Turkeys are kept mainly for meat. Sexes can be separated by vent system of sexing at the time of hatching. Males are heavier than females. Mature males of all varieties have conspicuous black beards attached to the skin of the upper region. Dewbill or snood, a fleshy protuberance near the base of the beak, is relatively large, plump and elastic in males. It is relatively small, thin and non-elastic in females. Most of the modern turkeys have been selected for rapid growth and wide breast conformation. Under natural matings fertility is usually low and hence artificial insemination is commonly employed to obtain desired fertility levels. In natural mating, a male female ratio of 1:5 is desirable. The average age at first egg is around 30 weeks. Average egg production is around 100 eggs/hen turkey/year. Eggs of a normal turkey weigh around 70 g. Egg is noticeably pointed at one end with strong shell. Turkeys similar to chicken lay their eggs during the day time.
When not needed for hatching turkey eggs can be used as human food. Eggs are palatable and nutritious as chicken eggs. Hatching period is 28 days. With proper care turkeys attain 4 kg body weight at about 12-14 weeks of age. Although body weight increases with advancement of age, feed efficiency is adversely affected. At 20-24 weeks of age they attain a body weight of 8 to 9 kg. Feed efficiency is naturally poor for small turkeys than large turkeys.
Breeds of turkeys in India
Turkeys are not classified into breeds, however seven standard varieties are available, Bronze, White Holland, Bourbon red, Narragansett, Black, Slate, Beltsville s
Broad Breasted Bronze, Broad Breasted Large White and Beltsville Small White varieties are common in India.
Board breasted bronze
The basic plumage color is black and not bronze. The females have black breast feathers with white tips, which help in sex determination as early as 12 weeks of age.
Board breasted white
This is a cross between Board breasted bronze and White Holland with white feathers. This variety was developed at the Cornell University. White plumage turkeys seems to be suitable Indian-Agro climatic conditions as they have better heat tolerance and also good and clean in appearance after dressing.
The general management conditions remain more or less same as that for chicken. But due allowance should be given with regard to water, feeder and floor space to accommodate the size of birds. Due care should be taken at the time of brooding. As a rule of thumb turkey poults require, double the space compared to chicken. Turkey poults are also not self-reliant like chicken and hence should be guarded in the beginning. Poults need to be force-fed for the first few days. Feed must be kept under bright light. Sometimes it may be necessary to put coloured marbles in feed and water to attract the turkey poults. Temperament is usually nervous and hence turkeys get panicky at all stages of life. Therefore, due care must be taken to prevent heavy loss.
Nutrient requirement of turkeys differ from that of chicken. Turkeys require more of protein, mineral and vitamins than chicken to meet the fast growth. Turkey rations are costlier than chicken rations.
Protein and energy requirement of turkey
|Age in weeks|
|Energy (Kcal/ kg)||2800||2900||3000||3100||3200||3300||2900|
|Crude protein (%)||28||26||22||19||16||14||14|
Poults give more trouble than chicken with respect to feeding. The sooner they are fed after hatching better it is. Turkey must always be fed on trough or hoppers and never on ground. The feed hoppers must never be overfilled to avoid wastage.
Feeding and Feed requirement
Turkey requires higher amount of protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals as compared to chicken.
Maintaining energy level as specified by NRC is not feasible under Indian conditions, 10% less of all nutrients specified by NRC can be followed under Indian conditions. Readymade feed for turkeys are not available in the market, however the birds can be reared on broiler feed with additional amount of protein source.
Poults should be debeaked to control feather picking and cannibalism. Debeaking can be done at day old or 3-5 weeks of age. Remove the beak at about one half the distance from nostril to the tip of the beak.
Removal of the snood or dewbill is to prevent the head injuries from picking and fighting. At the day old the snood can be removed by shumbnail or finger pressure. At 3 weeks of age it can be cut off close to the head with sharp scissors.
Detoeing or toe clipping:
Clipping is done at day old by removing the tip of the toe just to the inside of the outer most toe pad including the entire toenail.
The turkey will start lay from the 30th week of age and its production period is 24 weeks from the point of lay. Under proper feeding and artificial lightening management turkey hens lay as much as 60-100 eggs annually. Nearly 70 percent of the eggs will be laid in the afternoon. The turkey eggs are tinted and weigh about 85 gm. Egg is noticeably pointed at one end with strong shell. The protein, lipid carbohydrate and mineral content of turkey egg are 13.1%, 11.8%, 1.7% and 0.8% respectively. The cholesterol is 15.67-23.97 mg/gm of yolk.
Turkey meat has nutritional and sensorial properties which make it almost ideal raw material for rational and curative nutrition. People prefer turkey meat because of its leanest nature. The protein, fat, energy value of turkey meat is 24%, 6.6%, 162 Calories per 100 gm of meat. Mineral like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc and sodium are present. It is also rich in essential amino acids and vitamins like niacin, vitamin B6 and B12. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids and low in cholesterol.
Catching and handling of turkeys:
Turkeys of all age group can be easily driven from one place to another with the help of a stick. For catching turkeys a darkened room is best, wherein they can be picked up with both legs without any injury. However, mature turkeys should not be kept hanging for more than 3-4 minutes. The temperament of turkeys is usually nervous; hence they get panicky at all stages. Hence entry of visitors in to the turkey's house should be restricted.
Feed: The methods of feeding are mash feeding and pellet feeding.
In intensive system, greens can be fed up to 50% of the total diet on dry mash basis. Fresh Lucerne is first class green feed for turkeys of all ages. Apart from the Desmanthus and Stylo can be chopped and fed turkeys to reduce the feed cost.
Insemination in hens: