Turkeys are naturally omnivorous, which means they will readily sample a wide range of foods, both animal and plant. In the wild they forage frequently and will eat many different things to provide a well-balanced, healthy diet, including:
•Seeds and grains
•Small reptiles, including lizards and snakes
•Fleshy plant parts, such as buds, roots, bulbs, succulents, and cacti
•Plant foliage, grass, and tender young leaves or shoots
•Large insects, including grasshoppers, spiders, and caterpillars
•Snails, slugs, and worms
•Sand and small gravel for grit to aid proper digestion.
An adult turkey is a large bird so, just like humans, turkeys in captivity need age-appropriate food to reach their full potential. Poults will not thrive on adult pellets and kitchen scraps or just free-ranging on a small rural block. Poults need a small crumble and a protein level much higher than chicks. Adult turkeys prefer a pellet or micro-pellet. Try to find a feed that does not have powder in it, which will be wasted.
There are several Australian producers of age-appropriate turkey feed but they are not all available everywhere. Buying in bulk to reduce costs is possible for larger breeders but backyard breeders are more likely to be limited to 20kg bags.
Food suitable for poults is usually presented in crumble form and prepared with a balance of protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s also a good idea to choose a product containing a coccidiostat which works to minimise the risk of poults contracting Coccidiosis which is usually fatal. Refer to “Common Turkey Diseases” for more information on Coccidiosis and other major turkey diseases.
Products formulated by the major feed producers are balanced for all necessary nutritional requirements and presented in pellet form for adult birds to reduce wastage. No supplements are required. It is not necessary to add grain, for example, if you’re feeding one of the recommended age-appropriate pellets. What is likely to happen is that the turkeys will pick the grain out of the mix of pellet and grain and leave the nutritious pellet behind. Expensive waste.
If you want to “treat” your turkeys, feed them their “healthy pellets” in the morning and give them a handful of grain at the end of the day. You might do this to entice them back into their secure enclosure for protection.
Try to ensure that wild birds cannot access your turkey feeders e.g. wire roof over their enclosure, feeders that are accessed by the turkeys treading on a pedal, or feed only the amount per day that they will eat in the day.
When changing from one feed to the next, spend a few days introducing the new feed to the flock, gradually increasing the amount of the new feed into the mix so that the turkeys become used to the new flavour and texture. To completely swap from one food to the next may cause stress, and the birds may be unwilling to eat the unfamiliar food.
Like poults, adult turkeys need clean, fresh water every day. If they don’t have access to green grass each day, their feed can be supplemented with lucerne chaff.
For a list of recommended commercial turkey feed products, go to the next page : Age-appropriate Turkey Feed.