weeks feed starting mash. During the seventh
and eighth weeks feed a mixture of equal parts of the starting and
growing mashes. From 9 to 12 weeks feed the growing mash. From 13 weeks
to marketing feed growing mash and scratch grain. No scratch grain is
fed during the first 12 weeks. If a change is made from mash to the
whole-grain and liquid-milk method, cut down the mash gradually until the
poults learn to drink the milk and to eat the whole grain freely.

Cod-liver oil is necessary in starting rations, but as a rule it is not
necessary in a growing ration unless the birds are confined. In that
case, about 1 percent should be added to the mash. A good grade of plain
cod-liver oil is advised for use in turkey feeds. Fish meal, though an
excellent feed, may impart an undesirable flavor to turkey meat. Fish
meal and cod-liver oil should be omitted from the fattening ration
during the last 8 weeks before the birds are marketed. Birds should not
be moved, or feeding arrangements radically changed in the last 6 weeks
before marketing.

Feeding the growing mash wet is a common practice in some localities.
Like the dry-mash and scratch-grain system, it produces fine-quality
turkeys although the labor in feeding may be greater. With this method
the turkeys are fed all they will eat of a moist, crumbly mash placed
in troughs with sufficient trough space provided to accommodate all
the flock at one time. Only as much mash as the birds will clean up in
30 to 60 minutes is fed twice daily. Tail picking seldom occurs during
moist-mash feeding if the ration is complete.

Grit may be furnished in the form of commercial granite grit or coarse
sand for little poults and fine gravel for the larger birds. Limestone
grit does not serve well as grinding material and is unnecessary with the
rations as listed.

The poults may be put on the rearing ground when they are from 8 to 12
weeks old. An alfalfa field is an ideal rearing ground and may be used
as a permanent, fenced, rearing range divided into 2 or 3 sections.
When the rearing range is divided into 2 sections, 1 may be used for 2
seasons in succession while the other is rested for 2 seasons. A better
plan is to divide it into 3 parts, allowing 1 season's use followed by
2 seasons' rest for each of the 3 sections. With portable houses and
fences a method known as the "Minnesota plan" (p. 37) permits the turkey
poults to be moved to a new section once a week and to an entirely new
plot each year. Land on which no poultry of any kind have run for 2
years and on which no poultry manure has been spread, may be considered
clean ground. The feed should not be put on the ground but in hoppers or
troughs which should be moved frequently or set on wire-covered framework
to prevent contamination with droppings. It is very important that the
drinking water be fresh and clean and that the growing turkeys should not
have access to stagnant water pools. Watering dishes should be placed on
wire-covered platforms with a device to prevent contamination from the
birds' perching on the top or sides.

The limited-range method with full feeding, as described, is recommended
in preference to free range with limited feeding. However, conditions
sometimes demand that free range be permitted, and limited feeding
practiced. In such cases, when natural feed is abundant, good results
can be obtained by feeding the poults, after they are from 8 to 10 weeks
old, only once daily, as previously suggested. Any of the growing mashes
previously listed should make a good supplement to range feeds. This
extra feed will tend to keep the birds nearer home and keep them growing
at a reasonably good rate. Scratch grains should also be fed and as
marketing time approaches, will be eaten more liberally by the birds. For
turkeys on free range, plenty of water in convenient locations should be
provided. Water helps to maintain good health and may help to prevent the
condition known as "crop bound."

Turkeys which are well fed should make increases in weight comparable to
those given in table 2, which gives the average weights, at various ages,
ox Bronze turkeys raised in an experiment conducted at the United States
Range Livestock Experiment Station at Miles City, Mont. These birds were
fed starting and growing mashes containing about 22 percent of protein.

Table 2.--_Average weights of Bronze turkey poults from hatching
time to market age_

                 | Average live weight
      Age        |  Males   | Females
                 | _Pounds_ | _Pounds_
  Newly hatched  |   0.13   |   0.13
  2 weeks        |   0.33   |   0.30
  4 weeks        |   0.86   |   0.75
  8 weeks        |   3.13   |   2.68
  12 weeks       |   6.64   |   5.28
  16 weeks       |  10.35   |   7.67
  20 weeks       |  14.47   |   9.67
  24 weeks       |  18.23   |  11.15
  26 weeks       |  20.18   |  12.04
  28 weeks       |  21.35   |  12.48


The quantity and cost of feed used in raising a flock of 156 Bronze
turkeys in Montana in 1934 are shown in tables 3 and 4. These poults (70
males and 86 females) had well-balanced dry mashes (containing 22 percent
of protein) before them at all times and scratch grain beginning with the
second week. The birds were allowed to range on 2-acre nonirrigated lots
after they were 8 weeks of age. The costs were based on local feed prices
in Miles City, Mont., in 1934. By using the data in tables 2 and 3, the
feed consumption and cost for an average turkey can be estimated for any
period of growth.

Table 3.--Average feed consumption and cost per pound of gain in
4-week periods for 70 male and 86 female Bronze turkeys in 1934 at Miles
City, Mont.

                 |                            |  Cost of feed
                 |  Feed consumed per pound   |    for each
                 |   of gain in live weight   |    pound of
        Age      +--------+---------+---------+    gain in
                 |  Mash  | Scratch |  Total  |    live weight
                 |        |  grain  |         |
                 |_Pounds_|_Pounds_ |_Pounds_ |  _Cents_
  1 to 4 weeks   |   2.44 |   0.21  |  2.65   |     5.9
  5 to 8 weeks   |   2.41 |   0.16  |  2.57   |     5.7
  9 to 12 weeks  |   2.42 |   0.43  |  2.85   |     6.1
  13 to 16 weeks |   3.47 |   0.42  |  3.90   |     8.8
  17 to 20 weeks |   3.05 |   1.52  |  4.57   |     9.8
  21 to 24 weeks |   3.09 |   3.45  |  6.54   |    13.5
  25 to 28 weeks |   2.46 |   5.64  |  8.10   |    16.1

Table 4.--Average feed consumption per bird in periods for 70
male and 86 female Bronze turkeys in 1934 at Miles City, Mont.

       Age       |  Mash  | Scratch |  Total
                 |        |  grain  |
                 |_Pounds_| _Pounds_| _Pounds_
  1 to 4 weeks   |  1.39  |   0.12  |   1.51
  5 to 8 weeks   |  4.45  |   0.29  |   4.74
  9 to 12 weeks  |  6.67  |   1.19  |   7.86
  13 to 16 weeks |  9.96  |   1.21  |  11.17
  17 to 20 weeks |  9.05  |   4.52  |  13.57
  21 to 24 weeks |  7.64  |   8.53  |  16.17
  25 to 28 weeks |  5.19  |  11.89  |  17.08

Using the data contained in tables 2 and 3, it will be found that it took
approximately 96 pounds of mash and scratch feed to raise a 21-pound tom
to 28 weeks of age, and about 57-1/2 pounds of mash and grain to raise a
12-1/2-pound hen to that age, or about 4.6 pounds of feed for each pound
of live weight, when practically all feed was furnished. It took about 4
pounds of feed for each pound of live weight up to 24 weeks of age. The
birds had access to a moderate sized range lot containing native grasses,
but very little feed was obtained from it during the 1934 season.


Crooked and dented breastbones in turkeys are common and sometimes cause
a considerable loss to growers when the birds are marketed, since a
severely crooked or very deeply dented breastbone causes the carcass to
be graded as no. 2.

It is generally believed that faulty nutrition causes most of the
deformed breastbones, although level roosts narrower than 2-1/2 inches
have been known to cause deformities of this kind. If turkeys are
supplied with green feed, fed liberally on one of the rations suggested,
provided with tilted 2 by 4 roosts or medium-sized poles (see page 35),
and have plenty of direct sunlight, there will be few crooked breastbones
among them. A small number (from 1 to 2 percent) is to be expected as
it seems to be impossible to eliminate them entirely. The addition to
the ration of steamed bone meal and limestone grit or oyster shell as
a mineral reinforcement is recommended by some poultrymen. However,
the various rations, as listed, supply adequate quantities of the
bone-building ingredients. Further additions are unnecessary and may even
be harmful.

[Illustration: Figure 13.--Mash hopper for feeding young turkeys
12 weeks old or older. The end plan of the same hopper is shown in figure



During the first 3 or 4 weeks after the poults hatch, two-piece crockery
fountains are excellent milk containers. For water, galvanized metal
containers are more convenient. When the poults are from 4 to 10 weeks
old, water pails, metal troughs, or shallow tin or graniteware pans
provided with wire or wooden guards are more satisfactory than fountains.
A good method is to place the water or milk outside the wall of the
brooder room so that the poults can drink it through a wire screen.
From the age of 9 weeks until market age, a supply of running water is
preferable, although ordinary water pails set inside the range house on
the wire floor or nails or tubs set outside the fence, with openings in
the wire for the birds' heads, are satisfactory. Changing the position
of the watering devices every few days or setting them on wire-covered
platforms will aid in providing sanitary conditions near the watering
places where filth is likely to accumulate rapidly. A watertight barrel
provided with a drip faucet and a trough also makes a good watering
device. Shade should be provided to prevent the drinking water from
getting hot. Suitable equipment for feeding mash and scratch feed is
shown in figure 12.

[Illustration: Figure 14.--Diagram of end of mash hopper for
feeding young turkeys. Side view of same hopper shown in figure 13.]

[Illustration: Figure 15.--A waste-proof, portable, outdoor
shelter for feeder. The wire floor helps to prevent contamination from
the soil and the roof provides shelter when the birds are eating.]

[Illustration: Figure 16.--Large range house for turkeys. This
type is equipped with a wire-floored alleyway, as shown in figures 17 and
18. The antiflies on the roof prevent turkeys from roosting there.]

Small trough feeders made of lath (fig. 12, _A_) may be used from the
first day in the brooder and until the poults are a week old. Such
feeders are made with 1 lath for the bottom, 2 for the sides, small
sections for end pieces, and another lath for a guard to keep poults out
of the trough. For poults from 8 days to 4 weeks old it is better to use
large trough feeders made of 1/2- by 2-1/4-inch boards for the sides with
a top guard consisting of a free-turning reel. Baling wire stretched
inside the troughs (fig. 12, _C_) aid in preventing waste of feed and
also serve as beak cleaners for the birds. To prevent waste, it is better
not to fill most trough feeders more than two-thirds full. In the brooder
house it is important to place feeders on a wire platform made of 1-inch
mesh, 16-gage wire, and 1- by 4- or 1- by 6-inch boards. Poults 5 to 12
weeks old should have trough feeders made of 1/2- by 5-inch boards for
the sides, with a free-turning reel at the top. For poults from 12 weeks
old to market age the feeders should be even larger, as illustrated in
figures 13 and 14.

[Illustration: Figure 17.--End elevation of turkey range house
with alleyway.]

[Illustration: Figure 18.--Floor plan of turkey range house with

After the age of about 12 weeks, and when feeding is done under shelter,
use a flat-bottomed trough from 12 to 18 feet long or several short
feeders made with a 1- by 10-inch board as a bottom, 1- by 8-inch boards
as sides, and with a guard of 1- by 4-inch center piece topped with a
free-turning roller or reel (fig. 14). For outside feeding a similar
trough is advisable. It should be divided into two sections each 6 to 9
feet long, set on 2- by 8- or 2- by 10-inch skids covered with 1-inch
hexagonal mesh, 16-gage wire or heavy gage 1-inch-mesh hardware cloth,
and provided with a gable roof and side boards to protect the feed and
the birds from sun, wind, and rain (fig. 15). The troughs can be removed
to be used as inside feeders and for replenishing the feed. Two 9-foot
feeders are sufficient for 150 to 175 birds. Inside feeding is preferred
whenever possible to provide it.

[Illustration: Figure 19.--Interior of 10- by 25-foot ran so
house showing wire floor and wire under roosts. Figure 17 shows the wire
nailed on the underside of the roost supports.]

[Illustration: Figure 20.--This shed-roof range house will
accommodate from 130 to 150 growing turkeys to market age. The plan of
this house is shown in figure 21.]


A verminproof, weatherproof roosting shelter for growing poults is an
important piece of equipment. A square or rectangular structure with a
shed or gable roof makes a satisfactory range house. A shed roof is more
easily constructed. The use of wire guards called "antiflies" will keep
turkeys off the roof. Allowing for a 5-foot wire-floored alleyway to hold
the feeders and waterers, a house about 10 feet wide and 25 feet long
(figs. 16, 17, 18, and 19) will accommodate 150 to 175 growing turkeys to
market age; a similar house about 16 by 18 feet is large enough for 100
birds. Feeding and watering can be done inside. For a permanent house, a
height of 5 or 5-1/2 feet at the caves and about 8 feet at the front (or
the peak, if gable-roofed) is sufficient. If no alleyway is used, a house
9 by 26 feet containing roosts only should care for 130 to 150 turkeys to
market age (figs. 20 and 21).

[Illustration: Figure 21.--End elevation of range shelter for
turkeys. This type is built without an alleyway and measures 9 by 20

With the latter type of house, feeding and watering must be done outside,
preferably with a covered feeder, as shown in figure 15. A cheaper
portable coop, not so high and with framework of lighter material, is
shown in figure 22. This coop is built on 4- by 10-inch skids and is
equipped with raised wire floor and with roosts.

[Illustration: Figure 22.--Portable turkey range houses equipped
with wire floors and antiflies. The house on the left is 16 by 20 feet
and has a feed storage room at one end.]

A permanent house should face south or in a southerly direction so that
the front is not exposed to storms. Board sides on the north and west
are desirable. Practically open-air conditions, combined with good
protection, may be obtained by leaving wire-covered openings about 2 or
2-1/2 feet wide across the north, west, and east sides at about the level
of the roosts. These Openings should be made closable by shiplap doors
that may be partly opened in warm weather and closed during cold weather
and storms. The south side may be left entirely open except for 1-inch
hexagonal mesh of 16- or 18-gage wire and enough boards to give strength
to the building and protect the birds from rainstorms.

As mentioned on page 29, desirable roosts may be made of 2 by 4's with
edges beveled and laid flatwise but slightly titled up at about the angle
of a quarter-pitch roof in the direction toward which the birds are
likely to face. Roosts made of 2 by 4's or other sawed lumber may cause
dents in the breastbones if they are laid perfectly flat. Smooth poles
2-1/2 to 5 inches in diameter also make good roosts. Material less than
2-1/2 inches wide is not recommended for turkeys half grown or older.
Roosts should be placed preferably 20 to 24 inches apart (center to
center), about 14 inches from the wall and lengthwise or the building.
Those nearest the back wall of the shelter should be the highest, and
each of the others should be about 6 inches lower than the one back of
it. This arrangement insures an even distribution of the birds on the
roosts without crowding. Allow about 1 foot of roost space per bird as
they require as much space as this when approaching market age.

The space beneath the roosts should be fenced off and covered with
1-1/2-inch, 18-gage wire mesh to prevent the birds from getting at the
droppings. This wire should be placed either on the under side of the
roost supports (fig. 17) or on special wire supports (fig. 21), and it
should be 6 to 12 inches below the top of the roosts. When a wire-floored
alleyway is used, removable vertical panels made of 1- by 4-inch boards
covered with the 1-1/2-inch hexagonal, 18-gage wire mesh should be placed
directly under the roosts which border the alleyways in such a way as to
close the opening underneath the roosts (fig. 19).

In very dry regions, it the space underneath the roosts and wire floors
is entirely enclosed, the droppings may be allowed to accumulate
throughout the entire growing season to save labor. In damp climates,
however, the droppings should be removed frequently.

Wire floors may be used, as described, in the alleyways of roosting
shelters to provide a place for inside feeding and watering and may also
be used in the outside yards when close-confinement rearing is practiced.
A practical method of construction is to make the floor in removable
sections, each about 5 feet square. The framework should be made of
2 by 4's placed on edge, with the top edge beveled to present about
three-fourths inch of surface; the center supports may be of 1 by 4's,
also placed on edge, spaced 12 to 16 inches apart, and laid lengthwise
of the alleyway (fig. 19). This frame should be covered with 1-inch
hexagonal, 16-gage wire mesh or chain-link fabric wire. Hardware cloth
in a 1-inch mesh made of 14-gage wire is perhaps more satisfactory and
will last longer, but the first cost would be greater. The wire may be
fastened with eight-penny nails and 1-inch staples alternated, one for
each strand of wire, but fastened only to the top or sides of the 2- by
4-inch framework, not to the center supports. The sections should be set
loosely in the alleyway and held 1 inch apart by nails driven into the
sides of the framework. Supports made of either 2 by 4 or 2 by 6 inch
material should be placed on both sides of the alleyway, directly under
the outer framework of the floor panels, and blocked up so as to hold the
floor frames 1 foot above the ground.

Since hen turkeys fly well, it is sometimes difficult to keep them in
their runways. Clipping the large outer feathers (called primaries) of
one wing will do much to prevent the turkeys from flying, but it is
usually necessary to put a 3- or 4-foot guard made of 1 by 4 or 2 by 2
inch material and lightweight poultry wire around the edge of the roof of
the roosting shelters, on gates, and on the fences themselves for 2 or
3 rods out from the buildings. Whenever practicable, these "antiflies"
should be slanted in toward the yard (figs. 16 and 20). Clipping the
wings of the toms is undesirable and is usually unnecessary when
antiflies are properly constructed.

A 5-foot fence is usually high enough to confine turkeys, except near
buildings and over gates, where the fence should be 8 or 9 feet high.
Even a 4-foot fence has been reported as satisfactory by some growers.
Steel posts and square-mesh poultry fencing of full standard weight make
good turkey fences.


Dogs cause heavy losses among turkeys in many localities. Turkey houses
must be well constructed to exclude dogs. Wire of 16-gage to 18-gage
weight is necessary, and it must be very tightly nailed. The 16-gage
weight should be used for the outside of buildings where it comes close
to the ground. Confining the turkeys to their shelters all night and
through the early morning hours is frequently a necessary precaution
unless an attendant is present or protection is afforded by a good
watchdog. Fences for confining poultry are not always entirely dog-proof.
High roosts, provided by some growers, give protection at night, but in
the early morning hours when the turkeys are off the roosts, an attendant
should be in the vicinity. Feeding the flock inside the shelter is
advantageous when turkeys must be confined during the early morning hours
as this greatly increases the feeding period.


Tail-feather picking seems to begin by the birds' using each others' tail
feathers to clean their beaks of mash. Although it does not ordinarily
damage the birds for market, the habit ruins their appearance and
decreases their salability as breeding stock. It is not always possible
to prevent tail-feather picking entirely, especially in flocks raised in
confinement or in small range lots, but it may be prevented partially by
providing tightly stretched wire in or over the mash feeders. Baling wire
stretched tightly or strips of ordinary light-weight poultry wire may be

Feeding the mash moist will also aid in preventing tail-feather picking.
The kind of mash may also be a factor. A rather coarse mash containing
considerable ground corn, some bran, and some coarsely ground oats or
barley, including the hulls, seems to be more palatable than a fine mash
and is not so likely to clog the beaks of the birds.


In Minnesota a successful system of moving poults around the colony
brooder house has been devised and is giving excellent results. The house
is built with a small opening in each side, and a portable frame is so
placed that the ground on each side of the house can be used as a small
outside run. The birds are allowed to range to the south for from 5 to 10
days; then the house is thoroughly cleaned and the range changed to the
west; and so on until the land on all four sides of the house has been
utilized. The house is then moved to a clean spot, and the rotation is
repeated. After the birds are from 8 to 12 weeks old the house is again
moved to a clean place. Turkeys may be raised successfully on a small
acreage if they are moved to a clean area each week or two and to an
entirely different, clean area each year.

Other systems of yarding have been devised, but the value of most of them
has not been proved experimentally. Some system of rotation is necessary
on a farm where turkeys are raised regularly. For fenced ranges where
the semiconfinement method is to be used, the Minnesota plan is entirely
satisfactory for small flocks. For large flocks the use of large yards
in the double or triple yarding system has given good results. Under
this system, after 8 or 10 weeks of brooding, the poults are put on
range, which may be divided into 2 or 3 equal parts. The range used is
changed yearly or biennially either by moving the equipment or by having
permanent equipment for each range. In the absence of fences, turkeys
may be herded so that they are protected from enemies and kept within
the clean area allotted to them each season. The use of portable fences
and portable roosting shelters enables the grower to move the entire
flock to clean range each season or several times each season. This
method is practical where large areas of suitable range are available,
so that the birds can be reared each season on land that has not been
used, or on which no droppings have been spread, for the preceding 2
years. In wet climates it is probably safer to allow a rest of 3 or 4
years. Enough range should be provided so that plenty of growing green
feed is available in each yard at all times during the season. When
the same ground is used for a whole season, and rainfall or irrigation
is adequate, an acre of grass pasture should provide range and green
feed for about 100 growing turkeys. An acre of alfalfa or clover would
probably provide feed for 150 birds, under favorable conditions.

In arid or semiarid sections, during very dry seasons, it may be
advisable to provide fresh, green feed, or legume hay in abundance to
discourage the turkeys from eating undesirable green feed on the range. A
complete ration must be provided for such conditions.

Where the range is limited to small areas of fenced land, the use of a
number of permanent range houses set in a row, preferably 200 feet or
more apart, in the middle of the range and along the dividing fence is
a practical method of range utilization. The dividing fence should be
double so as to provide a neutral area between the two ranges. Under this
plan the birds can use one-half of the range for 2 years in succession
and the other half for 2 years without the buildings being moved. If
individual range lots are desired for each flock of birds, permanent
range shelters arranged on either side of a service lane, each with
double or triple yards, are a solution to the clean-range problem.
If double yards are used for each house or if the range as a whole is
divided into 2 sections, a rotation of 2 seasons of use, followed by 2
seasons of rest may be the best plan. Where 3 yards for each house can
be arranged or where the whole range is divided into 3 large yards, each
yard can be used for 1 season and allowed 2 seasons of rest.

Under any system of permanent yards, certain sanitary precautions are
essential. Among these are the following: (1) Select such a location or
modify the one available in such a way that there is as little drainage
as possible from the yards that are being used to those that are being
rested; (2) each season, or several times each season, remove the
accumulations of droppings from the ground around the houses, feeders,
and water vessels; (3) grade up around each house with fresh earth each
season or whenever it is necessary, to prevent water from standing near
the buildings; (4) fill in or drain all depressions so that water does
not stand for any length of time anywhere on the range; (5) use antiflies
and, if necessary, clip one wing of each bird to keep it from flying
into and contaminating the yards that are being rested; (6) prevent
birds or persons from going in and out of yards that are being rested;
(7) move feeders and water vessels frequently, feed and water the birds
inside the range shelters on the wire floors, or place the feeders and
water vessels outside on roofed wire platforms so that the droppings
that accumulate near them will not become sources of infection; (8) use
contamination-proof feeders and water vessels; (9) see that flies do not
breed extensively in or near the houses and feeders; (10) place wide
boards set into the ground, an inch or two at the bottom of the fences
and extending for about 10 yards out from the buildings to prevent refuse
spreading to the adjoining yards.

When birds are herded on free range some growers move the roosts,
feeders, and water vessels to clean ground several times each season,
whereas others use permanent roosting and feeding quarters and bring the
birds back each night. In either case excessive contamination at any one
point should be prevented so far as possible.


In general, the best method of raising turkeys is to keep them growing
at a normal rate so that at the age of about 6 months they are in prime
market condition, no special fattening period being necessary. Such a
method calls for liberal feeding of balanced rations throughout the
growing period. A good range will supply a large quantity of feed at a
very reasonable cost, but not even the best range will furnish enough of
the right kinds of feed to produce large numbers of prime turkeys without
supplementary feeding.

In many instances, however, turkey growers believe that it is more
profitable to force the birds to forage for most of their livelihood
until a few weeks before marketing time. A good plan for fattening these
range-grown birds is to begin early in the fall to feed the birds mash
and scratch, allowing them all they will eat of both. As they approach
maturity they will eat mostly scratch grain. The mash may be fed moist or
dry. Milk is an excellent fattening feed, and if plenty of liquid milk is
available it may be fed with scratch grain only and no mash. Some turkey
raisers feed equal parts of corn, wheat, and oats during the first part
of the fattening season and gradually change to all corn as the weather
becomes cooler. This system is satisfactory if plenty of milk can be fed
in addition. Without milk or some other high-protein feed, the results
are likely to be unsatisfactory. If too heavy feeding of corn alone is
begun before the range turkeys become accustomed to it, the disease known
as scours often results, especially if new corn is used. Old corn is a
much better feed than new corn, but the new crop is safe after it is well
matured and dry.

As a general rule, turkeys that have been raised on free range cannot
be successfully fattened in close confinement. They may be successfully
fattened, however, if they are confined to moderate-sized yards
containing growing alfalfa or other green crops or stacks of alfalfa or
clover hay. There is no advantage in confining turkeys which have been
raised in semiconfinement to smaller quarters for fattening.


The marketing season for the bulk of the turkey crop is usually
comparatively short, extending from the middle of November to the latter
part of December. There is an increasing demand in the fall and winter
and even in late summer for young turkeys. Many turkey raisers sell their
birds alive to poultry dealers, who either dress them or ship them alive
to city dealers. In sections where turkeys are grown in large numbers, as
in Texas, dressing plants have been built by cooperative associations and
poultry dealers who collect the live birds and dress them for the various
city markets. As soon as possible after reaching the dressing plant, the
turkeys are killed, dry-picked, cooled, and packed in barrels or boxes
for shipment.

Farmers near the city markets often dress their turkeys and sell them
direct either to the consumer or to the city dealer. In territory
adjacent to large cities marketing both live and dressed birds at
roadside stands has become common.


Experiments with Bronze turkeys have indicated that well-fed, young
birds of this popular variety are marketed to best advantage at from 24
to 28 weeks of age, if they are in good flesh and reasonably free from
short pinfeathers. If they are kept longer than 28 weeks, the cost of
maintenance and gains and the extra labor of their care cause the costs
of production to rise rapidly. Under ordinary conditions 26 to 28 weeks
is the best age for marketing full-fed Bronze turkey toms. For turkeys
fed for rapid growth 24 weeks is a more profitable age if the birds are
ready for market then, as is often the case with young hens which mature
more quickly than the toms. Data obtained on more than 600 birds at the
United States Range Livestock Experiment Station at Miles City, Mont.,
show that at 24 weeks of age the feed cost of producing live turkeys was
1 cent per pound lower than at 26 weeks of age, and 2.5 cents per pound
lower than at 28 weeks. These figures, of course, will vary in different
years, depending on the price of feeds. Besides this cost for feed the
extra labor in caring for the birds, often during unfavorable weather,
must be considered.

With the expansion of the turkey industry, the chain stores have become
one of the large wholesale buyers of turkeys. They desire various sizes,
according to the nature of the patronage in different localities, and as
a result create a considerable market demand for hens and small toms.
This is particularly true of their Thanksgiving and Christmas trade.
Other channels of trade, such as restaurants, hotels, steamships, and
railroad lines, prefer large toms. As turkeys become more generally used
throughout the year an increase in the trade for small birds may be


Practically all turkeys that are full fed are ready for market at from
26 to 28 weeks of age, and in many cases at 24 weeks, depending on sex,
breeding, feeding, and weather. However, with range birds on limited
feed, the grower can probably afford to hold his turkeys longer than 26
or 28 weeks, if necessary, because the feed costs were low during the
growing period. It is, of course, very important to market only turkeys
that are fat and free from small pinfeathers. Sufficient protein and
minerals in the feed during the fall months are essential to proper
growth and economical gains as well as to proper feather development. A
prime turkey, especially a young one, is not expected to be excessively
fat, but it must have an even covering of fat so that the skin appears
white or yellowish white rather than dark or bluish. The breast must
be meaty and the whole body free from small pinfeathers, bruises, and
abrasions. Great care should be taken, therefore, not to allow the birds
to bruise themselves by flying or running against obstructions; they
should be handled gently and not frightened.


Birds with feed in their crops are usually graded as no. 2 and sold at a
lower price because feed in the crop spoils readily, and also detracts
from the appearance of the carcass. Mash feed passes out of the crop
quickly so that crops will be empty if the mash is removed at dusk on
the day before slaughter and no scratch grain fed on that day. If the
birds are kept without feed for more than 18 or 24 hours they may eat
soil, litter, droppings, or feathers, and thus defeat the main purpose
of withholding feed. This applies especially to old hens. If the birds
are not to be killed until late afternoon or evening, give them a light
feed of mash early in the morning. Scratch grain should be fed only until
about 18 hours before slaughter. Feeding should always be planned so
that feed is not withheld more than 24 hours. All birds being held for
slaughter should have free access to water up to killing time.


When the bird is to be killed, hang it up by the feet, holding its head
in one hand and taking care not to compress the veins in the neck.
Open the mouth and cut the jugular vein far back in the throat, just
below the base of the skull. For this purpose use the point of a sharp,
narrow-bladed knife. As soon as profuse bleeding begins, thrust the knife
up through the groove in the roof of the mouth and into the rear lobe of
the brain at the back of the skull so as to render the bird unconscious.
When the correct "stick" is obtained, the bird usually gives a peculiar
squawk, the tail feathers spread, and all the feathers are loosened by
a quivering of the muscles. After sticking, continue to hold the bird's
head and attach a blood cup to the lower jaw. The bird's wings should
never be locked, as this often results in their being broken, which
usually reduces the bird to a low grade. Likewise, no attempt should be
made to hold the bird's wings tightly. Blood cups weighing 5 pounds are
needed for large birds, whereas cups weighing 3 to 4 pounds are best for
small and medium-sized birds.

In dry picking it is essential that the feathers be plucked immediately
after the bird is killed. If the bird has been properly stuck, they come
out very easily. First remove the tail and large wing feathers and then
the body feathers, leaving the small wing feathers and neck and upper
breast feathers until last. Pull out all feathers a few at a time, but
do not rub them off as this injures the skin and often lowers the grade.
Dry picking can be learned best by personal instructions. The semiscald
method of picking turkeys is used in some sections at commercial dressing
plants, but nearly all home-dressed turkeys are dry-picked.[2]

[2] Detailed information on killing, grading, and marketing turkeys is
given in Farmers' Bulletins 1694. Dressing and Packing Turkeys, and
1815, Grading Dressed Turkeys.

Clean-picked turkeys are now preferred, but a single row of short fan
feathers on the last joint of each wing may be left. Leave no feathers
on any other part of the body. Remove all pinfeathers, especially from
the breast, but do not attempt to dig out pinfeathers too short to be
pulled. After picking, snap the blood from the bird's mouth with a quick
motion and squeeze the vent to remove any droppings that may be there.
The feet, if dirty, should be washed and dried. These methods make for
clean carcasses, good grades, and good keeping quality. After picking
and chilling the birds, cover the heads with head wraps made of heavy
waxed paper, to prevent blood soaking through and smearing the carcasses.
Whenever the skin is torn, sew it neatly with white thread.

When birds have been killed with feed in their crops, remove the entire
crop. Through a 2- or 3-inch slit in the neck, beginning where the neck
joins the body, the crop can be completely loosened and withdrawn, the
gullet being cut well below the crop. Then sew the opening with No. 36
white thread. Turn in the edges of the skin so as to make a neat job that
will not be noticeable when the bird is put on the market.

According to data on Bronze turkeys, killing and picking after the birds
had been starved overnight resulted in a loss of about 9 percent of
weight for large birds and 10 percent for small birds. The turkeys were
weighed both before and after they were killed and picked and again after
they had cooled overnight. The larger birds had the lower percentages
of loss in weight and therefore the higher dressing percentages. The
weight loss of dressed turkeys while chilling overnight is very small,
only about one-sixth of 1 percent. Therefore, practically all the loss
in weight that occurs during picking and chilling results from the loss
of blood and feathers. The weight loss of turkeys overnight just before
slaughter when they received no feed was about 3 percent, on an average,
making the total loss from their normal weight, due to withholding feed,
picking, and chilling, about 13 percent. When dressed turkeys are drawn,
with head and feet removed and giblets replaced, there is a further loss
of about 15 percent of the dressed weight.

[Illustration: Figure 23.--Single-layer box of 10 turkey hens.]


Hanging the birds indoors by the legs for 24 hours or more, or laying
them on their backs on a clean surface where the temperature of the air
ranges from 30° to 36° F. will properly chill the carcasses. They should
be thoroughly chilled but not frozen, since frozen birds sweat and,
because of their rigid condition, cannot be packed without great waste
of space. In mild weather it is often impossible to cool the carcasses
properly without the use of refrigeration or ice water. Cooling in water
spoils the appearance of dry-picked carcasses and should be done only as
a last resort. A suitable thermometer is an indispensable part of the
chilling equipment.


Boxes and barrels are generally used for packing dressed turkeys.
Packing in clean barrels, while easier and slightly cheaper, is not so
satisfactory as box packing, although barrels are often more readily

Boxes are greatly preferred by the trade and by organized pools. In box
packing, the single-layer pack of 6 to 14 birds, depending on their size,
is preferred. The boxes are usually large enough to hold from 10 to 12
medium-sized birds (fig. 23).

When barrels are used, a large size is necessary for large toms. Smaller
barrels are suitable for hens and small toms. Line the barrel with white
wrapping paper or common white parchment paper. Lay the birds with their
backs against the sides of the barrel, and if it is necessary to pack
larger birds in the same barrel, place them in the center. When the
barrel is full, turn down the paper, take off the top hoop, place a piece
of clean burlap over the top, and replace and renail the hoop over the

Boxes, barrels, or any other containers used should be free from
objectionable odor, as the turkey meat may absorb it.

There is considerable risk for the producer who does not have access
to proper refrigerating facilities in shipping dressed turkeys during
mild weather. If the birds are to be sold in mild weather, it is safest
to market them alive or else sell them dressed to local purchasers as
losses from improper cooling of dressed turkeys and from exposure to
warm weather during transit are likely to occur. When turkeys are to be
shipped only a short distance it may be feasible to chill the dressed
birds in ice water and then to pack them in barrels with cracked ice
between layers and at each end of the barrel. A top layer of ice placed
between two layers of burlap tacked securely over the top of the barrel
is desirable. The internal temperature of the turkeys should be reduced
to 34° F. before they are shipped.


Grading systems for dressed turkeys differ somewhat in different markets
but, in general, are similar. Greatest uniformity is provided where the
United States grades are used. The United States grading system is more
comprehensive than other systems and is intended to satisfy the demands
of the consumers more fully and to promote more uniform grading.

The United States Government grading system was developed and is
sponsored by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, United States
Department of Agriculture. Under this system as now used there are four
grades: U. S. Special or U. S. grade AA; U. S. Prime or U. S. grade A; U.
S. Choice or U. S. grade B; and U. S. Commercial or U. S. grade C. Each
grade is subdivided into four classes according to the age and sex of the

These classes are: Young hen, young tom, old hen, and old tom. The
quality specifications for individual birds apply to each class with
due allowance for fleshing condition characteristic of its sex and
age. Detailed descriptions are provided for each grade. For the U. S.
Special grade it is required that turkeys have broad, full-fleshed
breasts and that the carcasses be fully covered with fat. The birds
must also have been well bled, carefully dry-picked or semiscalded,
and must be free from bruises, skin tears, and broken joints. The
breastbone must be straight or only slightly dented (not more than
one-fourth inch in depth). For the U. 3. Prime grade it is required that
birds be well fleshed, well fattened, and well bled, but they may have
slight imperfections such as scattered pinfeathers, slight flesh or
skin abrasions, and one disjointed but not broken wing or leg. Slightly
curved and slightly dented breastbones, not to exceed one-half inch in
depth, are permitted. To grade U. S. Choice, turkeys must have fairly
well-fleshed breasts and carcasses fairly well covered with fat. These
birds need be only fairly well bled and dressed and may have slight
flesh or skin bruises, small skin tears, or larger sewn-up tears, and
one broken leg or wing. Turkeys not meeting these grade requirements,
including birds poorly fleshed, poorly bled, or slightly deformed, but
suitable for food, make up the lowest or U. S. Commercial grade.

Another system of grading in common use in buying dressed turkeys is to
make only 2 or 3 grades, except that sometimes the birds within the top
grades are divided into classes based on weight and sex. The no. 1 grade
usually consists of young toms weighing 12 pounds or more and young and
old hens weighing 8 pounds or more, dressed. For this grade the birds
must be well finished and free from serious tears, bruises, and severely
crooked breastbones. The crops must be empty and the carcasses reasonably
free from pinfeathers and reasonably well bled. The no. 2 grade includes
all old toms and such young toms, young hens, and old hens as are too
light for the no. 1 grade. The no. 2 grade also includes turkeys with
severely crooked breastbones, broken wings, bad blemishes, bad tears,
bad abrasions, feed in crops, numerous pinfeathers, and birds that have
been poorly bled or poorly fleshed. The no. 3 grade includes birds not
good enough for the no. 2 grade but still fit for food. These are culls
that never should have been marketed. The no. 3 grade is not always
used, since turkeys of this kind are often rejected by the buyers. On
some markets a medium grade of birds--between the no. 1 and the no. 2
grades--is used.

When graded and packed for market turkeys are further graded as to size,
birds of similar weight being placed in the same container, which is
labeled according to the grade.

       *       *       *       *       *


  _Secretary of Agriculture_             Henry A. Wallace.
  _Undersecretary_                       M. L. Wilson.
  _Assistant Secretary_                  Harry L. Brown.
  Coordinator of Land Use Planning and   M. S. Eisenhower.
   Director of Information.
  _Director of Extension Work_           C. W. Warburton.
  _Director of Finance_                  W. A. Jump.
  _Director of Personnel_                Roy F. Hendrickson.
  _Director of Research_                 James T. Jardine.
  _Solicitor_                            Mastin G. White.
  _Agricultural Adjustment               H. R. Tolley, _Administrator_.
  _Bureau of Agricultural Economics_     A. G. Black, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Agricultural Engineering_   S. H. McCrory, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Animal Industry_            John R. Mohler, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Biological Survey_          Ira N. Gabrielson, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Chemistry and Soils_        Henry G. Knight, _Chief_.
  _Commodity Exchange Administration_    J. W. T. Duvel, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Dairy Industry_             O. E. Reed, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Entomology and Plant        Lee A. Strong, _Chief_.
  _Office of Experiment Stations_        James T. Jardine, _Chief_.
  _Farm Security Administration_         W. W. Alexander, _Administrator_.
  _Food and Drug Administration_         Walter G. Campbell, _Chief_.
  _Forest Service_                       Ferdinand A. Silcox, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Home Economics_             Louise Stanley, _Chief_.
  _Library_                              Claribel R. Barnett, _Librarian_.
  _Bureau of Plant Industry_             E. C. Auchter, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Public Roads_               Thomas H. MacDonald, _Chief_.
  _Soil Conservation Service_            H. H. Bennett, _Chief_.
  _Weather Bureau_                       Francis W. Reichelderfer, _Chief_.


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.

Price 5 cents

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

Illustrations were moved to avoid splitting paragraphs. Display of
numbers was standardized in the tables to show leading zeros.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1409: Turkey Raising" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.