Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Notable People
Canada’s Turkey Queen

December 1930

November 14, 2012
By By W.A. Freeman


There is such an interest in turkey raising as a business for both men and women and I receive so many letters and inquires every day asking for my advice and opinion on the subject, that I have been induced to write this article.

If my experience as a turkey raiser will be of any value I most gladly give it.  If I have achieved a greater measure of success than many people who have tried this work, I think it is due in part to being most favorably located.  My turkey ranch was originally a stock farm, before this country became a grain-growing district, and where the cows originally grazed the hills, now the turkeys range, and to my mind make an equally beautiful picture.

The ranch is situated in a sheltered, well-drained, irrigated valley, with a constant supply of fresh running water, which is very essential to the care of turkeys and also to the growing of alfalfa, oats and vegetables, which is also necessary to keeping them healthy.

I started in a modest and, in the opinion of some people, a very wicked way with three turkeys won at a raffle, about eight years ago, and not having any previous experience with poultry.  I never had even raised a chicken, but I have steadily progressed until this year I have the proud distinction of being the largest turkey raiser in the province, if not all Canada, with a flock of 2,000 healthy birds, an achievement to make any turkey lover proud.  I do not write this boastingly but with the desire to help others to try turkey raising as a business.

When I first started to raise turkeys, being absolutely inexperienced, I first wrote to different authorities on this subject, and got their methods, and also studied the pamphlets and books issued by the governments and experimental farms, which give wonderful help and advice to a beginner.  To a beginner in raising turkeys I would advise getting expert advice from the agricultural schools or experimental farms in their locality.

I have always selected my very best hens, and mated them to the very best gobblers I could buy in this country.  I might state here that my turkeys are purely Canadian outdoor raised birds, which may account for their splendid health, also never inbreed, which I consider one of the chief factors in the improvement of a flock, and increasing their weight.

I have large hatching sheds with big roomy nests on the ground, built in such a way that the turkey hen at setting time is closed in and let off every second day for feed and water, and most carefully closed in again.

The poults are allowed to become strong and well hatched before being removed from the nest, and then moved to a large clear coop.  When 48 hours old they are given their first feed of thick sour milk (I feed a little different from some breeders), three times a day thick sour milk and rolled oats slightly dampened with raw egg, and pure water to drink.  When older whole grain and chop always in clean troughs or on boards.

When about a week old, if weather is fine, they are allowed their freedom with their mothers, and when several weeks old, we range them out like sheep but are constantly watched, and sheltered in clean dry sheds at night, and also protect them from sudden storms.  As lice and mites are the greatest enemies turkeys have, breeding stock nests and coops must be kept absolutely clean, but never put strong insect powder on setting hens or poults.  In September they are put into winter quarters, which consists of large yards fenced with high, strong poultry wire, and windbreaks made of boards.

We have also large shelter sheds used in severe storms only, connected with the yard.  Plenty of roosting room made of 2×4 scantling (I may say here in my flock of 2,00 birds there are no crooked breasts). During summer they pick up on the range most of their food, but begin feeding regularly in September, and put them on full feed in October, consisting of whole wheat and oats, and also chop and some corn if I can afford it.

Turkey raisers are given every encouragement in this province by the government and C.P.R. farms, as to rearing and marketing turkeys.  We also have the Bronze Turkey Breeders’ Association, assisted by the Dominion government, and also have government inspectors that select and brand out breeding stock.  The demand for both breeding stock and setting eggs has been most encouraging during the past season.

When all is said and done, this is a business of unceasing care, and attention to detail, and during the summer months if you have the Spartan disposition to see your friends and neighbors in their cars going to the lovely lakes and beautiful mountains which this country is blessed with, while you stay at home herding turkeys; if you have or can acquire that disposition, and have the absorbing interest to improve in quality and the ambition to increase your flock each year, it can be made a profitable business.

Turkey growers are fattening birds

Turkey growers throughout the west are beginning to fatten or finish their birds for the Christmas holidays.

It is customary to begin in the process of preparing the luscious turkeys for the nation’s festive dinner tables by feeding them small amounts of grain, which gradually are increased until the birds are on full feed.

Due to the large supply of cheap wheat this grain can be used to advantage as far as possible in the fattening ration.  Wheat has nearly the same fattening qualities as corn but it does not produce the rich yellow color of flesh that yellow corn does, and that is preferred by the market.

Some growers prefer to start with wheat barley or oats or combinations of these grains, using corn during the final fattening stages, as the days grow colder.  Old corn is preferable to new.  When new corn is used it should be well cured and used sparingly at first to prevent scorus.  It is important that all grains are free from moldiness and they should be fed in hoppers to counteract certain diseases that cause heavy losses.

It is best to not confine turkeys for fattening, especially if they have been run on a range, for ranged birds cannot stand confinement.

When a flock has been fed a growing ration of ground feeds throughout the growing period, it will not require as much feed or as long a period of fattening to put the birds in prime condition.  This ground ration should be kept before them always, with the additional grains fed.

Fattening turkeys always should have plenty of clean fresh water to drink.  Milk in any form makes an excellent addition to the fattening ration.

Saskatchewan turkeys approved for breeding purposes

Saskatchewan ranks second in the Dominion for its turkey population, and the size, body conformation and quality of Saskatchewan turkeys has shown a remarkable improvement since the inception of the Turkey Approval Service provided by the Saskatchewan department of agriculture.  The standards in grades adopted by the three prairie provinces as a basis for turkey approval are based on the American standard of perfection, and successfully combine the market requirements.  These standards call for width and length of back, depth of body, a long straight keel broad, full and well rounded breast, and typical plumage markings.  The minimum weights on December 15 are as follows: Grade “A”, young males, 25 pounds; young females, 16 pounds.  Grade “B” and “C”, young males, 23 pounds, young females, 15 pounds.  Grade “B” birds may have defects that cannot be permitted in Grade “A”.  Grade “C” birds are well proportioned individuals with early maturing qualities, but possessing defects that cannot be tolerated in “B” grade.  No disqualifications are allowed in any grade.