On The Farm

Growing Turkeys

Turkeys are grown year-round in Ontario. Our producers market between 85 and 90 million kilograms per year, representing approximately 45% of all turkeys produced in Canada.
Day-old turkeys (poults) are placed in climate-controlled barns where they are kept warm and given special care immediately upon their arrival from the hatchery. This first stage of their life, from the time they are arrive on-farm to five-six weeks of age, is called brooding.
The next stage, known as the growing cycle, runs until the birds grow to between 11 and 17 weeks of age depending upon when they will reach their desired market weight. Hens (females) are typically grown for the whole bird market, while toms (males) are more likely to be grown for the further processed market (though some are sold as whole birds).

To learn more about getting into turkey farming, please click HERE  to download the kit.

Caring for Turkeys

All turkey farmers in Canada must meet the NFACC’s (National Farm Animal Care Council) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Turkeys. Farmers in Canada are also part of an audited Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) Flock Care Program which requires detailed on-farm record keeping and documents to verify farmers are meeting all requirements to properly handle and care for their birds. Farmers are also audited under TFC’s HACCP based On-Farm Food Safety Program (OFFSP) which allows the industry to demonstrate consistency in terms of food safety standards and provides assurance to consumers that Canadian turkey products are of the highest quality.

Although incidents of disease have been greatly reduced in recent years, they have not been eliminated. To help prevent the impacts or issues with diseases, vaccines and antibiotics are used where appropriate, but sparingly and under strict guidelines. Producers must follow strict withdrawal times of all health products prior to shipping to prevent any traces remaining in the final product. No growth hormones are used in turkey production in Canada as they have been illegal to use for many years.

Where Turkeys Live

Most turkey farmers raise their birds in specially designed barns where they roam freely with access to food and water 24-7. Below are some reasons why they choose to raise them in barns:

  • Barns allow birds to be grown in a clean and protected environment where their nutritional and developmental needs are met.
  • With ample and controllable ventilation, the farmer can provide their turkeys with cooling or warmth as required. The stress these birds would have to endure if exposed to the elements is eliminated.
  • Barns also protect turkeys from predators and by eliminating contact with other animals and wild birds reducing the incidence of disease.
  • Turkey barns are designed to provide birds with ample room to move about with easy access to water and feed, natural and/or artificial light is provided, and most barns are insulated to help maintain a constant temperature.
  • These modern barns aid turkey farmers in meeting the demand for fresh turkey products year-round.

Organic turkey farmers raise their birds in barns but allow their birds to access range (fenced outdoor pasture) when weather conditions permit them to do so. Their farms must be certified by one of the organic certification bodies in Ontario.

Transporting Turkeys

Care is taken during transportation so that each bird arrives at the processing plant in the best possible condition. Weather conditions are taken into consideration when shipping birds and the number of birds put in each pen on a poultry truck is dictated by the outside temperature. Covers are also used to protect the birds from wind and precipitation. Drivers take care to avoid sudden movements that might harm the birds on board.