I have a small farm in Maryland and will be adding heritage breed turkeys this spring.  I'm going to start small, maybe 10 or so turkeys, but my problem is that the hatcheries I've called all ship from somewhere else.  I want to skip the middle man and buy Bourbon Reds from an actual place that hatches them, not just a place that drop ships them, and preferably local if that's possible.  Advice welcome and appreciated.  New to farming.  :)  

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Oops should have posted here.

I've used er's Rare Heritage Turkeys ( http://www.porterturkeys.com/index.htm ).  They really do offer outstanding variety of heritage poults, and they guarantee live arrivals (and do stand behind the guarantee!)

A couple of years ago Ideal suggested raising a couple of chicks with the poults.  (when I did I went from almost 80 percent failure to more than 75 percent success).  I think the chicks teach the poults how to eat and drink. 

You've also got to put something (pebbles or beads) into the drinking part of the waterer.  (otherwise they will drown). 

Pat

You could try asking at your feed store.  They will know who buys the turkey feed.  Pat mentioned raising a few chicks with the poults, that is good advice.  Last year we hatched some poults and got a few day-old chicks from a local hatchery at the same time.  All of the poults thrived, as did the chicks.  We free-range all of our birds and the turkeys that we have left (we processed the rest) still hang out with these particular chicks. I guess they think they are related!

Another hatchery that raises it's own poults is Sand Hill Preservation ( http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/turkeys.html ).  I've never bought poults from them, but have bought (and have an order in ((just for chicks and ducklings this year))) chicks, ducklings and goslings from them. 

They like Porters Rare Heritage Turkeys are a small operation, and it takes time for them to hatch an order... but, I'd rather work with both of them then the big hatcheries (like you say, actually resell). 

 

Pat 

When we first started raising heritage turkeys we ran into this same problem and it caused a lot of stress since we  took pre-orders for Thanksgiving birds and the hatchery called a day before the expected arrival of our poults to tell us that their supplier didn't have the inventory and that it would be another month!  Needless to say, our turkeys were smaller than average that year.  After that fiasco we decided to keep some birds back as breeders and from then on we have collected eggs, incubated, and hatched our own.  Far more reliable!  The breeder turkey flock is actually quite easy to care for, so it's something to consider if you plan on raising some each year.  The ratio to keep is 5 hens to 1 tom.  We always keep an extra tom just in case and 5 hens gives us plenty of eggs to hatch and more to eat other times of the year.  

Thanks, everyone.  I decided to try Cackles Hatchery, primarily because they had the earliest ship date available (late March).  I was starting to hear June and July as ship dates and that concerned me since we are planning to process for Thanksgiving.  

Next up - building a turkey shelter.  Time to research!  Any advice or ideas from those more experienced are welcome!  

I've used Cackle in the past... and wasn't real happy with them.  I have known others that think they are outstanding. 

 

While you'll have to wait for Porters, they hatch their own eggs (Cackle doesn't), and they have the best selection of heritage birds.

On incubarting / brooding... I scored 8 silkie hens (for $5 a piece) last weekend.  The lady uses them to incubate and brood peafowl.  (a silkie can only sit on one peafowl egg, but they are almost as big as goose eggs lol)  I plan on using them to incubate other than silkie eggs also.  (once they go broody, you take her eggs and replace with what you want them to hatch).

 

Pat

I've been thinking... I've tried several times to raise Narragansetts... but every Narragansett Tom I've ever had got eaten before he could breed (they'd all get very aggresive ((and not just at breeding season))).  So, I wouldn't suggest you buying any of that breed (or if you already ordered, see if they will allow you to change). 

One late winter I'd had one of the Toms (and my only breeding Tom) attack me twice, my wife once, and a very large (about 240 pound) friend.  (On the friend, we were walking away from him, and he charged and hit him in hte lower back... almost knocked my friend down.)  Anyway, he attacked me one last time, but because he was just a little under a year old, was very tasty!

Pat

Hmm.  I did get Narragansetts, along with Bourbon Reds, 8 of each.  Maybe I'll switch them all to Bourbons if Cackles will let me.  I wonder if Porters (who I've heard great things about from many) would be big enough by Thanksgiving--they're currently shipping in mid-June.  

Your probably right, cutting it close for Thanksgiving, but they should be ready for sure for Christmas (where there are still plenty of people buying)... saying that, but Thanksgiving and Christmas the stores run the specials where the turkey is less than a dollar (and cheaper) a pound.

If you want the best possible breed stock, I'd still go with Porters... I think you'll be able to sell your "extras" at Christmas time... and have a great flock to substain turkeys for next year.

Unless you are near a college town, are you going to get more for heritage turkeys than "just" Turkeys?  I raised (and never will again lol) Giant White turkeys one year (bought from Meyers ((which don't have them, but Murrary McMurray does).  Never seen a bird put on weight (and I free ranged them) like they did.  Problem I had with them is they sound like kids walking... and would walk (or at least try lol) through anything.  They crushed my garden. 

If you'd fence off (they can't fly) where you don't want them walking... for a ratio of feed to meat they can't be beat (and I really didn't put out "extra" feed for them.  Just the supplemental feed I normall put out about every 3 days for the chickens etc.

Pat

We also found the Narragansett to be aggressive.  They never were to people, but the toms would fight each other to the death.  Also, they would pick on the smaller breeds, like the Bourbons.  We stopped raising that breed.  Too bad because they are beautiful.  If you can't find a hatchery to ship earlier, then I would definitely get Standard Bronze.  Of the heritage breeds, they grow the biggest and fastest which might get you the size you want by Thanksgiving.  

I would try ordering from Blue Sky. I got very nice Red Bourbon and Sweetgrass Turkeys from them. They have breeders from Porter's stock.

Daisy, would you consider writing an article/blog post about how to manage a breeding flock of heritage turkeys? What do they eat? how much room do they need? Housing? Roosts & Nests?

I'm sure I would find it valuable and so would a good many others.

:^)
 
Daisy said:

When we first started raising heritage turkeys we ran into this same problem and it caused a lot of stress since we  took pre-orders for Thanksgiving birds and the hatchery called a day before the expected arrival of our poults to tell us that their supplier didn't have the inventory and that it would be another month!  Needless to say, our turkeys were smaller than average that year.  After that fiasco we decided to keep some birds back as breeders and from then on we have collected eggs, incubated, and hatched our own.  Far more reliable!  The breeder turkey flock is actually quite easy to care for, so it's something to consider if you plan on raising some each year.  The ratio to keep is 5 hens to 1 tom.  We always keep an extra tom just in case and 5 hens gives us plenty of eggs to hatch and more to eat other times of the year.  

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