All posts by Mkulima wa Ecochicks


Turkey diseases control and treatment


Blue back:
Blue back is a permanent dark discoloration of the skin on the back and some- times the side and the breast of the turkeys with dark plumage but not turkeys with white plumage. It is caused by recessive factor.
Pendulous crop:
Pendulous crop is otherwise known as baggy or sour crop. Weakening of the corp. and supporting tissues causes dropped crop so that feed and water accumulate in the organ and pass out slowly or not at all resulting in foul smelling semi liquid accumulation affecting the crop lining and treatment always useless.
• Selecting strains not carrying the genetic factor.
• Avoid exposure of turkeys to excessive heat without shade.
• Giving continuous and easy access to clean and cool drinking water.
• Providing ample shade.

Turkeys are subject to fright especially during night. Severe losses from injury, straying, smothering, bruising, broken limbs and death by predatory animals may result into stampedes. Avoiding disturbances at night and providing low intensity light at night may lessen it.

Breast blisters :
They are much more common in toms then in hens. They are believed to be caused by continuous irritation of the skin that covers the breastbone.
Feather picking is a mild form of cannibalism to which turkeys are addicted, especially during the growth period. It can be prevented almost completely by debeaking.
• Avoiding overcrowding in confinement.
• Feeding an adequate diet.
Control of Mycoplasma in Turkeys:
Pulse treatment with Tiamutin:
Tiamutin is given at the recommended dose for three days in a month in turkeys in order to prevent the occurrence of Mycoplasma infections

Measures to be taken during outbreak:
• Quick disposal of dead birds.
• All sanitation measures of drinking water to be adopted.
• Spraying of disinfectant in the shed.
• Separation of working personnel of infected pen from healthy pens.
• Personnel hygiene before and after entering in the infected pens.
• Use Vitamin E and C to overcome stress.
• Frequent change of infected litter.
• Quick separation and disposal of sick and ailing birds.

Measures to be taken after breakout:
• Infected flock after recovery should be disposed off quickly.
• Emptied sheds and infected equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reusing the same.
• Disinfected sheds can be kept empty for 2-3 weeks before housing the birds.
• Burning should destroy the infected litter.


Marketing of turkeys

The meat of turkey has nutritional and sensorial properties which make it almost ideal raw material for rational and curative nutrition. The turkey can produce 30gm of digestible protein from 100gm feed. The dressing percentage of turkey is 80-87%, which is highest of all farm species.
• The body weight of tom and hen turkey at the 16th week is 7.26 kg and 5.53kg. This is optimum weight for marketing the turkeys.
• The cumulative feed efficiency at the marketing should be 1:2.8 for toms and 1:2.7 for hens.

A market study shows that a male turkey sold at 24 weeks of age weighing 10 to 20 kg with expenditure of ksh 300/kg to 450 will give a profit of Ksh. 500/kg to 600. Likewise a female will give a profit of ksh.300/kg to 400 in a span of 24 weeks time. Besides, the turkey can be reared in scavenging and semi-scavenging conditions also.

Economic Parameters in Turkey Farming 

Male – Female ratio                                                1:5
Average egg weight                                                 65gms
Average day old poult weight                                50gms
Age at sexual maturity                                            30weeks
Average egg number                                                80 -100
Incubation Period                                                   28 days
Egg production period                                            24 weeks

Marketable age
Male                                                                       14 -15 weeks
Female                                                                   17 – 18 weeks

Marketable weight
Male                                                                      7.5 kg
Female                                                                  5.5 kg

Food efficiency                                                        2.7 -2.8
Average feed consumption upto marketable age
Male                                                                   24 -26 kg
Female                                                                17 – 19 kg
Mortality during brooding period             3-4%


Breeding practises

Sexing: Physical appearance of form:
1. Toms are heavier. Matured toms have black bread attached to the skin of the upper breast region.
2. Dew bill or snood, a fleshy protuberance near the base of the beck, which is relatively large, plumb and elastic.
3. Pink or red fleshy protuberances on the head called as caruncles will appear in toms usually by about fifth week and is referred to as shooting the red.
4. Male poults strut even at day old and continue throughout the life.

Hen turkey:
1. The dew bill or snood is relatively small, thin and non-elastic.
2. The bread and caruncles are absent.
Vent sexing is not practiced usually in case of turkeys.

Natural mating:
The mating behavior of tom is known as Strut, wherein it spreads the wings and makes a peculiar sound frequently. In natural mating the male; female ratio is 1:5 for medium type turkeys and 1:3 for large types. On an average 40-50 poults is expected form each breeder hen. Toms are rarely used for mating after first year due to reduced fertility. There is a tendency in toms to develop affinity towards a particular female, so
we have to change the toms for every 15 days.

Artificial insemination:
The advantage of artificial insemination is to maintain high fertility from turkey flock through out the season.
Collection of semen from Tom:
• The age of tom should be 32-36 weeks for semen collection.
• The tom should be kept in isolation at least 15 days before semen collection.
• The tom should be handled regularly and the time required to collect the semen is 2 minutes.
• As the toms are sensitive to handling, the same operator should be used to get maximum volume of semen.
• Average semen volume is 0.15 to 0.30ml.
• Use the semen within one hour of collection.
• Take the collection three times weekly or on alternative days.

Insemination in hens:
• Artificial insemination is done when the flock attains 8-10% egg production.
• Inseminate the hens every three weeks with 0.025-0.030ml of undiluted semen.
• After 12 weeks of the season it may be better to inseminate every fortnight.
• Inseminate the hen after 5-6’ O clock in the evening.
• The average fertility should be 80-85% over a 16 week breeding season.


Feeding and handling of turkeys

Turkeys of all age group can be easily driven from one place to another with the help of a stick. For catching turkeys a darkened room is best, TurkeyHousewherein they can be picked up with both legs without any injury. However, mature turkeys should not be kept hanging for more than 3-4 minutes.

Floor, feeder and waterer space requirement of turkeys


Feed: The methods of feeding are mash feeding and pellet feeding.

  • ™ The energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements for turkeys are high when  compared to chicken.
  • ™ Since the energy and protein requirements for the both sexes vary they must be reared separately for better results.
  • ™ Feed should be given in feeders and not on the ground.
  • ™ Whenever change is made from one diet to another it should be carried out gradually.
  • ™ Turkeys require a constant   and clean water supply at all times.
  • ™ Provide more number of waterers during summer.

™ Feed turkeys during the cooler parts of the day during summer. ™ Provide shell grit at the rate of 30-40 gm per day per bird to avoid the leg weakness.

Green feeding:
In intensive system, greens can be fed upto 50% of the total diet on dry mash basis. Fresh Lucerne is first class green feed for turkeys of all ages.

Body weight and feed consumption: turkey wights



Rearing systems

Turkeys can be reared under free range or intensive system.
Free range system of rearing:
• It reduces the feed cost by fifty percent.
• Low investment.
• Cost benefit ratio is high.

In the free range system, in one acre of fenced land we can rear 200-250 adult turkeys. Shelter should be provided during night at the rate of 3-4 sq.ft. per bird. They should be protected from predators during scavenging. Planting of trees is desirable for providing shade and cooler environment. The range should be rotated which will help to reduce incidence of parasite infestation.

Free range feeding:
Since turkeys are very good scavengers, it can consume earthworms, small insects, snails, kitchen waste and termites, which are rich in protein and that will reduce the feed cost by fifty percent. Apart from this leguminous fodder like Lucerne, Desmanthus, Stylo etc., can be fed. To avoid leg weakness and lameness in free ranging birds, calcium should be supplemented at the rate of 250gm per week per bird in the form of oyster shell. Ten percent of feed can be substituted with vegetable waste to reduce the cost of feed.

Health cover:
Turkeys in the free range system are highly susceptible for internal (round worms) and external parasites (fowl mite). Hence once a month deworming and dipping is essential to improve the growth of the birds.

Intensive system of rearing:
• Improved production efficiency.
• Better management and disease control.
• Housing protects turkeys form sun, rain, wind, predators and provides comfort.
• In hotter parts of the country the long axis of the house should run from East to West.
• The distance between two houses should be at least 20 meters and the young stock house should be at least 50 to 100 meters away from the adult house.
• The width of the open house should not exceed 9 meters.
• The height of the house may vary from 2.6 to 3.3 meters from the floor to roof.
• An overhang of one meter should be provided to avoid the rainwater splash.
• The floor of the houses should be cheap, durable and safe preferably concrete with
moisture proof.
When turkeys are reared under deep litter system, the general managemental conditions are similar to that of chicken but care should be taken to provide adequate floor, waterer and feeder space to accommodate the large bird.


Management Practices in turkey

The incubation period is 28 days in turkey. There are two methods of incubation.
(a) Natural incubation with broody hens: Naturally turkeys are good brooders and the broody hen can hatch 10-15 numbers of eggs. Only clean eggs with good eggshell and shape should be placed for brooding to get 60-80% hatchability and healthy poults.

Turkey Eggs

Turkey Eggs

(b) Artificial Incubation:
In artificial incubation, eggs are hatched with the help of incubators. The temperature and relative humidity in setter and hatcher are as follows:
(Degree C)                                     Relative humidity (%)
Setter 37.5                                          61-63
Hatcher 37.5                                      85-90
Egg should be turned at hourly intervals daily. Eggs should be collected frequently to prevent soiling and breakage and also to get better hatchability.

In turkey 0-4 weeks period is called as brooding period. However, in winter brooding period is extended upto 5-6 weeks. As a thumb rule the turkey poults need double hover space as compared to chicken. Brooding day old poults can be done using infra red bulbs or gas brooder and traditional brooding systems.
Points to be noted during brooding:
• The floor space requirement for 0-4 weeks is 1.5 sq.ft. per bird.
• The brooder house should be made ready atleast two days before the arrival of poults.
• The litter material should be spread in a circular manner with a diameter of 2 mtrs.
• Poult guard of atleast 1 feet height must be provided to prevent the poults from
wandering away from source of heat.
• Starting temperature is 950
F followed by weekly reduction of 50
F per week upto 4
weeks of age
• Shallow waterers should be used.

Turkeys are not the best starters in their life and will really need some tender loving care to get them safely through the first four weeks of life. The average mortality rate is 6-10% during this period. Young poults by nature are reluctant to eat and drink in the first few days of life, primarily because of bad eyesight and nervousness. Hence, they have to be force fed.

Force Feeding:
Starve out problem is one of the major factors for early mortality in poults. So special care has to be taken for supplying feed and water. In force feeding, milk should be fed at the rate of 100ml per liter of water and one boiled egg have to be given at the rate of one per 10 poults up to fifteen days and that will compensate the protein and energy requirements of the poults.
Poults can be attracted to the feed by gentle tapping of the container with the fingers. Colored marbles or pebbles placed in feeders and waterers will also attract poults towards them. Since turkeys are fond of greens, some chopped green leaves should also be added to the feed to improve the feed intake. Also colored egg fillers can be used for the first 2 days as feeders.

Litter materials:
The common litter materials used for brooding are wood shavings saw dust, paddy husk, chopped saw etc. The thickness of the litter material should be 2 inch at the beginning and may be increased to 3-4 inch in course of time by gradual addition. The litter should be raked at frequent intervals to prevent caking.


Breeds of turkeys in Kenya

Turkeys are not classified into breeds, however seven standard varieties are available, Bronze, White Holland, Bourbon red, Narragansett, Black, Slate, Beltsville small white.
Board breasted bronze:
The basic plumage color is black and not bronze.

Board breasted bronze turkey

Board breasted bronze turkey

The females have black breast feathers with white tips, which help in sex determination as early as 12 weeks of age.


Board breasted white:

Board breasted white Turkey

Board breasted white Turkey

This is a cross between Board breasted bronze and White Holland with white feathers. This variety was developed at the Cornell University. White plumage turkeys  seems to be suitable in hot areas and also good and clean in appearance after dressing.


Beltsville small white:
This variety was developed at Agricultural University Research Station, Beltsville, USA. It closely resembles the Board breasted white in color and shape but smaller in size. Egg production, fertility and hatchability tend to be higher and broodiness tends to be lower than heavy varieties.


Turkey terminologies:

Tom                                                         Adult male turkey
Hem                                                         Adult female turkey
Poult                                                        Young one of turkey
Snood or Dew bill                                 The fleshy protuberance near the base of the beck
Caruncles                                                The fleshy protuberance on the head and neck usually pink or red in color
Dewlap                                                     A large flap skin seen immediately below the chim
Bread                                                        A tuft of hair attached to the skin of the upper chest region
Strut                                                         Mating behavior of male turkey

Poults should be debeaked to control feather picking and cannibalism. Debeaking can be done at day old or 3-5 weeks of age. Remove the beak at about one half the  distance from nostril to the tip of the beak.
Removal of the snood or dewbill is to prevent the head injuries from picking and fighting. At the day old the snood can be removed by shumbnail or finger pressure. At 3 weeks of age it can be cut off close to the head with sharp scissors.

Detoeing or toe clipping:
Clipping is done at day old by removing the tip of the toe just to the inside of the outer most toe pad including the entire toenail.


Turkey Farming in Kenya

Turkey occupies an important position next to chicken, duck. Guinea fowl and quail in contributing the most evolving poultry farming sector in Kenya. They are reared for meat only and its meat is the leanest among other domestic avian species.

Turkey and Kenya:
Turkey farming is in infancy in Kenya. However, serious efforts are being made at
to promote turkey farming. Turkey farming is getting popular fast in Central Kenya, Rift Valley and Eastern Kenya. There are three varieties of turkey commonly available in Kenya. They are Board breasted bronze, Broad breasted white and Beltsville small white.

Turkey egg:

The turkey will start lay from the 30th week of age and its production period is 24 weeks from the point of lay. Under proper feeding and artificial lightening management  turkey hens lay as much as 60-100 eggs annually. Nearly 70 percent of the eggs will be laid in the afternoon. The turkey eggs are tinted and weigh about 85 gms. Egg is noticeably pointed at one end with strong shell. The protein, lipid carbohydrate and
mineral content of turkey egg are 13.1%, 11.8%,1.7% and 0.8% respectively. The cholesterol is 15.67-23.97 mg/gm of yolk.

Turkey meat:
Turkey meat has nutritional and sensorial properties which make it almost ideal raw material for rational and curative nutrition. People prefer turkey meat because of its leanest nature. The protein, fat, energy value of turkey meat are 24%,6.6%, 162 Calories per 100 gm of meat. Mineral like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc and sodium are present. It is also rich in essential amino acids and vitamins like niacin, vitamin B6 and B12. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids and low in cholesterol.