Commercial Rearing

Methods for rearing turkeys vary widely among producers and countries. The following is typical for the United Kingdom.

Between 1 and 7 days of age, chicks are placed into small (2.5 m), circular brooding pens to ensure they encounter food and water. To encourage feeding, they are kept under constant light for the first 48 h, and food is made widely accessible by scattering it on sheets of paper and in feeders. After several days, the pens are removed, allowing the birds access to the entire rearing shed, which may contain tens of thousands of birds. The birds remain here for several weeks, after which they are transported to another unit. To assist thermoregulation, air temperature is maintained at 35°C for the first 3 days, then lowered by approximately 3°C every 2 days to 18°C at 37 days of age, and infrared heaters are usually provided for the first few days.

The vast majority of turkeys are reared indoors in purpose-built or modified buildings, of which there are two basic types. The first type has slatted walls to allow ventilation (pole-barns). The second type has solid walls and no windows to allow lighting manipulations to optimize production (see the subsequent discussion).

The buildings are often very large, containing tens of thousands of birds as a single flock. The substrate is usually deep litter, e.g., wood shavings, which relies on the controlled buildup of microbial flora, requiring skillful management. Levels of CO2 and ammonia should not exceed 5000 ppm and 5 ppm, respectively, and relative humidity should be maintained at 50 70%. Ambient temperatures for adult turkeys are usually maintained at 18 21 °C. High temperatures should be avoided because the high metabolic rate of turkeys (up to 69 W/bird) makes them susceptible to heat stress, exacerbated by high stocking densities. Handling during warm conditions should be avoided. A variety of lighting schedules are used, e.g., continuous, intermittent, or long (23 h) photoperiods, to encourage feeding and accelerate growth.[2] Light intensity is usually low (e.g., < 1 lux) to reduce feather-pecking (see the subsequent discussion).

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