Turkey

We raise turkeys,and hatch our own heritage breeds on the farm. My daughter shows them at the Boulder County Fair in August. 

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Turkeys

Breeds
We raise primarily, 2 types of turkeys on the farm. We raise heritage breeds, and double breasted breeds.

Heritage Turkeys
Heritage turkeys have a range of breeds that are recognized by the American Poultry Association. Heritage turkeys are more closely related to wild turkeys, and claims are that they are descendents of the birds found naturally in our country. There are several recognized breeds that are common, such as the Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, Narragansett, as well as ones that are less common, Blue Slate, Royal Palm. We raise many of these standard breeds, but we also let them interbreed, making a naturally bred turkey that does not meet the visual standards of the above mentioned breeds.

Broad-Breasted Turkeys
Broad Breasted turkeys are what most folks envision for their Thanksgiving dinner. A large turkey, with a big, rounded breast that looks fabulous on your dinner table. These breeds of turkey (they come in white and bronze) are a hybrid breed that can not naturally reproduce. Their bodies actually grow 2 breast muscles on each side of their breast, and due to the girth of this muscle development, their reproductive components do not physically fit together to allow natural fertilization.

Breeding
Due to the inability of broad breasted turkeys to naturally reproduce, we do purchase these chicks from hatcheries that specialize in breeding these birds. The heritage breeds, we can breed on our own, and often do. It depends on the ability of the ladies to lay eggs, and lay them where they are safe. Turkeys have a natural drive to go off into the woods to lay their eggs. Since we have no forests near our farm, they sometimes substitute large tufts of cheat grass in our neighbor's field, which leaves them and their eggs vulnerable to predators. If our turkey hens stay home and lay eggs in their coop, we can successfully hatch our own.

Hatching
My incubator can fit 100 or more turkey eggs at a time. It takes 28 days to hatch a turkey poult. Hatching turkeys is a little more difficult than hatching a chick, as the humidity and thickness of the shell make a little more difficult for the poults to successfully pip and hatch from their shell. Turkey poults are put into brooder boxes inside the house, until they are strong enough to go to the big brooder in the barn.

Growth and feeding
When baby poults are in the brooder, they have access to fresh water and grain. They are fed a special crumble grain that is small enough for them to feed on and digest, and gives them a higher level of protein, so that it can support growth.

When they are big enough to go outside, they are then able to access grass and bugs on the ground, and can forage for these things as they like. To ensure the right nutrition and protein, all birds have access to a growth crumble until they are at least 6 months old. Turkeys are also given a special finisher feed to help them grow, and maintain proper bone and joint support as they get older. Our turkeys are all hormone-free, and none of them are ever fed medicated feed. Our birds are also antibiotic-free. We only feed medicine if a bird is ill. We have not had any illnesses on the farm since 2013, so we are again completely antibiotic free. Our birds free range in our gardens, pasture and orchard, and we never spray any chemicals anywhere on our land, so they are not exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

Conventional, non-medicated feed.
Ranchway Chick Starter
Ranchway Turkey Finisher

We are starting to switch to organic feed. Organic feed is certified organic and GMO FREE! This is what we plan to feed them this year. The cost is ridiculous, so the price for organic turkeys will have to be higher.

Ranchway Organic Turkey Grower

We can not, at this time, guarantee that our turkey feed is free from soy, corn or wheat. It will be very difficult for us to ever find a chicken feed that is completely devoid of corn, in the amounts we require. 

Egg Production
Turkeys typically lay from April through July. We tend to hatch 100% of our turkey eggs, and rarely sell them.

Meat Production
We hatch our turkeys all summer long. Most of them will be of proper size by Thanksgiving. We primarily sell turkey at Thanksgiving time, only. It takes many months for a turkey to get to full size weight for processing, so we don't typically process turkeys in Spring and Summer, like we do with meat birds. After Thanksgiving, we store our processing gear until the spring, so any turkey that survives the November process is safe until the next spring! Depending on how many mature toms we have in spring, we may process a few for our freezer at that time, but most of our turkeys are available in November.

A FEW TURKEY STATISTICS

  • In 2016, we successfully hatched 376 of our own mixed heritage breed turkeys!

  • Heritage breed turkeys tend to weigh, after processing, about 6-10 pounds for hens, and 10-18 pounds for toms.

  • Mature Broad Breasted turkeys can weigh from 15 to over 40 pounds!

  • In 2016, we sold 135 Thanksgiving turkeys to our customers!

  • Turkeys prefer to sleep in trees, and don't want to live in a coop. Last year, our flock of breeding turkeys spent all winter in a tree, even in snow and wind!

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