How Much Feed Does It Take To Raise A Turkey?

Bourbon red hen eating grass with guinea in the background

How much feed are you going to need for your turkeys? Actually, the answer depends on the kind of turkey you raise and how big you want them to get!

A broad breasted turkey will eat 64 pounds of feed by 16 weeks and 101 pounds of feed by 20 weeks. A heritage breed turkey will eat 73 pounds of feed by 28 weeks.

We’ll go over the feed amounts for both broad breasted turkeys and heritage breed turkeys. Feel free to skip ahead to the heritage turkey section, if that’s the information you need.

Is Raising Turkeys Worth It? covers all of the costs involved in raising turkeys for meat, including feed costs.

Your turkeys will eat 64 pounds of feed by 16 weeks

At 16 weeks old your broad breasted turkeys will have eaten 64 pounds of feed each for toms and nearly 46 pounds of feed each for hens.

These 16 week old toms will weigh 25 pounds, yielding a 20 pound carcass.

Hens will have eaten 45.77 pounds of feed each and be an average of 18.65 pounds, yielding a 14.92 pound carcass.

If you want your turkeys to grow to a larger size, that’s completely doable with more time and feed.

Read Best Age To Butcher A Turkey for more details on your choices!

You might not want a mega sized bird, if not, plan to butcher them sooner to get a more manageably sized bird. For instance, the market turkeys at the county fair are huge!

Nothing wrong with such a big bird, as long as it fits in your oven!

white turkey hen at county fair
Lovely white turkey hen at our county fair.

20 week old toms have eaten 101.72 pounds of feed

A 20 week old tom will have eaten 101.72 pounds of feed and be 36 pounds, yielding a 28.8 pound carcass.

Hens at 20 weeks will have eaten 64.37 pounds of feed and be 24.14 pounds live, which will yield a 19.31 pound carcass.

If you are wanting a bigger turkey, more in the 50-60 pound range, keep in mind that processing a bird of huge size is challenging.

And, of course, it will take more feed and time. It can definitely be done, it’s just awkward.

1.3 pounds of feed per 20 week old tom turkey per day

Age Of Turkey
(in weeks)
2 Weeks
Of Feed
Feed Per Day
2 Weeks
Of Feed
Feed Per Day
I used Penn State Extension numbers as the start of my calculations for daily feed intake.

A day old poult eats nearly nothing, .04 pounds of feed per day per poult.

Compare that to a 20 week old broad breasted tom eating 1.3 pounds of feed per day!

By 14 weeks toms are eating 30% more than hens and by 20 weeks toms are eating more than twice as much as hens!

It is interesting to me that the huge weight differences between toms and hens are not so much that toms gain better (see the table below), they are just eating more, a lot more!

Broad Breasted Turkey Age
(in weeks)
Feed To Gain Ratio
for toms
Feed To Gain Ratio
for hens
Penn State Extension numbers are the base for this table, as well. Feed to gain is calculated by taking the feed eaten divided by the weight gained.

Check out Penn State Extension, Small Flock Turkey Production for the full scoop and the original source of these stats.

Heritage turkeys will eat 73 pounds of feed by 28 weeks

blue slate turkey at the county fair
A beautiful Blue Slate turkey at our county fair. This is a breeding tom, look to the lower left for the beard!

The heritage breed turkeys will eat 73 pounds of feed over a 28 week period.

Poults start out at just over a half pound of feed eaten for the entire first two weeks and gradually increases to each bird eating over a half a pound per day!

Heritage Turkey Age
(in weeks)
Total Pounds Of Feed
(per poult for 2 weeks)
Daily Pounds Of Feed
(per poult per day)
Pounds of feed per turkey per day came from the ALBC How To Raise Heritage Turkeys On Pasture, Chapter 4 written by Jeannette Beranger.

You can see that the poults start out eating nearly nothing per day and get to eating .25 pounds each per day by 9-10 weeks of age.

By weeks 19-20, meaning the turkey is 5 months old, each poult will be up to eating .5 pounds of feed per day.

The most feed is eaten in the last few weeks, by 28 weeks they are eating .62 pounds per turkey per day.

It is important to remember that in this study these turkeys were kept on pasture, so part of their diet was coming from eating forages and bugs.

These turkeys surely ate more than .62 pounds of food per day when they were 28 weeks old, but only .62 pounds of that daily intake was feed.

According to The Stockman Grass Farmer, turkeys can get 45-50 % of their diet from pasture.

If these turkeys are getting 50% of their diet from pasture, they are actually eating .93 pounds of food per day, with only .62 pounds of that food being the turkey feed you gave them.

If you are interested in the different breeds of turkeys you could raise, check out 10 Breeds Of Turkeys.

Broad breasted turkeys have a 2.5 to 1 feed to gain ratio

Broad breasted turkeys will gain weight at a 2.5 to 1 feed to gain ratio.

This means that for every 2.5 pounds of feed the turkey eats it will gain 1 pound of weight.

As the turkey gets older, closer to butchering weight, the feed to gain ratio goes up to 2.8 to 1.

This feed to gain ratio is for turkeys that are kept in a roomy pen, but not free range.

If your turkeys can do a lot of roaming around, that takes extra energy, which takes more feed.

It is important to note, that free range turkeys would be able to get some of their daily energy requirements from grass, but that means less of the high energy feed eaten per day so slower growth.

Heritage breed turkeys have a 5.2 to 1 feed to gain ratio

Heritage breed turkeys have a 5.2 to 1 feed to gain ratio, overall.

Here’s a link to a Livestock Conservancy study where I found my initial numbers. Be sure to read through it, when you can.

This study Economics Of Heritage Turkey Production On Range cites a few specific lines of heritage breed turkeys with differing feed to gain ratios.

Specifically a line of medium white turkeys with a 4.99 to 1 ratio, a line of bronze with a 4.75 to 1, and a line of Bourbon Reds with a 6.08 to 1 ratio.

These numbers are a reflection of keeping the heritage breed turkeys on pasture, or at least letting them roam about.

If you were to keep them in a roomy pen, they would gain faster, however, they may not handle the smaller space well.

Turkeys need high protein feed

Start your turkey poults out on a 28% protein feed. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a feed made specifically for turkeys, but that’s not always the case.

We always use game bird starter, then game bird grower for turkeys. The percent protein is the same as a turkey starter and is available in our area.

Use the turkey starter if you can get it, but if not go with the game bird feed.

Do not feed chicken feed to turkeys

It may be tempting to feed your turkey poults broiler feed or an all flock feed instead of the more expensive turkey feeds, don’t!

Turkeys need to have the higher protein (and more expensive) feeds to grow correctly.

You must give them the high energy feed they require or you’ll soon see some pretty serious problems with your turkeys, like death (not joking)!

Once they start to get stressed (the wrong feed will cause stress) they will not easily recover.

Keep your turkeys growing well, healthy and happy by feeding them the high quality high protein feed that they need.

The good news is that once your turkeys are grown, they need the same feed as everybody else. An all flock formulated feed will be great for mature turkeys!

It’s when they are growing that they need the higher test feed, once they are adults they are pretty easy keepers.


Penn State Extension Small Flock Turkey Production

Stockman Grass Farmer Turkey article with Joel Salatin

The Livestock Conservancy How To Raise Heritage Turkeys On Pasture

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