Tricia, I have personal experience with turkeys but I am not an expert. I will answer the following questions but I would certainly defer if you found better information.
We have several backyard chickens as well and we only live on 1 acre. I know that chicken diseases can be very harmful to turkeys – if we keep them housed separately and assure that they don’t roam the same parts of the land, will they be ok to share the yard?
We have never had a problem with putting our chickens and turkeys together. We have actually put the poults in a sectioned off area of the chicken coop. If you house them separately and let them roam in a differ area of the yard, I don’t see a problem. I think if there is any problem, it will manifest itself when the poults are young and you haven’t got much invested in them.
2. I keep reading mixed reviews on the friendliness of turkeys. I have three children, will they be ok to work with the turkeys or are the birds too aggressive for kids?
We get the large white hybrid turkeys. They are very friendly. They often approach us and sometime strut but they have never pecked. Heirloom turkeys which are more natural may be more aggressive. I don’t know. We are going to get heirloom turkeys for the first time this year so I will find out.
3. In your article, you mentioned getting large white birds. My personal preference is not white – but I thought you might have some wisdom on why you suggested white as opposed to any of the darker colors.
We get the large white turkey because they grow the biggest and that is what we have wanted in the past. They are also more economical feed converters, but that doesn’t matter quite so much because when we feed out turkeys out to such heavy weights, they are not economical anyhow. The last ten pound to get them up to 40+ pounds takes a lot of feed.
4. How long did you keep your birds before slaughter to get those astronomical weights that you reported?
I think we feed them about 16 -20 weeks. That is a long time.
5. Our plan is to keep the birds in an 8 x 10 metal shed and let them roam our fenced yard during the days. Firstly, will this shed be suitable for 4 birds and secondly, will they fly away or up into our trees if we let them free roam the yard during the day?
The shed is big enough. White hybrids will not fly. I think heirloom turkeys will. You can always wing them – cut the feathers off the trailing edge of one wing with a pair of scissors. As I mentioned one of my articles, you will cut the feathers off the left wing if you are a republican off the right wing if you are a democrat. We are going with heirloom turkeys this year because I am interested in them, they are more colorful and I have heard that they have more interesting taste. I expect it to be more of a wild or gamey taste. We will deep fat fry them. So of course we don’t expect to raise very big turkeys this year. The only reason to dress out a 40+ pound white hybrid is to impress your company which they will. But they are not economical (Over $2.00 a pound to grow) and they are not particularly young and tender. I fix that by drizzling drippings over the meat after I have carved it. That really fixes dry or tough poultry meat. Beware of foxes and raccoons. I will soon have an article up on Backyard Farming about our turkey disaster. Two years ago a fox got three of our four turkeys. I think you will find turkeys fun and fascinating! If you have any other questions, email me and I will blunder my way through them.