“If these birds are so agile and fly so well, how do you keep ’em from running away?”
I’m so glad you asked!!!
Turkeys are game birds at heart. If they have an option between running or flying…they run! And fast! While this can be problematic, it also works in your favor. Because of this tendency, turkeys don’t need top cover on their pen…if you set up properly.
Yep! You can set up their pen just as you would for chickens, but there are a few twists to it. Let’s chat about fencing techniques and tips to keep your birds happy, healthy and contained!
This is the key to success with what I call ‘the open fencing method.’ Whatever you do, make certain your bird’s needs are supplied for! We discussed ’em in the above section. Happy birds=contained birds. Inadequate space is the #1 culprit. Heritage turkeys were designed to roam and move. If you don’t give that to ’em, they’ll find it… outside the pen!
I’ve also had hens fly the pen during spring fever. We had just moved locations and nesting boxes were not yet in place. This led to an escape and I had to search all morning. Eventually I found the Ridley Bronze hen under the boughs of a large fir tree. There among the bushes she had made comfortable nest and was preparing to mother a brood.
Uhm…wrong idea, wanna-be mama! We moved her back to the pen and provided her with a nesting place. She later hatched out 12 poults…within the 4 sides of a pen!
To make a pen, we use a wire we refer to as “deer fencing.” It’s a stiff, upright wire with 2×4 inch rectangles. It comes in heights anywhere from 4-6ft tall. We use both 4ft and 5ft fencing on our turkey pen. It costs more that chicken wire but will last a lifetime. It’s easy to set up and fasten to an old fashioned metal fence-post. And the best thing about it? No solid tops for birds to land on!
Funny thing about heritage turkeys: give ’em a solid landing place for their feet and they’ll go over the fence every time. With nothing but a wire fence top (wiggly and wobbly to land on) and small metal posts, they stay put! We do have a wooden gate in place, but to keep the birds secured, we extended our wire 4-5 inches beyond the lumber. It has worked well!
Choose your pen’s location wisely. While turkeys need a source of shade they also love roosting in high places. Turkeys have poor eyesight in the dark and want to feel secure during this time. Their method for ensuring it? Take a look!
Keep trees with distinct branches on the outside of the pen, the branches at least 15 feet away. While large trees in the pen offer quick escape to your birds, willows, shrubbery or bush-like plants are perfect! They provide shade from the heat and protection from the rain. Your birds will love taking dust baths under ’em as well!
While this is a last resort, it often is our resort with 4 month old poults. They fly well, are always testing their wings and at times, we just have to do it: wing clipping. While some shudder at the sound, you’ve gotta know: if properly managed, it won’t hurt the birds! I have a blog post that goes into the specifics and details. Check it out: How to Clip Your Bird’s Wings
I also have a video on my facebook page about the open fencing method. Just click the link provided above and it will take you to my videos. Choose “General Care for Adult Birds/Fencing for Heritage Turkeys”