Everything You Need to Know About Raising Pet Turkeys

Can you have a turkey as a pet? You sure can, and they make friendly, loyal, and pretty unique companions.

Updated October 20, 2023
Portrait of young woman in nature with turkey

Looking for a giant pet bird that cuddles, talks, and sticks by your side? Meet the pet turkey. These intelligent, friendly birds boast unique personalities and make entertaining companions. However, due to their substantial size, they demand ample space. So, before you rush to pick your feathered friend, let's explore what keeps these magnificent birds happy and healthy in your home. Perhaps it's "tweet" destiny!

First: Can You Have a Turkey as a Pet? 

Turkeys can make incredible pets for the right household. Not only are they friendly, but the females often love cuddling and being petted. A lot of owners describe them as being dog-like. But like a dog, certain housing restrictions apply. Find out whether your local laws and ordinances, neighborhoods, and your property will be right for this particular feathered friend. 

1. Are Turkeys Legal in Your Area?

First, research whether you can legally have a turkey as a pet where you live. Check with your city's animal control department to find out about regulations regarding any zoning restrictions and raising livestock. You may find you're allowed to keep them but must adhere to guidelines regarding the housing of the birds and distance from your neighbors.

2. What Will Your Neighbors Think?

Once you've established that you can legally raise turkeys in your backyard, the next important consideration is your neighbors. Turkeys are not quiet birds, and if you plan on building your turkey enclosure right next to a neighboring house, that's likely to cause friction. Talk to any neighbors who may be affected by the noise first to make sure that everyone is satisfied with how you will be keeping the turkeys on your property.

3. Do You Have Enough Space?

turkey and girl

You'll need a fenced-in area that is at least 6 feet high to keep them from roaming. You may even need to cover their area with wire or netting, as many turkeys can easily fly over a fence that high. Your pen should have at least 6 square feet of space per turkey, though offering them more space to roam is preferable, as long as you can make sure their area is secure.

Need to Know

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 6 square feet of space per bird, and you will need at least two turkeys in your flock. 

Your turkeys will also need to have a place to stay during inclement weather and at night to keep them safe from predators. You can create something as simple as a modified pre-designed garden shed. To get an idea of space, a typical 6-foot by 8-foot shed would accommodate about six turkeys, though this is the minimum size, and larger will make your turkeys happier.

Types of Turkeys

There are several breeds of turkeys that are commonly kept as both pets and raised as livestock. Domestic turkeys are larger than "heritage turkeys," which tend to look more like wild turkeys. This makes sense when you consider that domestic turkeys have been bred over time to have larger breasts for food purposes compared to their leaner ancestors. While there are many similarities, there are few differences between the broad types.

Domestic Turkeys Heritage Turkeys
Breed examples
  • White Holland
  • Standard Bronze
  • Bourbon Red
  • Narragansett
Size 30 to 50 pounds 15 to 30 pounds
Noise level tend to be louder not as loud

friendly & affectionate

friendly & affectionate
Can fly less likely more likely
Breeding often require artificial insemination breed naturally

Where to Get Pet Turkeys

Freerange turkey poults roam in a field

When you're ready to raise turkeys and have your home set up, there are a few different places you can get your new pet turkeys.

  • Breeders: There are breeders who sell turkeys online, such as Cackle Hatchery and Murray McMurray Hatchery. They will ship baby and young turkeys to you if you live within the continental United States.
  • Farm supply stores: You can also get live turkeys from farm supply chains like Tractor Supply.
  • Local farms: Check with any local independent farm and agricultural supply stores and local farms in your area, as many will sell poults as well as toms and hens if they have some available.
  • Shelters and rescues: Check with your local shelter or national rescue platforms, like Petfinder. If you live in an area with a lot of farms, you may find that your local animal shelter takes in livestock like turkeys and chickens. They may also be able to point you to private rescues and farm sanctuaries local to you that take in turkeys.
  • Re-homing sitesPet Turkeys runs an informational website for people who want to keep turkeys as pets and also places that rescue turkeys and other poultry and re-home them into pet-only homes. They also raise turkeys to place in homes. They are located in Central Florida.
Quick Tip

Trying to decide between a pet turkey and a pet chicken? Turkeys are generally more tranquil and resilient than chickens.

Housing Turkeys

Along with a safe space to roam, your turkey will need housing. You can purchase a 6-foot by 8-foot or larger shed to keep your turkeys in. Other considerations for housing:

  • Ventilation: The shed will need to be ventilated, which you can do on your own by cutting a small area in the wall and covering it with wire or mesh screens. This area should be higher up near the roof to keep predators from using it as a way to get in.
  • Perches: Provide a perch for the turkeys, which can be done with some boards to make shelves. Turkeys need a wide space for perching because they're so large and need to place the weight of their chests onto the perch when resting.
  • Nesting boxes: Turkey hens will need nest boxes for egg-laying. 
  • Grass: Outside of the shed, your turkeys will need a grassy place to roam and ideally another area to perch in the outdoors.
  • Enclosure: Many turkeys can fly, even if their wings are clipped, so you may need to keep their roaming area fully enclosed with some type of open-wire cover to prevent them from flying off and visiting the neighbors. It will also help keep larger predators out of your yard.

Turkey Bedding

Your turkey shed should have some type of bedding on the ground to keep moisture away from the turkeys and to protect them from hurting their feet. Pinewood shavings work well for this, or you can use hay. It's important to stick with a regular cleaning schedule to keep their shavings or hay free of their urine and feces so the birds stay healthy. Spot clean daily and entirely change the bedding at least once each week. 

Even though there are plenty of good bedding options, there are a few you'll want to stay away from. Do not use cedar shavings, as these are toxic to turkeys, and don't use sawdust or newspapers, as this can harm the legs of younger turkeys. Not to mention, they may also try to eat the sawdust.

Feeding Your Pet Turkey

Turkey-poults near the trough

Feeding your turkeys the proper diet is essential for their health. Turkeys are messy eaters, so the first thing to know about feeding them is to use a self-feeder. This will allow them to get only a bit of food at time to cut down on mess and prevent overeating. Pet turkeys should eat pellets that are designed for other poultry, such as chickens. Pick a diet for their life stage to make sure they get the appropriate protein and calcium levels: 

  • Feed young turkeys — or poults — under eight weeks of age a turkey starter pellets.
  • Feed poults between nine and 14 weeks turkey grower pellets. 
  • Feed older poults, between the ages of 14 weeks and adulthood (about five months old) turkey finisher pellets.
  • Feed adult turkeys a maintenance diet. 


It's beneficial to supplement your turkeys' diet with fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens, kale, grapes, and berries. Some turkeys enjoy eating insects like crickets. And if you want your turkey hens to lay eggs, you may need to supplement their diet with calcium. Crushed oyster shells is a great option for this and can be purchased online and at agricultural feed stores.


Because turkeys don't have teeth, they need to grind their food within their gizzard. Grit is an important part of this process. Turkeys who have free range in a natural environment will usually pick up these tiny stones while they forage, but it's also wise to offer your turkey grit in case they need it. Place a grit container near their self-feeder when they enter their grower stage. 

Quick Tip

Make sure your turkey has a constant supply of water, although you'll probably want to use watering bottles made for poultry, as turkeys can easily fall into a bowl of water and even drown! 

Raising Turkey Poults

If your hens will be laying eggs and raising young turkeys, you will need to be prepared for the care of their babies. This means having a heat lamp in the turkey shed to keep the newly hatched babies at a temperature between 95°F and 100°F (35°C to 38°C). Expect to keep the area heated for at least the first six weeks of their life, unless you live in a colder climate.

Your lamp also needs to be situated so that the birds can move around and away from the heat if they get too hot. You will find that young turkeys are far needier than other types of poultry and will need training to understand where to eat, where to drink, and where to go outside. While they can be a lot of work, they're also known for being affectionate and almost puppy-like.

Turkey Health Concerns

Wild Turkey in Courtship Display

Turkeys have a lifespan of about 3 to 7 years, though some can live only 2 years and others as long as 10. Learning about the potential diseases these birds are susceptible to can help you put preventive care into action and keep an eye out for any early symptoms of illness. Pet turkeys are susceptible to several medical conditions, including:

  • Histomoniasis Meleagridis, also known as "blackhead disease," is caused by a parasite and can be deadly to an entire flock. Unfortunately, there's no known cure, but you can prevent it. Chickens are a known carrier of the protozoan that spreads this disease, so if you're raising chickens and turkeys together, proper sanitation is very important to keep this dreaded disease away.
  • Turkey or fowlpox is a viral disease that causes lesions on the skin and in the mouth and upper gastrointestinal tract. While it's uncomfortable, it's usually not fatal. 
  • Turkey rhinotracheitis is a disease that is particularly bad for poults and involves respiratory problems. It needs antibiotic treatment.
  • Swollen head syndrome involves swelling and red eyes and tear ducts as well swelling of the head, along with respiratory distress. There are no vaccines for the disease or cures, although antibiotics can help in some cases.
  • Staph infections include the condition known as "bumblefoot." Staph infections can lead to lameness, lethargy, fever, and physical pain. It can also lead to arthritis and severe diarrhea.
  • Parasites including gape worms and intestinal worms commonly affect turkeys. Gape worms affect the bird's trachea and cause difficulty breathing. Intestinal worms such as capillaria, ascaridia, and heterakis attack the gastrointestinal tract and can cause weight loss, diarrhea, and even lead to conditions like Blackhead disease.

Questions to Ask Your Turkey’s Vet

Turkeys are pretty unique pets, which means you’ll need to find a veterinarian that’s familiar with these birds. Look for an exotic veterinarian who has experience seeing and treating turkeys. When you find a vet, make sure to ask them these questions at your first visit:

  1. What preventive measures (supplements, vaccines, lifestyle changes, etc.) should I take to keep my turkey healthy?
  2. Am I feeding my pet turkey the right diet?
  3. What should I do if I have an emergency and you’re closed?

FAQ on Owning a Pet Turkey

You’ve got questions, we have answers.

  • Do turkeys make good pets for children? Turkeys can form a strong bond with your children, and once that bond is established, they'll appreciate spending more time with you and your family. These pets also tend to follow children and their families around the yard as they play or do chores once the bond is established.
  • Do pet turkeys do well alone? Turkeys are social birds, so they generally do best with at least one other turkey as a companion. 
  • Do I need a turkey sitter when I go out of town? Turkeys need to have regular daily care, so if you are someone who travels, make sure that you have someone who can fill in for you when you're gone. For example, a professional pet sitter who is experienced with turkeys can be a great asset to have, or you can offer to educate a pet sitter who is willing to learn more about their care to fill in for you when you're gone.

Raising Turkeys at Home as Pets

Turkeys require a lot of work and a great deal of space, so they're not a good choice if you have a small backyard and live in a suburb with neighbors close by. But if you do have adequate space and can legally own them in your area, they can make wonderful, intelligent pets that will surprise you with their unique personalities and friendly nature. 

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Everything You Need to Know About Raising Pet Turkeys