Turkeys are some of the most peculiar-looking birds in existence. Their featherless heads and fleshy wattles dangling from the top of their beaks reminds of something alien. The huge size of these birds is also quite impressive if not scary.
The turkey is part of the genus Meleagris family and is native to America. There are two main species of turkey; the domestic turkey or wild turkey and the ocellated turkey. The native turkey comes in various colors such as black, white and brown. All turkey species share the same basic diet although ocellated turkeys are more commonly found in the wild and as such consume more natural foods.
Male turkeys are much larger than female turkeys and as such will consume a lot more food than the female. Turkeys can have quite a healthy appetite but they are quite picky about their living conditions and environment.
The turkey has a hard beak that can easily peck off bits of plants, leaves and other food sources. They love to peck at grass but prefer to pick off the very tips of pasture grass but will consume leaves, fruits, nuts and insects bit by bit as a whole.
Turkeys are omnivorous animals. They will consume plant, plant matter, and other animals or, more specifically, insects. They have quite a diverse diet and require lots of nutrients to grow healthy and strong. Being omnivores, you do have quite a lot of different options when it comes to turkey feed. Here is a quick look at the main foods turkeys love to consume;
Turkey, like all other animals, require lots of freshwater to survive. In hot areas and during summertime, turkeys will consume a lot more water during the colder months. Lots of water helps aid the turkey’s digestive system and keeps them from becoming dehydrated.
Turkeys love to pick at natural plants. They will consume all sorts of leaves and grasses. You can also feed your turkey various vegetable plants like lettuce, cabbage, carrot leaves and much more. These animals do consume small pieces of food easier than large chunks although they can pick at larger leaves to consume them piece by piece. For easy consumption, it is best to cut plant foods into smaller pieces.
Turkeys love to eat seeds and grains. These food sources offer lots of protein to help them grow and stay full of energy. They will consume almost any seed type found in birdseed. This can include sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower, corn, milo, sorghum and much more.
About 10% of an adult turkey’s diet consists of small animals like insects. Turkeys love to consume beetles, snails, slugs, worms, spiders, termites and much more. These food sources offer lots of protein. Many farmers choose to keep turkeys on hand to help keep insect infestations under control.
These feathery animals enjoy consuming just about any type of fruit or nuts. They are quite fond of beechnuts, pecans, hickory nuts, berries, grapes, cacti fruits and much more. They will even consume poison ivy berries as well as any other wild berries they can find.
You can also feed your turkey on domestic turkey feeds. These feeds contain a great variety of ingredients and are usually packed with lots of seeds. Quality turkey feeds are manufactured to contain all the nutrients and proteins your turkey needs for healthy growth. Many farmers do however prefer to offer natural green plants and grass cuttings in addition to feeds to optimize a turkey’s health.
Being omnivorous, these animals do have quite a versatile diet. The usual diet of a turkey consists of 90% plant life and 10% animal life. But turkeys can show diet variations. Pet turkeys will often sneak human foods like porridge, cookies, and even eggs and they can grow quite fond of bread.
Turkeys may also consume eggshells when their bodies lack sufficient calcium. Farmers often choose to offer supplementary feeds or switch over to high calcium feeds during laying seasons to help keep their calcium levels high.
The quantity of food you offer turkeys can depend on the conditions of the animal. Wild turkeys, for example, have plenty of access to natural food resources. Pet turkeys don’t have quite as much access to these sources although gardens can offer quite a lot of natural foods. In turkey farms, animals are kept in coops all the time and they rely on feeding to survive.
Wild turkeys can lose their natural fear of people and their will to forage for food if they are constantly fed in feeders. If you choose to offer feed during harsh times or so you can monitor your wild turkeys then it is important not to offer a lot of food and to offer food at irregular times. Irregular feeding times will keep your turkeys from relying on humans for survival.
Wild turkeys will consume all their required foods from nature. A versatile omnivorous diet makes it easier for them to locate all their needed food in a relatively small area and they will naturally consume the right amounts of food.
Pet turkeys that move about the garden will eat as much as 50% of their intake from pasture or range grass, vegetables, and insects. But these foods might not be sufficient to keep your turkeys healthy. You can choose to offer an additional feed. Here it is best not to leave automatic feeders out in the open. Turkeys will grow accustomed to eating from these feeders instead of foraging on the grounds.
It is best to offer a pet turkey food once a day and only offer as much as the turkey can consume in one meal. This will keep your turkey happy to forage for food during day time and they will still get sufficient nutrients. This method also encourages turkeys to naturally keep your insect infestations under control.
Turkeys that are bred for their flesh will grow to slaughter size within six months. These turkeys are boosted with special feed to optimize growth and weight. The average tom turkey consumes about 100 pounds of feed in 6 months where the average hen will only consume about 60 pounds in this period. These turkeys are offered feed all day every day so they can consume more and grow faster.
Baby turkeys are called poult or chicks. Turkey might grow to be big and strong but the chicks are quite fragile during the first few weeks. For the first 6 – 8 weeks, poults need 28% protein in their feed which is much more protein requirement than chickens. Farmers that don’t have access to turkey feeds might choose to offer cooked egg pieces to small turkeys in addition to chicken feed.
After 8 weeks, you can switch your turkeys over to fees that contain 18% protein. Starch foods should be avoided at all cost until your chicks are 8 weeks old after which you can offer these foods as an occasional treat.
These chick feeds also contain lots of other nutrients such as crude protein, lysine, crude fat, crude fiber, calcium, phosphorus, methionine, salt, selenium, and phytase. These nutrients are provided by including the right quantities of seeds, grains and plant sources.
Wild turkey babies follow quite a different diet. They need to consume what is available in their area. Their food sources usually include natural seeds, fruits, nuts, and small insects. Animal conservations may choose to offer chicks additional feeds in times of great need. These feeds need to be offered at irregular times to keep wild turkeys from becoming domesticated.
Wild turkeys can be fed on commercial turkey feeds but it is best to offer these foods only occasionally so your wild turkeys won’t start to rely on these foods for survival. If you want to observe turkeys for longer, offer their food in the same spot now and then.
Farmers that keep wild turkeys often choose to create a suitable habitat by growing the right types of plants in the region. Plants like nut and berry trees, seeding plants and fruit trees are all superb picks to create an area that naturally contains sufficient foods for your turkeys.
In addition to these natural foods found in the wild, wild turkeys will also constantly seek out insects like worms, stink bugs, grasshoppers, beetles, snails and slugs to consume. About 10% of their diet consists of insects and consuming insects is a natural way to maintain a healthy balance in the wild.
Domestic turkeys are perfectly capable of consuming wild and natural foods. They are however unable to survive naturally because they haven’t been taught to consume these foods on a large scale. Your domestic turkeys will peck at all sorts of plants and insects when they get hungry but they are accustomed to commercial feeds and rely on these food sources to survive.
Domestic or commercial turkeys can be fed on turkey feeds. For optimized health, it is best to offer commercial turkeys high protein feeds with 30% protein until they are 8 weeks old. These grains should be very fine. From 8 weeks on, your turkey can consume 20% protein feeds.
You can also offer your pet turkeys lots of other food types such as leafy vegetables, spinach, seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects.
Turkeys don’t have huge beaks and as such prefer smaller types of bugs. Insects like worms, beetles, stink bugs, grasshoppers and other insects found in the average garden are a very tasty treat to your turkey. Turkeys will also peck at any type of bug they find and will consume it if they find it tasty. Instincts do however keep them from giving dangerous insects like scorpions a try.
Turkeys are consumed by people across the globe. These meats offer a tougher and more distinct taste than chicken. Turkey meat is also healthier compared to chicken meat because the meat source contains less fat and more protein. Unlike chicken meat, turkey meat does, however, tend to be dry.
Turkeys are also consumed for the sake of tradition. In America, it is customary to consume turkeys on Thanksgiving day. Turkey is the meal of choice on this specific day because Bradford wrote in his 1856 journals that this is a uniquely North American bird that he and others hunted during autumn of 1621.
This food source is often preferred over chicken during gatherings because it is larger and can feed a greater number of people during a feast.
Turkey is also a popular meat source in other countries during Christmas for the sake of tradition and due to its large size that is enough to feed bigger families.
Male turkeys can be quite territorial and they are especially aggressive during the mating season. These toms will puff up their bodies and walk around with spread tail feathers to attract females. Males also often fight one another during springtime. They have sharp talons and beaks and can cause injuries to one another during these fights although it is unlikely any turkey should die during these displays.
Male turkeys can show aggressive behavior towards people, especially during the mating season. When people and especially children enter their territories they may lash out and kick people. Wild turkeys will also lash out when they feel threatened. Turkeys are not very likely to peck or bite, even if you do catch them. They are much more likely to kick at humans and their sharp talons can cause injuries.
Turkeys might be strange-looking birds but they sure are tasty to eat. These birds are a good source of healthier and leaner meat compared to chicken. They are also fairly easy to raise and farm due to their hardy nature and versatile diet.