It all really comes down to what is commercially viable. If you have a turkey and that turkey lays eggs, you’re going to get much more money by hatching those eggs and rearing the young to maturity or to a certain age than by selling the eggs.
Farmers buy young turkeys (or poults) at anything from one day old, but the older they are, the more expensive they are. Millions of turkeys are bred for Christmas and we tend to eat them when they are around six months old. Any bigger and they wouldn’t fit in the oven. So the turkeys we see at Christmas are hatched between June and at the latest August.
I produce turkey eggs only because we keep a flock of 120 turkeys which we bought for the love of it. We don’t eat any of them, so we sell the eggs that are laid naturally and the money we get from the eggs helps pay for food for the rest of the flock, as we have quite a few rare breeds. We sell turkey eggs for 60p each.
- Actually you can buy turkey eggs, only 60p each from Sarah’s company
However, if I wanted to make a big profit I would hatch the egg and rear the chick into an artisan “bronze” turkey. There is a company called Kelly Turkeys that sells millions of bronzed turkeys into top-notch stores and outlets. They sell seven strains of live young, ranging from “tiny” up to “plumpy plus” being the largest size, which will give an oven ready weight of 12.6 kg if the bird is killed at six months of age. Sadly, very few turkeys are allowed to live for more than six months. Naturally, turkeys can have a lifespan of up to 20 years.
The ones we eat are artificially developed hybrids, bred to carry lots of meat. Natural turkeys are more like pheasants: they have a single breast and don’t have a lot of meat on them.
“Turkeys are big birds, and to keep them to lay all year round you’d need huge quantities of food and a lot of space to keep them – which wouldn’t be cost effective.”
So why do we eat chicken eggs? Chickens that are bred for egg laying are hybrid birds, and have hardly any meat on them. They tend to be small, with a low weight and differ from chickens bred to carry meat. The egg-laying chickens have a high egg yield.
Chickens and turkeys tend to lay eggs between April and September. However, chickens that are bred to lay eggs are kept in artificial lit conditions to stimulate egg production so they lay all year round.
“There is so much more to turkeys than killing them to eat on Christmas Day. They’re a joy to keep as garden pets.”
Turkeys are big birds, and to keep them in the same way you’d need huge quantities of food and a lot of space to keep them, all for that egg yield, which wouldn’t be cost effective. And another reason is that turkey eggs are a niche product. You can get other unusual eggs such as guinea fowl or quail eggs. Turkey eggs are very similar to chicken eggs but are about twice the size with much bigger yolks.
Our turkeys are still laying eggs at four years of age. There is so much more to turkeys than killing them to eat on Christmas Day, and they’re a joy to keep as garden pets. They keep pests at bay and provide you with delicious exotic looking eggs come the spring.