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How to Feed and Water Turkeys

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Turkeys by their waterers.

Turkeys by their waterers.

Photo © Flickr user TurkZilla

Learning how to feed and water your turkeys properly can help prevent a lot of problems as well as save you money on feed. Although it may seem simple, there are many different choices of types of waterers and feeders, and different ones may be appropriate for specific situations.

Feeding and Watering Turkey Poults

When you first get your turkey poults, you will want to have feeders and waterers set up and filled, ready to go. This way when the poults first arrive, you can dip their beaks in the water and make sure they start eating soon after settling in.

For these baby poults, a one-gallon chick waterer is the best option. Avoid open dishes, buckets or pans of water, because poults may fall in, get chilled and die, or even drown.

The bottom half of an egg carton makes a good first feeder for poults. Another option is red plastic chick feeders that have oval-shaped openings through which the poults can reach the feed.

After a few days, a metal or wooden feeder can be used. Hanging feeders tend to conserve feed. Just make sure that the bottom of the feeder is within comfortable reach of the turkey poults' beaks. Avoid open pails of feed as well, because besides spilling it, the poults can all climb in on top of one another, hurting themselves.

Feeding and Watering Turkeys

As the poults grow, you can switch to a five-gallon metal waterer, or a nipple watering system. Make sure your waterer is sturdy and rugged, as large turkeys are quite strong.

For feeding, a large hanging feeder that can hold most of a 50-pound bag of feed is ideal. Some turkey farmers use a range feeder that is a trough-style. In either case, ensure that the edge of the feeder is at the level of the turkeys' backs so that they can reach the feed easily, but don't waste too much on the floor.

Once they're on pasture, you will need to make sure the turkeys have access to coarse sand or fine gravel - the grit that they need to digest their food. Most likely they can find this right on the ground mixed with the soil.

Types of Turkey Feed

Use a chick starter or gamebird starter for turkey poults. Protein should be at least 28 percent for this starter, and you can feed it for the first six weeks. After six weeks, you can switch to a grower feed. It should have at least 20 percent protein (higher than that required for chickens).

Turkeys typically grow to slaughter size within six months. For an average tom, you will feed him approximately 100 pounds of feed, and for a hen, 60 pounds.

Adult turkeys will eat as much as fifty percent of their intake from pasture or range. Range is grass that is four to six inches long. Turkeys like to eat the growing tips of the grass. They will also enjoy any kitchen or garden scraps: lettuce, tomatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, and so on.

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