Turkeys require a different setup as far as housing and pasture from laying hens. They like to be outdoors regardless of the weather, although they do need to be eight to twelve weeks of age before they can safely be on pasture. Before then, they should be kept in a brooder, perhaps with access to a sun porch.
Turkey Pen Requirements
Once they're able to live outside, you'll want to provide your turkeys with a roosting area with a roof, protection from predators, and access to fresh pasture or range.
Range is grass that is four to six inches long. Here's what turkeys require:
- Protection from predators
- Places to dust bathe
- Roosts to fly up into at night
- Access to range
- Enough space: 75 feet by 75 feet for up to twelve turkeys
Roosts for Turkeys
You can build a set of roosts, keeping them all at the same height so they don't just fight for the top spots, that is either on skids or on wheels to be easily movable. A lightweight metal or fiberglass panel roof keeps them out of the weather. Moveable roosts keep manure from building up in one spot in the turkey pen.
Wood is an ideal construction material, although electrical conduit can also be used on top of wooden skids to keep the pen lightweight and easily moved. If the roost or turkey tractor is very lightweight, it may need to be staked down so it doesn't blow over or away.
A 5 by 8-foot roost will house about twenty turkeys.
Fencing for Turkeys
Turkey fencing should be as high as possible, at least four feet, given that these birds can and will fly.
You can also trim the wing feathers of rogue flyers, as most turkeys will probably stay in the pen happily unless something disturbs them. If you can top the fence with netting, it will help protect them and prevent escape.
For temporary fencing, you can use electric poultry netting. If you want to build a more permanent enclosure, use woven-wire fencing and metal T-posts or wooden posts.
Turkeys can be turned out onto pasture with cattle and will scratch and pick corn and other undigested grains out of the cow manure, spreading it and improving pasture. They will eat pest weeds such as nettles, dock, and chicory, also improving pasture.
Make sure the fencing is flush to the ground and sturdy so that the turkeys are protected from predators such as fox, raccoons, weasels and neighborhood dogs.
Housing for Breeding Turkeys
Thus far, recommendations for simple movable roost structures and fenced pens assume you are raising spring turkeys that will be slaughtered for meat at around 28 weeks of age, and thus you don't need winter housing or separate spots for toms and hens, or places for broody hens to set on clutches of eggs.
A pen with solid sides makes a good space for a broody to hatch out poults. This can be within the larger turkey house.
For breeding, a more solid, permanent house can work well. Divide it into at least two separate spaces to keep toms and hens separately. You can let out toms for a few hours every day to graze, then let them back in and let the hens out to graze. Feeding them is a good way to get them to return to their pens.
Even for breeding stock, make sure the turkeys have access to pasture.
About half of an adult turkey's diet will be made up of grass and plants from pasture.