Turkeys are kept mainly for meat. Sexes can be separated by vent system of sexing
at the time of hatching. Males are heavier than females. Mature males of all varieties
have conspicuous black beards attached to the skin of the upper region. Dewbill
or snood, a fleshy protuberance near the base of the beak, is relatively large,
plump and elastic in males. It is relatively small, thin and non-elastic in females.
Most of the modern turkeys have been selected for rapid growth and wide breast conformation.
Under natural matings fertility is usually low and hence artificial insemination
is commonly employed to obtain desired fertility levels. In natural mating, a male
female ratio of 1:5 is desirable. The average age at first egg is around 30 weeks.
Average egg production is around 100 eggs/hen turkey/year. Eggs of a normal turkey
weigh around 70 g. Egg is noticeably pointed at one end with strong shell. Turkeys
similar to chicken lay their eggs during the day time.
When not needed for hatching turkey eggs can be used as human food. Eggs are palatable
and nutritious as chicken eggs. Hatching period is 28 days. With proper care turkeys
attain 4 kg body weight at about 12-14 weeks of age. Although body weight increases
with advancement of age, feed efficiency is adversely affected. At 20-24 weeks of
age they attain a body weight of 8 to 9 kg. Feed efficiency is naturally poor for
small turkeys than large turkeys.