After the great turkey massacre of 2013 we were unenthusiastic about delving back into turkeys. We were busy enough with other projects that we didn’t bother to try to raise any turkeys in 2014.
This year we decided to jump back in the saddle, if only because we didn’t want to go out and buy a Thanksgiving bird again this year.
We ended up buying a very small number of Bourbon Red turkeys to try out. The last two years that we’d grown turkeys we raised the broad-breasted bronze variety, all of which ended up being entirely too big (35-38lbs. dressed weight) by Thanksgiving. So if Independence day to Thanksgiving is too long to have a broad-breasted turkey around then it ought to be just about right for a heritage turkey right?
The Bourbon Reds were nowhere near the right size by Thanksgiving. We ended up with 5.5-8lb. turkeys. Oh well, that’s why we only got a few this year. We’ll get a few more turkeys next year and get them a good bit earlier.
Brooding turkeys is the biggest challenge for us. Turkeys need to be kept very warm (90-100°F) for the first few months of their lives. Next year I’d like to start the turkeys in early to mid-May, which will entail a bigger investment in fuel for the brooder. This is Minnesota, after all, and cold-snaps during the month of May are not out of the question (if not expected).
I kept a tom turkey and two hens (alive) as experimental breeding-stock for next year. If they actually manage to hatch out and brood a clutch of eggs then that would be ideal. I’d gladly let the adult turkeys do all the work of caring for young turkey poults, we’ll just have to wait and see if they feel the same way.