Turkeys: benefits, disadvantages, characteristics

Turkeys: benefits, disadvantages, characteristics

The turkey or turkey is a species that adapts very well to various ecosystems, is resistant to diseases, and has a high growth rate and high meat yield, all of which have been defined as amazing birds.

Since ancient times the turkey has been consumed in America, the continent from which it originates, and long before the arrival of the colonizers, it had already been domesticated by the Aztec and Mayan peoples who consumed its meat and used the feathers to make ornaments, giving it even religious aspects by associating it with their gods.

Table of Contents

Nutritional benefits of turkey

It should be noted that turkey meat has notable nutritional benefits such as:

  • It has high protein levels.
  • Low-fat content, especially saturated fatty acids and low cholesterol content.
  • It provides minerals and vitamins.

These advantages place turkey meat on the list of beneficial and recommended foods in diets to preserve human health.

world turkey production

It is important to mention that the production of turkeys is growing rapidly worldwide, highlighting the American countries that together account for about 80% of the bird census of this continent. In this sense, this rise in production systems with turkeys is due to:

  1. The increase in demand.
  2. The industrialization of its products and profitability.
  3. Development in the areas involved: genetics, food – nutrition, health, construction, the transformation of products, etc.

In any case, the success of production with turkeys or turkeys will depend largely on mastering many of the management aspects, distributed in:

  1. The choice of animal or genetic basis.
  2. The correct feeding is according to the growth phase.
  3. Biosafety.
  4. Health.
  5. Water supply etc.

That is why, to contribute to the knowledge of the exploitation of this wonderful species, the key aspects of this poultry production system are outlined below.

“Did you know?

Wild turkeys like to sleep in trees.

Etymology, origin, and history


The word turkey comes from the Latin ” palus “, in the fourteenth century the term only referred to peacocks; however, with the discovery of America, it began to be used to describe turkeys.

In this species, the males are simply called turkeys, while the females are called turkeys, and the young, patios, or pavipollos (a term used more frequently in Spain). On the other hand, the colonizers called it chickens with Papo or dewlap.

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Likewise, the turkey is exploited intensively for industrial purposes, for which hybrid animals called ” double breast ” are used. According to this, also the common name of the turkey can vary according to the country:

  • Its name in Mexico is “guajolote.”.
  • In the case of Colombia, it is called ” pisco “.
  • In the Dominican Republic “ guanajo ”
  • In Central America it is known as “ guilo, cócono, choncho, chumpipe, gallo de la tierra, gallo de papada , pipíla and totollín ”.

“Did you know…?

The characteristic sound of the turkey is called gurgling.

Origin and history

The scientific name of the domestic turkey is Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, while its ancestor is called Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, it is native to Mexico and was domesticated in the Oaxaca area at an uncertain date.

Likewise, Mexican authors mention six subspecies (Figure 1) differentiated by their geographic distribution, the most widespread being Meleagris gallopavo silvestris.

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Figure 1. Geographic distribution of turkey subspecies in North America.

The Aztec and Mayan families raised them as part of their heritage, to consume their meat and use the feathers in ornamental arrangements, they also had to pay tribute to their rulers by annually delivering a turkey for each family.

“An Aztec and Mayan heritage still present”

The Aztec Indians associated the turkey with their god Tezcatlipoca, conferring healing powers on it, for which it was used as a healing resource to treat arthritis and epilepsy, among other ailments.

Later it was taken to Spain in 1519 and the following year to England from Turkey, which is why the English term to refer to these animals is turkey. Over time it became popular in France at great royal banquets, spreading throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In principle, it was only consumed by families with high economic capacities; however, the discovery of refrigeration, genetic, nutritional, and sanitary improvements, contributed to the mass production of this species, which caused greater accessibility to families with lower economic resources.

“Did you know…?

In the early 20th century, turkey hunting reached such high levels that the Meleagris gallopavo species was nearly extinct.

Importance of turkeys

The large size of these birds offers the possibility of feeding many people so that they represent a food alternative of excellent nutritional quality that can be consumed throughout the year, enjoying acceptance and favoritism in many countries as part of the Christmas dinner.

Both in the United States and Mexico, the turkey traditionally occupies a very important place in the diet and celebrations of its inhabitants, consuming 95% of its meat during the year-end festivities.

Concerning the above, on the 4th Thursday of November thanksgiving day is celebrated in the United States, while in Canada this holiday occurs on the 2nd Monday of October, estimating that only on this occasion they have consumed over 50 million turkeys in North America.

Perhaps because of the above concerning its preference for consumption in celebrations, some stories comment that after the declaration of independence from the United States, Benjamin Franklin proposed that this bird be the symbol of the new republic.

In turn, in Chile, the tradition indicates the consumption of turkey in June and July, which correspond to the winter months in that country.

The historical and cultural importance of the turkey

Since ancient times, the indigenous peoples of Mexico such as the Totonacs, Nahuas, Popolucas, and Mazatecs have played a leading role in the conservation of domestic turkeys, especially the wild subspecies.

On the other hand, rearing turkeys in backyard systems is very important in certain communities in Mexico, which are managed by women, allocating more than 70% of their production for sale, mainly at Christmas time (Figure 2).

“Did you know…?

The sound emitted by the turkeys is called snapping or conquering.

 Nutritional importance of turkey meat

Turkey meat has a high nutritional quality, even higher than that of other species of zootechnical interest.

  1. The breast has a fat percentage of 0.6%, although in the thigh the fat can reach 1.6%, of which 66% corresponds to unsaturated fatty acids (less harmful to human health).
  2. It provides less than 120 calories per 100 g of meat.
  3. The cholesterol content is between 16 and 28 mg per 100 g of meat.
  4. It provides between 20 and 25% protein.
  5. It is a source of B complex vitamins, highlighting niacin and minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium.

In this sense, its low fat and calorie content make it a firm candidate for use in diets low in these components.

World production of turkey meat

The stock of turkeys in the world for the year 2018 was close to 500 million birds, with America concentrating approximately 70% of the effective number (Graph 1). Within this high proportion, the United States produces the largest number of animals, followed by Brazil, Chile, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and Argentina.

The countries considered to produce a little more than 80% of the world production of turkeys.

The consumption of turkey meat has increased notably in recent years worldwide thanks to the marketing strategies applied by companies related to the sector, which have been based on:

  • The promotion of the products.
  • Offers.
  • Knowledge of the nutritional benefits it offers.

On the other hand, its consumption has been notoriously driven by:

  • The rapid growth of technical production.
  • Genetic, nutritional, and health improvements.
  • The industrialization of products.
  • The availability of alternative presentations such as boneless, filleted, chopped meat, and cold cuts.

Turkey ham is one of the main processed products that support the market for this bird.

Ordergalliforms _

General characteristics of the turkey

“Did you know?

Both males and females have a fleshy appendage called mucus, which hangs just above the beak (in males it is larger than in females).

  1. Adult turkeys exhibit marked sexual dimorphism.
  2. Males are larger and heavier, reaching values ​​of up to 20 kg in commercial hybrids.
  3. The females are lighter and more stylized, their adult weight ranges between 4 and 10 kg.
  4. They do not have feathers on their heads and necks, and they exhibit fleshy growths of different colors. Thus, in the female, pinkish-reddish tones are observed, while in the male the colors are more vivid, which can become violet or bluish tones.
  5. The males have a reddish dewlap under the beak called “ wattle ” and a fleshy protuberance on top of it called “ mucus ”.

“Did you know?

The largest known turkey weighed 43 kg.

Turkey life cycle

The biological life of a turkey can be up to 10 years. However, the average life of the brood stock is between 2 and 3 years. On the other hand, when it comes to fattening turkeys, they stay on the farm for around 20 weeks.


Like all animal species, it is necessary to consider the correct male: female ratio, which for turkeys is located at 1: 5 – 10, allowing males and females to remain together, which allows fertilization to occur naturally.

In contrast, advanced intensive systems use artificial insemination, motivated for several reasons:

  • Risks of consanguinity are reduced.
  • Increases health control.
  • Genetically superior animals are used.
  • The number of males to be used is reduced since at least 50 females can be inseminated with the semen of one male.
  • By limiting the number of males, production costs associated with feed, space, and health are reduced.
  • The possibility of using very heavy superior males in generally smaller females, >20 kg body weight for the male, 10 kg for the female.

“Did you know?

Male turkeys court females in groups, although only one of them will be lucky that night.

posture cycle

The onset of laying in breeding turkeys begins at 30 weeks of life, so it is essential to prepare the enclosure for this phase consisting of nests (60 cm x 60 cm dimensions) to get the birds used to entering it.

A very easy way to do this is to collect the eggs laid on the floor and place them inside the nest, introducing the hens into it so that they can see the eggs and adapt to the laying area.

On average, females lay between 30 and 120 eggs during the laying cycle, which lasts a maximum of 5 months (in improved breeds or hybrids).

The collection of eggs should be done at least four times a day, although the best recommendation is to check the nests every 30 minutes to prevent the guan from becoming enclosing and dirtying the eggs.

 artificial incubation

In general, naturally, the turkey can incubate the eggs, but from the economic point of view, this process is less efficient than artificial incubation, although natural incubation has the advantage that it does not need electrical energy while incubators yes since they are mostly electric.

Grading criteria for eggs

Hatching eggs must be classified according to the following criteria:

  • Weight equal to or greater than 65 g.
  • They must not be porous.
  • They should be oval.
  • They must not present deformations.
  • The shell must not be cracked.
  • Dirty eggs should not be incubated.
  • Before being introduced to the incubator, they must be tempered.

Aspects to consider in artificial incubation

Some aspects that should be considered for the artificial incubation process are:

  1. The incubation period lasts 28 days.
  2. Egg storage time should not exceed 7 days.
  3. Storage temperature should be between 14ºC and 21ºC.
  4. The relative humidity during this period should be around 75%.
  5. It is necessary to disinfect the incubator and the eggs with non-toxic products (for example 1% acetic acid solution, 1% hydrogen peroxide solution).
  6. The temperature inside the incubator should be 37.5ºC + or – 1ºC (preheat it).
  7. The relative humidity is between 75% and 85%.
  8. The eggs must be provided with movement at least four times a day (inclination of the incubation trays of 45°).
  9. Provide internal ventilation to the incubator to remove the CO2 produced by the respiration of the embryos.

“Did you know?

Turkeys suffer from heart attacks.

Turkey’s production and management

The productive objectives, which vary according to the breed or hybrid used, should focus on:

  • Reduce mortality.
  • Get homogeneity.
  • Ideal average weight.
  • The yield in weight (See graph 2).

Weight control

Weekly weight control is necessary to:

  1. Verify that it is following the standards established for the breed or hybrid used.
  2. Allow the identification of food problems, health, or any management that affects performance.
  3. Take corrective action expeditiously.

Weighing can be done manually or automatically (Figures 3 and 4) and the actions derived from this control will only be effective if the record is accurate.

Homogeneity analysis

One way to assess whether the management is adequate and the weights are correct is by analyzing the homogeneity. This corresponds to the percentage of animals that are within the range of + or – 10% of the average weight.

Suppose an average weight of 5 kg, then:

  1. Average weight, calculated after the weighing operation = 5 kg.
  2. 10% of the average weight = 0.5 kg.
  3. Top 10% = 5kg + 0.5kg = 5.5kg.
  4. And the bottom 10% = 5kg – 0.5kg = 4.5kg.
  5. Finally, the number of weighed animals that are within this range is counted and converted into a percentage. Suppose that, out of 100 animals, 80 weighed between 4.5 kg and 5.5 kg, therefore, the uniformity would be: 80%.
  6. The coefficient of variation (CV%) will determine the number of animals to be weighed in the sample. CV (%) = (standard deviation/mean weight) *100

“Did you know?

Only adult male turkeys gurgle and each turkey has a unique gurgle.

Preparation of the shed and brooders of turkeys

The reception of the poults can be done in brooders (cages) or on the floor. In both cases, the shed or shed, cages, and equipment must be disinfected by washing thoroughly with soapy solutions and other commercially available disinfectants. Generally, quaternary ammonium, iodinated solutions, hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid are very useful for this purpose.

After washing and disinfection, lime should be applied to the walls and floor of the shed and left empty for at least 15 days.

Washing and disinfection schedule

A schedule for washing and sanitizing can be:

On the first day: wash the shed and equipment (floor, walls, curtains, roof, bars, feeders, drinkers, etc.) with soap.

Second day: disinfection with products based on acetic acid or 1% hydrogen peroxide.

Third day: disinfection with products based on quaternary ammonium.

Fourth day: disinfection with products based on acetic acid or 1% hydrogen peroxide.

Fifth day: disinfection with 20% iodine solution.

Sixth day: after the disinfectant dries, the walls and floor are whitewashed and the shed is closed for 15 days before the animals enter.

A footbath with disinfectant powder or solution should be placed at the entrance of the shed. When carrying out the reception in brooders, the newspaper should be placed on the floor of the same, and in the excreta collection trays, place the feeders, drinkers, and heat sources.

Poult reception protocol

To prepare the brooders to receive the poults we can use the following protocol:

First day: washing brooders and equipment with soap.

Second day: disinfection with products based on acetic acid or 1% hydrogen peroxide.

Third day: disinfection with products based on quaternary ammonium.

Fourth day: disinfection with products based on acetic acid or 1% hydrogen peroxide.

Fifth day: disinfection with 20% iodine solution.

On the sixth day: place the previously washed and disinfected feeders and drinkers.

Seventh day: newspaper or other absorbent material is placed on the excreta collection trays.

On the eighth day: have two light bulbs of 100 Watts per level, a total of 10 for each brooder (Figure 5).

Have a thermometer or theomachy hygrometer to control the temperature and humidity parameters (Figure 6).

If the poults are received in cages, at the third week of life they are moved to the shed or shed to continue growing on the floor.

On the contrary, if the reception is done directly on the floor or the continuation of the growth period of the poults from the cages is carried out, a rice shell or similar material is placed on it, with a depth of 10 cm.

Breeding types

plain ring

It is advisable to place fences around the heat source with a diameter between 3 and 5 m, which will be expanded as the turkeys grow, until the moment they jump over the fence, which is the time to remove them, this system is called simple ring (Figure 7).

big ring

Floor brooding can have two or more brooders within the ring, in this case, it is called large ring brooding. Since it follows the same specifications as the previous one, only the requirements for each small ring are doubled, tripled, etc., according to the number of heat sources used (Figure 8).

full room

The third system is called the complete room, in which fences are not used, but the entire shed is used for rearing. Therefore, the requirements are the same as mentioned above.

Additionally, corner boxes, which consist of circular cardboard, should be placed in the corners to reduce the possibility of crushing deaths in them.

Similarly, it is advisable to have an area adjacent to the breeding shed to place sick and injured birds, to care for them, and isolate them from the rest of the healthy poults.


Before the arrival of the poults, about 24 hours in advance, the heat sources are turned on (preheating).

Optimum temperatures

Optimum temperatures should be maintained:

  • Between 40 – 45 ºC directly under the heat source.
  • Between 32 – 33 ºC room temperature.
  • At 30 ºC on the floor (Figure 9).

The best indication that the temperature is correct is the homogeneous distribution of the poults, without crowding, and that they remain active. Therefore, all this reflects that they are comfortable (Figures 7 and 9).

What happens if the temperature is wrong?

When the temperature is incorrect, the distribution of the poults under the heat source varies:

  1. If it is very high, the first indication is that the birds move away from the heat source (Figure 10).
  2. Reducing feed intake, which is a defensive mechanism to reduce metabolic heat production. This has a consequence:
  3. Increased mortality between days 3 and 6.
  4. Loss of batch homogeneity.
  5. Reduction of individual weights.

If the temperature is very low, the poults huddle together under the heat source (Figure 11). This results in:

  • Reduced movement, therefore they do not eat.
  • Increases mortality.
  • Homogeneity and individual weight are reduced.

Under normal conditions, the temperature of the house should be reduced gradually. As an example, Table 3 shows the average temperature values ​​that are handled for both sexes according to age.

Table. Average temperature for mixed turkey houses, according to age.

Age (weeks)temperature °C

 Food and water supply

Feeders (provide starter food at will) and drinkers should be prepared in advance, adding vitamin complexes and electrolyte restoratives to the water.

 Some recommendations:

  1. Do not place the drinkers directly under the heat source, so that the water does not heat up.
  2. The birds must walk as little as possible, therefore, they should not move more than 3 meters to reach the feeder or drinker.

bird density

The density of birds/m2 is variable and depends on the hybrid or breed and the environmental conditions.

In general, the following densities are handled:

  • Between 0 and 6 weeks of age: 10 birds/m2.
  • Between weeks 7 and 12: 4 – 6 birds/m2.
  • From week 12 onwards: 2 – 4 birds/m2.

What are the consequences of overcrowding?

Overcrowding, that is, densities higher than those recommended, brings with its adverse effects, among which we can mention:

  • Decrease in weight yield.
  • Reduction of organic defenses increased mortality and morbidity.
  • Cannibalism.
  • Increased joint deformities.
  • Bad conditions in the bed.
  • Increase in pododermatitis conditions.
  • Increased levels of toxic gases ( CO2, ammonia).

Likewise, during the first days, a little food should be spread on the ground or in a dish so that the poults find it quickly and gallon drinkers should be placed to facilitate water consumption.

Nutritional Needs of Turkeys

Turkey feed is supplied at will. Thus, its consumption is regulated by the energy consumption contained in the ration, which is why, when the poult satisfies its energy needs, it stops consuming food.

This aspect brings as a consequence that the ration must be balanced, so that the energy level, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are in the correct proportion; otherwise, the bird is likely to stop eating by satiating only its energy requirements.

If you’re interested in learning more about how mycotoxins affect poultry and farm animal nutrition, we encourage you to read our post.

” Mycotoxins “

Taking into account the aforementioned, if the requirements of the other nutrients are not met, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies that will trigger loss of productive performance and even death.

It should be noted that to prepare a ration for turkeys, the same raw materials are used for chickens, but they vary in the amounts of each element because the nutritional needs of turkeys are higher than those of broilers.

Check out our top-notch articles on “Broiler Farming” and “Laying Hens,” too.

check out whenever you want.

The nutritional needs of the poults in the different stages are shown in Table 4. In this way, it is observed that the starter food (0 – 4 weeks of age) has the highest levels of protein, which is logical since that in these first days growth is accelerated, forming the necessary tissues, structures, and systems that will allow the individual to reach the ideal weight.


Table. Nutritional needs for turkeys at different ages.

Factor0 to 4 weeks5 to 8 weeks8 to 12 weeks12 at the end
Energy (kcal/kg)2800290030003110
Crude protein (%)2823.2twenty16.5
Lysine (%)1.511.391.150.98
Methionine (%)0.530.400.340.29
Calcium (%)
Match (%)0.750.850.750.75

On the contrary, it is observed that the energy levels of the food increase with age, being the highest value at the end of the rearing period, since the accumulation of adipose tissue is expected to increase with age.

Another aspect to take into account is that the number of drinkers and feeders must be according to each stage and model of the same. Table 5 shows the needs for drinkers and feeders for the different rearing phases.

According to this, special care must be taken to increase the capacity and/or quantity of water and food dispensing equipment with age, since the needs for water and food consumption increase with age, as a consequence of the increase in the size of animals.

Table. A number of feeders and drinkers are needed for turkeys at different stages.

Momentautomatic drinkerschannel drinkerPan/bell feederchannel trough
fattening2 – 590/11030/401.3/1.550/702.2/2.5

“Did you know?

Wild turkeys can run and fly, but domestic turkeys are so heavy that they have lost those abilities.

Presentation of the food

This is a very important aspect to consider, because to the extent that the food is well presented and of high quality, it will enhance consumption and weight gain.

Therefore, the presentation has to do with the size of the particle, which should be a small size (2.3 mm) at the beginning, in the form of crumbs, until reaching the pellet with a diameter of 4 mm and 16 mm long. (Table 6, Figures 12 and 13).

Table. Recommendation of feed particle size for turkeys according to age.

Age (weeks)particle size
0 to 3average crumb2.3 – 3mm
4 to 5fat crumb3 – 4mm
6short grain4mm diameter , 6.4mm long
>6long grain4mm diameter, 13 to 16mm long

Taking into account the aforementioned, the ideal is that the food is always very appetizing, for this the feeder should be empty at least once a day. So it can be recharged and there will always be fresh and good-looking food. On the other hand, it is not advisable to mix two presentations; that is, food remains and fresh food (Figure 14).


The light on the poults since it is a physiological stimulator provides energy and allows them to have a better vision to move and locate food and water, so it is recommended that the light intensity should be at least 60 lux.

On the other hand, the hours of lighting should be reduced with the days from 24 hours of light on the first day, to 16 hours of light from day 9 onwards (Figure 15).

In the same way, a night lasting 8 hours from day 9 must be guaranteed; this interval of darkness has the following benefits:

  • Promotes night rest and good daytime activity.
  • Respect the physiological cycle.
  • Promotes the secretion of melatonin, which is involved in growth and is following animal welfare standards.


It is necessary to have good ventilation in the sheds, which allows the removal of gases, mainly carbon dioxide and ammonia. Also, it is important to check the relative humidity of the air to ensure that it is at values ​​above 40%, otherwise, it is necessary to spray water in the shed.

Since the gases are dangerous for humans and animals, it must be considered that their effects, at moderate levels, are expressed in the reduction of productive performance and an increase in diseases.

This is the case of CO2, which at high rates alters metabolism, and decreases glycogen reserves, glucose levels in the liver, and oxygen levels in the blood. As a consequence, the animals show less activity, and sleep, do not eat, and can die (Figure 16).

How to avoid the accumulation of gases?

The way to prevent gases from building up is to ventilate. Even in those open houses that offer a greater possibility of providing fresh air, free of gases; it is advisable to install fans in the upper part of them to force the exit of air loaded with unwanted gases.

Without a doubt, in closed sheds with a controlled environment, it is essential to resort to this practice ( Figure 17 ).

Table. Suggestion for forced ventilation for turkeys according to bird density.

Age (weeks)<10 turkeys/ m2>10 bucks/ m2
11.7m3 / h/ m20.17 m 3 /hr/turkey
two3.4m3 / h/ m20.34 m 3 /hr/turkey
35.1m3 / h/ m20.51 m 3 /hr/turkey
46.8m3 / h/ m20.68 m 3 /hr/turkey

beak cut

Poults usually come beaked from the incubation plant, if not, it should be done between 7 and 10 days of age with a hot or infrared blade. The important thing is that it is done before removing the fences, being positive to supply vitamins, electrolytes, and antibiotics one day before and two days after beak trimming.

It should be noted that the advantages of beak trimming are palpable it has been proven that injuries, pain, the stress associated with aggression, feather pecking among birds, and mortality are reduced.

There are two procedures for trimming the beak of turkeys, with a hot blade and infrared.

Hot blade procedure

In this procedure, the correct hole of the cutter is selected, the birds are held firmly by the head and the beak is placed in the hole at about 15º from the horizontal plane, to be cut with the hot blade that the beak cutter has.

Infrared Procedure

This procedure is automated and combines beak trimming, vaccination, and animal counting. In principle, the birds are placed on special supports and are held by the head by mechanical fingers for a time of at least 15 seconds.

The effect of the infrared treatment applied to the beak prevents its growth, initially observing a white appearance, which after several days darkens and falls off after about two or three weeks.


Poults are generally vaccinated against chronic respiratory disease, however, a rigorous immunization plan must be followed on each farm, which will depend on the incidence of diseases in each particular area. Without prejudice to the recommendations of the veterinarian, an example of a vaccination plan is presented:

chronic respiratory disease

  • At hatch, it is applied in the hatchery.
  • On the farm, apply at 7 days, revaccinate at 21 days.
  • Then at 12 weeks, with their respective revaccination.


  • Apply the first dose at 12 days, and revaccinate at 21 days.
  • Then at 12 weeks and every four months, revaccinate at 21 days.

fowl pox

  • Place the first dose at 10 weeks of age, and revaccinate at 21 days.
  • Apply the second dose at 14 weeks of age, and revaccinate at 21 days.

avian cholera

  • Vaccinate for the first time at 8 weeks of age, and revaccinate at 21 days.
  • Place a second dose at 15 weeks, with revaccination at 21 days.

Water consumption

The water consumption of turkeys is influenced by the conditions of the surrounding environment. For this reason, at higher temperatures, water consumption increases, this relationship is also observed when density and age increase.

However, the relationship is reversed when the relative humidity is very high, although the type of drinker and the quality of the water also influence its consumption.

A key aspect to consider is that in no way should water consumption be rationed since the consequences would be negative on feed intake, growth, and meat quality.

Therefore, water must always be available in adequate quantity and quality, its consumption is indicative of the state of health of the animals.

Table. Average water consumption for growing turkeys.

Age (Weeks)Water consumption (L/day/turkey)

In general, poults consume 3.1 parts of water for each part of feed in the first week of life, reducing to 2.3 parts of water for each part of feed in the 15th week of life.

Additional water considerations

It is crucial to consider the following factors:

  • The water offered to the birds must be clean, colorless, and odorless.
  • As far as possible free of nitrites, because these compounds produce metabolic alterations, reduced growth, and increased mortality.
  • It is also advisable to change the water, and wash and disinfect the drinkers daily.


It is common for animals to die naturally, even in the absence of disease, mainly due to weakness, malformations, drowning, etc. For this reason, mortality varies throughout the period, being higher at the beginning, mainly on the fifth day due to the reabsorption of the yolk sac, at which time the nutritional reserves of embryonic origin are exhausted, and it decreases with the age of the animals.

It is also known, coinciding with many species, that more males than females die as a result of the greater effort they exert.

Regarding the average mortality, it is located at 12-13% for males and 7-8% for females until the end of the cycle; the increase in mortality values ​​above these thresholds will bring about a drastic reduction in profitability.

It is important to point out that dead turkeys must be collected daily and carcasses meticulously checked, to identify the cause of death, which may be accidental malnutrition or suspected disease. In the latter case, it is essential to contact the veterinarian to review the deceased birds and determine with certainty the cause of death.

In this sense, the precise determination of the causes of death will allow the necessary corrective measures to be taken.

Finally, it is mandatory to incinerate dead animals, thus taking sanitary precautions and avoiding the spread of diseases.

Routine work in turkey sheds

The success of turkey production requires meticulous and detailed work every day, in which observation and record-keeping are essential in making the right decisions.

The records must be permanent from the moment of reception when the animals must be weighed and the number of animals received, dehydrated, dead, and injured must be recorded; Next, we can observe a routine to follow daily and that must be noted in the technical record sheets:

  1. Remove dead animals
  2. Temperature check.
  3. Provision of food and water.
  4. Heals injured animals.
  5. Collection of excreta and cleaning of trays.
  6. Review and regulation of humidity.
  7. Ventilation control.
  8. In the case of the floor, remove wet litter and place dry litter.

Facilities and equipment for the production of turkeys

Sheds Orientation

Turkey houses, like other animal species, should be oriented east-west, to reduce the incidence of the sun inside the house and achieve better temperature control. For this reason, it is customary for them to be closed at the front and bottom, and open at the sides to allow better ventilation.


As soon as the materials for its elaboration have been described in a wide range, the most used are cement, blocks, and metal mesh. Thus, the roofs can be made of sheets of zinc, aluminum, or temperature-insulating compounds.


Regarding temperature, turkeys develop well between 15 and 20ºC. Now, if the temperature is higher, it is recommended to make lower walls or open on the sides, install extractors and/or fans and windows.

Otherwise, when the temperature is low, the suggestion is to place higher walls or curtains. In global terms, if the climate is very hot, walls or walls are not used, in hot climates between 20 and 30 cm and cold climates between 80 and 100 cm. Additionally, the rest of the side must be covered with mesh; the most used has a 3/4″ diameter opening.

Despite these general recommendations, sheds can be built with mobile panels or shutters that allow ventilation to be increased or decreased, this is the case with controlled environment sheds.

For this reason, its design is variable according to the climatic conditions where the exploitation takes place; the most used has a width between 10 m ( cold climate ) and 12 m ( warm climate ) (Figure 18).

For automated or manual exploitation, shed designs and equipment come in a variety.


In the same way, the length is also variable and can be built from 25 m to 100 m. On the other hand, it is not advisable to exceed this length, since the handling is difficult.

Like the other parameters, the height varies according to the climate, because it strongly influences the temperature of the shed. The higher, the greater ventilation and dissipation of gases which is reflected in lower temperature and hygiene, particularly important in hot climates; the opposite applies for cold climates (Figures 19 and 20).

In addition, it is necessary to put eaves that are at least 1 m in length. Likewise, it is recommended that the floor of the shed have a slope of between 1 and 3% from the center to the ends, in this way cleaning and disinfection tasks are facilitated.


Additionally, they must be provided with electrical installations, heat sources (brooders), extractors or fans in the upper part of it, feeders, and drinkers. Also, a storage area for food, medicine, and other supplies is needed.

Turkey breeders

They are used to receive the chicks and remain in these cages up to a maximum of 3 weeks of age; They have the following characteristics:

  1. They are made of wire with metal supports and have 5 breeding levels with excreta collection trays.
  2. They are regularly provided with two 1 L drinkers for each section or level and two 100 Watt light bulbs as a heat source.
  3. Each level can house up to 50 birds (Figure 21).


They are used as a management strategy in the first days of life of the poults, it is recommended to take into account the following aspects:

  1. They are placed around the heat source and expand as the birds grow.
  2. The material is usually cardboard, composite, or mesh and has a diameter of 3 m or more, depending on whether individual heat systems or multiple brooder systems are used.
  3. The height ranges between 30 and 45 cm (Figure 2).
  4. In multiple breeding systems, so-called corner fences are placed, which consists of placing fences in the corners of the shed to avoid crowding, which ultimately causes injuries and deaths of birds.


The drinkers can be automatic or manual; There are multiple models on the market, among which are mentioned: bell, gallon, nipples, etc.

It should be noted that beyond the equipment used, the management of these is of vital importance, for this the following must be taken into account:

  1. The drinkers must be kept clean and at the right height, since the poults cannot suck up the water, but instead dip their beaks into the drinker and let it flow into the esophagus by gravity, raising their heads.
  2. It is assumed that its height is determined by the animal’s crop or back, therefore, it must be adjusted as the bird grows (Figures 23 and 24).


Like the drinkers, they can be manual or automatic; There are also multiple models in materials and design, the most common being the hopper and channel; however, there are other possibilities. Certain recommendations should also be taken into account:

  1. The feeders should be placed at similar heights to the drinkers, ensuring better hygiene because it prevents poults from depositing excreta in them and facilitates food consumption. This also reduces waste.
  2. The feeders must be adjusted as the animals grow, considering that the turkey’s crop is the height measurement to place it (Figures 25 and 26).

Water treatment

It is very important to have drinking water throughout the cycle, in addition, it must have the ability to reduce the presence of bacteria.

The main treatment applied to water in turkey farms includes chlorination, for which the pH must be controlled and approached 6.5. The importance of the pH lies in the fact that the effectiveness of the chlorine treatment depends on this value since the goal is for the free chlorine in the water to be in the form of hypochlorous acid.

Thus, a 96% efficiency can be obtained in the control of bacteria by hypochlorous acid at a pH close to 6.5; in contrast, the effectiveness value of chlorine can drop to a value of 20% in the presence of pH 8.

Additionally, other components can be used to control bacteria in the water. These include hydrogen peroxide and chlorine dioxide, which are not pH dependent, non-corrosive, and very easy to measure. However, handling is more dangerous, so they require adequate storage areas.

bed floor

Ideal litter materials should be light, soft, dust-free, and free of fungal and bacterial contamination; their particles must have a medium, uniform size and have high absorbent power.

The litter must be 10 cm thick, clean, disinfected, and dry. Different materials can be used to be deposited on the floor, among these:


It is characterized by its low cost, is available in most regions, and absorbs moisture very well. Although as an aspect to take care of, the species of grass to produce it should be considered, because some forage plants have many pubescences and are abrasive, and can cause discomfort and injury to birds.


The chip comes from the waste of wood processing, it has very good sanitary conditions, providing comfort to birds and biodegradability. On the contrary, the unfavorable aspects may be the cost of acquisition and the small size of some particles, which may be harmful to animal health.

rice shell

The rice shell has very good sanitary conditions, moisture absorption, and comfort for birds. However, it can be confused with food, so animals consume it, causing health problems.


It implies the prevention of the entry of pathogens to the farm and the presence of diseases. Apart from vaccination, hygiene, and disinfection plans, some suggestions can be applied on farms to prevent diseases.

Recommendations to prevent diseases

  • A changing area with showers should be located at the entrance of the shed.
  • The operator must take a shower, remove the clothing and footwear that he brings from outside, and put on the appropriate ones to enter the shed.
  • When you leave, you must do the same, take a shower, take off your work clothes and shoes, and put on your own to leave the farm.
  • Use clean and disinfected materials and equipment.
  • Isolate sheds from wild birds and other animals.
  • Eliminate rodents and flies.
  • Store food in proper places.
  • Prevent vehicles and outsiders from entering the area of ​​the sheds.
  • Place footbaths with disinfectants at the entrance of the sheds (Figure 27).

Isolation of the productive area

It is advisable to keep the production area isolated as much as possible. For this purpose, the poultry farms must be separated by 2 km, with the distance between sheds on the same farm being at least 10 m.

access restrictions

It is preferable to restrict the entry of people to it because people unknown to the animals can cause nervousness and stress in the birds, this leads to sudden movements inside the shed (stampedes) and crowds, which causes an increase in deaths.

Likewise, animals that do not die, but are affected, reduce water and feed consumption, resulting in a decrease in weight yield.

Verification before the arrival of the birds

Before the birds arrive at the farm, the following must be verified:

  1. The areas around the shed or house must be clean, and free of weeds and objects that could obstruct ventilation. For example, the accumulation of weeds and objects can harbor rodents, insects, and other pests harmful to birds.
  2. Verify that there are no rodents, otherwise, proceed to control them. On the one hand, rodents consume food and produce food loss, thus reducing the profitability of the business and, on the other hand, cases of rodent attacks on birds have been observed.
  3. Check both the roof and floor drains.
  4. Repair any fault in the floor, ceiling, or walls, to prevent the entry of water or animals from outside the shed.
  5. Ensure the integrity of the meshes, since they prevent the entry of wild birds which are carriers of diseases.

Turkey breeds

tan turkey

  • The United States of America is his nation of origin.
  • It has black feathers on the chest, neck, rump, and lower abdomen with reddish and greenish reflections.
  • The primary wing feathers are white barbed, while the tail feathers are tan and black with a peripheral white line.
  • The tarsi are yellowish with some slate tones.
  • They have reddish-colored feathers on their heads with some blue reflections.
  • It can reach 18 kg in weight.

black turkey

  • It is a breed native to Spain.
  • It has black feathers with some greenish tones, sometimes it can have some tan feathers.
  • The color of the beak is black or dark gray. The tarsi are light red.
  • Its maximum weight is 11 kg.

Broad-breasted white turkey

  • Originally from the United States of America.
  • It has uniform white plumage, with pale tarsi.
  • Yellow bill of various shades.
  • It can weigh up to 20 kg, with the great development of the pectoral muscles.

Bourbon red turkey

  • It was created in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
  • The reddish color is characteristic, with white primary plumage.
  • The feathers are brown with a red stripe.
  • It can be as much as 11 kilograms.

Estimated Production Costs in Turkey Farming

As in most intensive systems of monogastric species, feed cost occupies the largest proportion for this system. In the second place, labor is located, and the acquisition of baby turkeys (bb) is in third place, followed by the other concepts with much lower values ​​(Table 9).

It is worth mentioning that in this analysis the indirect costs of the activity are not considered. That is why a production unit is profitable to the extent that it is efficient by reducing production costs and increasing revenue from the sale of products.

Likewise, the producer must offer quality and excellence, which forces him to adopt technology that maximizes production at the lowest possible cost, that is what has happened over the years.

In this sense, genetic and nutritional improvements have managed to raise production rates appreciably, reducing costs per unit of product, which is logical to think because both elements occupy the largest proportion of production costs (poults bb, feeding).

Turkey diseases

chronic respiratory disease

Causal agent

It is a disease caused by various species of Mycoplasma, including M. gallisepticum, M. synovial, M. meleagridis, and M. iowae.


It is transmitted by bird-to-bird contact, by short-range aerosols, and by vertical transmission through eggs.

Infected animals develop respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and dyspnea. The paranasal sinuses are also inflamed, leading to sinusitis. Similarly, it produces a decrease in body weight and egg production.


Control starts with the elimination of affected flocks, and disinfection of establishments and equipment with phenolic acids, hypochlorite, and/or 0.1% glutaraldehyde. Antibiotics can reduce symptoms, but they don’t kill bacteria.

avian cholera

Causal agent

It is also called Pasteurellosis, it is a disease that affects the respiratory system of birds. Pasteurella multocida is the cause.


Symptoms are reflected in sudden death, presence of ruffled feathers, loss of appetite, hemorrhagic mucus, increased respiratory rate, yellow-green diarrhea, and darkened wattles.


Treatment is based on sulfonamides and broad-spectrum antibiotics in the drinking water, although vaccination is the most effective method.


Causal agent

It is a viral disease that also affects broilers and laying hens. Direct contact with sick animals is how it is spread.


Symptoms are loss of appetite, sneezing, tear secretion, sinusitis, and facial edema. Mortality is variable.


Demanding sanitary and biosafety measures must be taken since there is no specific treatment for this disease.

diphtheria fowlpox

Causal agent

In a viral disease transmitted by biting insects.


Scabs appear on the skin of the head and neck, another form of smallpox causes lesions in the mouth, palate, and pharynx. Loss of appetite and respiratory distress are observed.


Treatment is based on hygienic measures and prevention with wing puncture vaccines.


Causal agent

It is brought on by the parasite Coccidia.


Infected birds consume little feed and lose weight. The most characteristic symptom is bloody diarrhea.


Apart from preventive hygienic measures, treatment is based on drugs containing sulfamethazine.


Causal agent

It is a disease caused by a virus of the Paramyxoviridae family of the Paramixuvirus genus. The most important way of transmission of the virus is by aerosols expired by infected animals.


Symptoms are variable, from mild to severe respiratory disorders, fever, hoarseness, decreased posture, green diarrhea, pneumonia, infertility, low posture, anorexia, and sudden death.


There is no effective treatment against viral infection. Prevention (vaccination), which is mandatory in many countries, is the most effective strategy.


Causal agent

It is produced by Aspergillus fumigatus . The spores of the fungus enter the body by inhalation.


Symptoms include respiratory distress, dry cough, conjunctivitis, torticollis, paralysis, reduced feed intake, and growth depression.


It is prevented with adequate hygienic conditions, especially the litter, which must remain dry and free of dust. For treatment, the application of nystatin is recommended, which has proven to be satisfactory.


Causal agent

Also called blackhead disease. Histomona meleagridis, a protozoan, is the culprit.


Symptoms include drooping wings, drowsiness, yellowish diarrhea, decreased feed intake, dehydration, emaciation, and liver inflammation. Mortality can reach 100% due to poor liver function.


Treatment with Dimetridazole has turned out to be positive.


Causal agent

It is a disease that attacks turkeys and other poultry. The main cause of this ailment is poor litter quality, especially dampness and compacted litter.


It is characterized by the presence of lesions on the plantar pads, it can also occur in any part of the leg that is in contact with the ground.


To prevent it, the following management guidelines can be applied:

  • Use bedding materials with high absorbent power, clean and dust-free.
  • Make sure the depth of the bed is adequate.
  • Place enough drinking fountains and provide good quality water.
  • Make sure that the presentation of the food is correct.
  • Provide anticoccidial products to improve intestinal health.
  • Make sure that the nutritional fractions are balanced in the food.
  • Implement correct health programs.

Trends in turkey’s production

As in all animal production systems aimed at obtaining meat, in the last decade, perhaps a little more, the trend in genetic improvement and nutritional management of turkeys has focused on increasing the speed of growth and the conversion of foods.

Likewise, the different productive strata, be they family or specialized, have obtained palpable benefits, which in the end are reflected in the obtaining of heavier turkeys in less time, whose efficiency implies a reduction in labor costs.

Interestingly, the production of this species can be carried out very efficiently in the family or small-scale systems, and those of greater magnitude and very specialized.

All this is possible thanks to the great versatility of these birds, which makes turkey farming one of the best productive alternatives for both the rural and business sectors.