Aside from being a popular Thanksgiving dinner, turkeys are popular pets too. In fact, a white turkey was among the first pets to graze the White House lawn when Abraham Lincoln was the president. Today, however, you cannot have the farm animal as pet easily. You must either be living in a farm or have a wide lawn in the suburb to raise a large farm animal as a turkey.
Why a Pet Turkey
If turkeys need space to live healthy and happy, why should you want a pet turkey to begin with? You want turkeys as pets because a male turkey is like a miniature version of a peacock. A turkey cock will make an awesome living figurine in your lawn. And, turkey hens can provide you fresh, organic poultry egg, which can substitute your need for chicken eggs. But don’t trust that you can have ready reserve turkey for Thanksgiving; people who have pet turkeys almost always pardon the bird on every Thanksgiving dinner.
So if you have the space and the desire to have a large bird as pet, consider a turkey.
Housing a Pet Turkey
During summer, turkeys need their time out and about in a fenced yard. A 6 feet fence should be enough to keep domestic turkeys from jumping over. The yard should measure 90 sq. ft. if you have a turkey cock and a turkey hen; that’s about the minimum area for two turkeys. For their shelter, a mini barn or a small building with windows and high roof is ideal. Keep the shelter at room temperature by adding heat lamps during winter, and use wood shavings (not sawdust) as coop bedding. The less popular but comfortable grass hay will do too. Don’t use wood planks as flooring material as it will make cleaning difficult.
Feeding a Pet Turkey
Feeding turkeys isn’t a problem at all. The animal will eat anything you give them even your leftovers if you want to. Those vegetables in your fridge that you don’t know what to do about… give those to your turkeys. They can also eat overripe fruits and fruit and vegetable peelings. Poultry pellets or mash that you can buy from poultry farm supply stores should be adult turkeys main diet, however.* To keep everything organic, ask the store technician to give you only un-medicated feeds for your birds. For treats, give your turkeys mealworms, crickets, feed beetles, etc., which you can buy from pet supply stores. And if you don’t have loose sand or fine gravel on your yard, you have to provide a sand box in your turkey shelter aside from constant clean water. Birds need sand to properly digest their food.
Common Pet Turkey Disease
Unlike other pet birds, turkeys are very susceptible to blackhead disease. Chickens and wild birds carry the causal protozoa, which do not affect them, but affect turkeys by infecting the liver causing bluish to dark head. To prevent blackhead disease, ensure proper hygiene and prevent other poultry or wild birds from coming in contact with your turkey.
Caution with a Pet Turkey
A word of caution regarding your pet turkeys: don’t let them roam in your garden. Turkeys are very destructive to plants eating anything green and colorful they’ll see in your garden. So don’t let them loose if you don’t want your plants mowed to bare roots.
Permit to Raise Pet Turkey
Before you shop for pet turkeys online, remember that keeping farm animals as pets is regulated in some districts. So call your local Department of Agriculture to obtain the necessary permit to raise your big birds.
* See other post on how to raise baby turkeys