Turkeys are not very different from chicken only that they are big in size and heavier in weight. A turkey coop is very important because it will ensure your birds are secure from predators like foxes and have proper shelter against bad weather.
Raising turkeys is easy as long as you are able to get them through the first two weeks. These birds are very vulnerable when young and require special attention.
Turkey poults are kept in a brooder where they are well fed and closely monitored until they are fully feathered to regulate their body temperature.
From baby turkeys (poults) to adults, a turkey coop is very basic as it will protect them from elements and foes that pose a threat to their survival.
Go ahead and scroll to read more about turkey coops and fencing ideas you need for your birds before you bring in the first batch.
What types of shelter do turkeys need?
Turkeys will require elevated roosts to spend their night hours. A pen with a roof will ensure they are well sheltered from elements like rainfall.
Several birds can be sheltered in a roof pen with enough space for them. A 6 by 8 roof can house 18 to 20 birds.
Heritage turkeys can also share a same coop with chickens. However, turkeys will easily contract histomoniasis or black hard disease from chickens so, it is good if they have separate structures.
Do turkeys sleep in a turkey coop?
Yes! Turkeys will spend the night in the coop together with chicken. But they won’t mind roosting on fences and short branches where they can reach.
Small turkey breeds like the black Spanish turkeys and Midget whites are good at spending the night on tree tops. Remember they have some wild instincts like their ancestors and their wild cousins do.
Do not be surprised if these birds decide to sleep outside. Instead, provide them with sheltered roosts outside. This will make a good place to spend the night where they have a scenic view of the outside.
This will be the first place your poults will set foot from the incubator. Baby turkeys are not able to regulate their body temperatures and require to be supplemented with heat to keep them warm.
Temperatures of 100 degrees F are ideal but keep reducing the heat 5degrees every week after the first 14 days. Give feeds rich in protein and clean drinking water. Ensure the beddings are dry, free from draft and large enough so that these little ones can’t swallow them.
I prefer chopped straw because it is large and does not encourage dampness. If baby turkeys accidentally swallow beddings, they risk choking or dying of crop impaction.
Make sure your brooder is in a safe place away from curious enthusiasts like kids and animal pets. Adequate ventilation will also be of great importance as they require fresh air all through.
As you know turkeys are large birds and require a much bigger space than chicken. Adequate space ensures that your turkeys are not overcrowded as this can easily lead to disease transmission. Crowded birds are not comfortable and some will not get equal feeding opportunities.
Turkey poults grow very fast and at first you may think the size of your coop is enough for them, but as they grow older, you will learn that they are getting crowded and need more space. Housing space recommendations per turkey depends on age.
- 0 to 8 weeks require 2 to 2.5 square feet.
- 8 to 16 weeks require 3 to 4 square feet.
- 16 to 20 weeks require 5 to 8 square feet.
- 20 weeks plus require 6 to 10 square feet.
Some farmers prefer their birds to range which it is not a bad idea as long as you have enough land. Make sure they have a shelter for the night as free range turkeys make easy prey for predators like wild dogs.
Additionally, these birds can be allowed to forage together with cattle in the paddocks. This way, they will help control weeds by eating them up. Turkeys will also help control ticks and remove any seeds from the animal dung.
However, if you find it not safe for them to range freely, you can confine them in mobile tractor pens. These pens should be moved to new pastures from time to time. Moving the pens will encourage new pasture growth and prevent build up of droppings on one area.
The turkey coop
Before setting up your coop first consider where you want it located. Consider drainage, topography and ease of accessing your flock when need be. At the back of your mind am sure you know the number of birds or the size of flock you want to bring in.
Drainage will help you avoid areas that can easily flood as your poults may drown or eggs get damaged by water. A coop that is no too far away from your house will be easy to access once there are an predators or any emergency.
Not all turkeys will agree to spend the night in coops. This is very common with most heritage breeds that love to roost on roofs and fences.
However, most industrial birds like the Broad breasted white turkeys will spend their short lives housed in barns. These birds will be brought in as poults and learn to live in closed shelter’s until they are harvested for meat.
It will be easy if you learn to train them spend the night in the turkey coop from the time they are poults. In addition to that, integrate them with chickens and they will be taught how to return to the coop and roost at dusk.
Enough windows and ventilation spaces will give enough room for fresh air circulation and adequate natural light. Ventilation spaces should be located near the roof to allow rising hot air out and keep the turkey coop cool.
Windows should be located three feet from the ground surface and should be large enough to let in natural light and also make sure fresh air from outside gets in easily. Your coop should be well ventilated such that you can easily see all the corners through the window.
Don’t forget to put a wire mesh over the window space to deter possible predators. Turkey poop is rich in ammonia which can lead to respiratory issues. To discourage build up of this noxious gas, regularly change the beddings and make sure your turkey coop is well ventilated.
Turkey coop door
Bearing in mind the size of turkeys, you must have an idea how big the doors should be. A door of 4 feet tall by 1.5 to 2 feet wide will make sure your turkeys get in and out of the coop easily.
I have seen my toms try to squeeze their big sized bodies through the small chicken door several times. Thanks to God I have always been around to pull them out when they get stuck. These birds eve forced me to enlarge chicken coo p doors because they decided to share the same house with my blue hens.
Big doors will make it easy for you to collect eggs and change beddings. However, if the doors are high, make a radder so that these birds can climb easily.
Is your coop made of concrete? Maybe it is to keep of predators from burrowing under. But have you asked yourself how cold the coop floor can be during winter?
Add a layer of beddings on top of the concrete floor and make it several inches thick to keep it warm. Pine shavings and straw works well for me but straw is best as it is draft free and produces some heat especially when the bottom layer is slowly turning into compost.(You can check my article on straw vs. hay as bedding to know why I prefer straw.
Have perches in the turkey coop
Just like chickens, turkeys roost and love to sleep somewhere raised above the ground. Provide a set of roost bars in your coop for turkeys. Denying them something to perch on can make your turkeys choose to fly and roost on tree branches and fences.
Turkeys that roost on fences exposes them to predators. Take a case of white turkeys these birds are spotted at night so easily leaving them very vulnerable.
Good roosts are made of wood and should be raised above 30 centimeters above the ground. Ensure the wooden pieces are fixed properly and strong enough to withstand the weight of several turkeys together.
The reason wood is good as a roost is because its a poor conductor and will not freeze turkey feet in winter.
Don’t forget the hens nest
Nesting boxes should be provided in the coop to give your turkeys a comfortable place to lay their eggs. Sometimes, turkey hens will make nesting areas in bushes but once they are used to nesting boxes, they stick to them.
I have 1 by 1 feet nesting boxes with straw in them where my hens lay their eggs and they work pretty well. Nest boxes can also be lined with nesting pads to make a comfortable surface to lay on.
Also, the number of laying hens will determine the number of nest boxes. Have enough of them to avoid confrontations between hens especially when brooding.
Consider winter months
Turkeys are hardy birds and can withstand cold winter weather. However, the young poults risk freezing to death if they are left to loiter out on the icy winds.
Winter season is the toughest for many turkey farmers especially those who don’t have good structures. During these times, temperature falls and every drop of water is turned into ice. Your turkey waterers become frozen and your birds risk dehydrating.
I advise if possible use wood to build your coop as it is a poor conductor. At such harsh times, put bales of straw along the inside walls as they will insulate the room and keep the coop a few degrees warmer.
Raise the coop temperatures by providing supplementary heat using infrared bulbs or chicken coop heaters. On the floor, add a layer of straw beddings to make the bedding layer thick as this will too help add extra warmth.
Use heated waterers to keep water in liquid form and also make it some degrees warmer. Keep the birds indoors especially poults as they can easily freeze to death.
Turkeys forage a lot and it is advisable you give them an opportunity to explore out and supplement their diet with green matter. However, when doing this beware of any possible predators in your area.
Coyotes and dogs can jump over fences that are 5 feet high so try and raise your fence above this height. Flying predators like the hawk also pose a major threat. On the roof you can put a galvanized chicken mesh or anti hawk netting to keep them off.
A fully enclosed aviary will protect against a wide variety of predators including aerial ones and those who jump over. In areas with digging predators, a portion of the fencing can be buried to protect against digging threats.
Additionally, hot wire fences and an electric poultry net will do a good job. You can fully confine your birds and feed them with commercial feeds especially those you keep for meat.
Most heritage turkeys are good flyers and skilled fence jumpers. Clip the wings of rogue jumpers to prevent them from from flying out of their runs.
Although most heritage turkey breeds can spend the night out, a good coop will keep them safe from predators and bad weather.