Turkey or “Kulu Kulu” as some people in Kenya like to call them are mainly raised for meat. They are indigenous to North and South America and were brought to Kenya by the colonial administration in the 18th century. Turkeys are usually ready to sell for meat when they reach 16 to 20 weeks. Farmers also use Turkeys to hatch chicken eggs due to their high hatching rates. They are rarely kept for the production of eggs through their eggs are edible.
There are two main types of turkeys found in Kenya. These are:
- The black medium-large turkey- Mature females can reach up to 6-8 kilograms while the males reach 12-16 kilograms
- The speckled or white turkey- These are much smaller birds with mature females reaching 4-6 kilograms and mature male reaching 8-10 kilograms.
The small-breasted turkeys are more fertile, productive and make better brooders/mothers.
Factors to consider before getting into Turkey farming in Kenya
Turkey requires double the space required for the same number of chickens. The brooding area should always have a heating source during the first four weeks. Young turkeys are weaned off heat gently and carefully over several days. Observe your flock closely to see any odd behavior. When birds are huddled together it indicates inadequate heat. Ideally, the birds should spread out over the space provided.
You can add wood shavings or chopped straw on the housing floor six weeks onwards. The house size is based on the maximum weight of birds to be in the house at any time. Birds should not be stocked at rates greater than 20 kg per square meter. Extensive management of turkey requires the establishment of well managed fenced pasture having ranged shelter.
Take note of the following feeding routine for turkeys under an intensive system:
- Turkey Starter Diet: 0 – 8 weeks.
- Turkey Grower Diet: 8 – 16 weeks.
- Turkey Finisher Diet: 16 – 20 weeks.
- Turkey Roaster Diet: 20 weeks of age.
Turkeys can be sold for meat any time from 16 weeks of age.
Debeaking (Beak Trimming)
The young flock should be debeaked to control feather pecking and cannibalism, most especially when they are to be raised in confinement. Debeaking is done at 10 days of age to prevent cannibalism.
The removal of the snood, the tubular fleshy appendage on top of the head near the front, is referred to as “desnooding”. It helps to prevent injuries that might result from picking or fighting. The snood can be removed at day-old by thumbnail and finger pressure. After about 3 weeks, it can be cut off close to the head with sharp, pointed scissors.
This is the removal of toenails usually done at the hatchery, but it can also be done at 5 weeks old. Turkeys kept in large groups, especially when excited, often step on each other causing scratches or skin tears on the backs and sides. Also, Toe Clipping helps to prevent back-scratching and tearing of flesh during mating. The problem is aggravated with increased flock sizes and densities, especially when turkeys are reared in confinement. Toes can be cut with surgical scissors, a nail clipper or a modified hot-blade debeaker.
These are practiced when the birds are placed on range usually at 15 weeks of age to prevent flight.
Turkeys are susceptible to diseases, indicating that they require a much higher level of management and skill than other domestic fowls.
There are four primary causes of disease which include genetics, nutrition, environment, and infection. Bio-security must be a priority to control infectious disease and minimize the introduction of pathogens into flocks. Biosecurity is the utilization of measures which can stop or slow down the introduction and spread of infection into or between components of production systems. It includes managing people, equipment, pests and their potential for carrying diseases into a flock. Mortality disposal should be part of the bio-security protocol.
Some common diseases of turkeys include Blackhead (Histomoniasis), Newcastle disease, Erysipelas, Fowl cholera, Fowlpox, and Haemorrhagic enteritis.
As in other poultry species such as chickens, parasites affect the turkeys by causing discomfort or significant mortalities in birds, thus reducing the birds’ productivity levels. Fowl mite and roundworms are a very common internal parasite. A regular, once-a-month deworming with an appropriate dewormer will reduce roundworms to a harmless level.
There is an increase in demand for turkey meat in Kenya as they are considered tastier than chicken. You can sell turkey meat in supermarkets, hotels and local butcheries. Turkey meat demand will continue increasing because people are leaving red meat due to health complications brought by them.
Ask around your local hotels and supermarkets to find out if they are interested in buying a turkey from you.