Turkeys


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Turkeys

 

birds of the family Meleagrididae, of the order Gal-liformes. Turkeys are large and have long, strong legs. The head and upper half of the neck are not feathered. A fleshy growth, the snood, hangs on the forehead at the base of the beak. A fold of skin, the wattle, is attached to the throat. There are two genera of turkeys— Meleagris and Agriocharis. Each has one species. The North American wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) has a body length of 100–110 cm. The male weighs approximately 8 kg. The plumage of this species is brownish red with a metallic luster. Meleagris gallopavo is found in the southeastern United States and in Mexico. The ocellated turkey (Agriocharis ocellat-us) is native to Central America. Turkeys are omnivorous. They are game animals.

Domestic turkeys are larger and heavier than their wild counterparts. Turkeys, the largest of the domestic birds, are bred for their meat. Adult toms weigh 12–16 kg (maximum weight, 20 kg), hens weigh 7–9 kg. Hens reach sexual maturity at ten or 11 months. Egg-laying occurs from January to March. Initially, the rate of egg-laying increases rapidly. However, after 2½–3 months, the rate of egg-laying gradually decreases; during molt, which occurs at various times of the year, it ceases. A hen lays approximately 90 eggs annually (maximum number of eggs, 150). The eggs weigh 80–88 g. Their incubation period is 28 days and resembles that of other galliformes. By autumn there is a flock of at least 40–60 poults from each hen. At three to four months, after fattening, they will provide 160–200 kg of meat. Eighty-five to 90 percent of the fattened poults are slaughtered. Purebred turkeys are usually kept until they are three years old. Turkey meat is noted for its tastiness and easy digestibility. Muscle tissue constitutes approximately 50 percent of the carcass.

Turkey raising is most highly developed in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, where the production of turkey meat is carried out for the most part on a commercial basis. In the USSR, turkeys are raised in Krasnodar and Stavropol’ krais; Rostov, Volgograd, and Voronezh oblasts; and the southern regions of the Ukraine. A highly developed method makes it possible to raise turkeys in any climatic conditions. Large-scale, specialized turkey-breeding farms are being set up, where up to 400,000 poults are raised annually (for example, the Starinskaia Poultry Farm, Kiev Oblast). By this intensive method, turkeys are raised in cages or in deep bedding; they are not pastured. The birds are fed wholesome dry mixed feeds, which are constantly available in an automatic feeder; water is also dispensed automatically. Dispensing of food, cleaning of the cages, and other labor-consuming processes are mechanized. For every kilogram of weight, 3.5–4 kg of feed is consumed. In commercial turkey raising, crossbred and hybrid birds are used. On large farms, adult turkeys are kept in large poultry yards, where the basic processes of production are mechanized. Pedigree breeding programs are conducted at genetic laboratories and breeding farms.

The most widespread varieties of turkeys are the Bronze, the Beltsville Small White, and the English Mini. The varieties of turkeys in the USSR also include the Northern Caucasus, the Moscow White, and the Black Tikhoretskii.

REFERENCES

Prevo, A. A., and Z. A. Zhidkikh. Razvedenie indeek. Moscow, 1958.
Zhidkikh, Z. A. Vyrashchivanie i otkorm indeek. [Moscow, I960.]
Marsden, S. J., and J. H. Martin. Indeikovodstvo SShA. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English).
Osnovy tekhnologii krupnogo indeikovodcheskogo khoziaistva. Moscow, 1967.

Z. A. ZHIDKIKH

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