If you decide to try raising turkeys, then here's a piece of advice: buy a lot of them.
I don't necessarily say that because they're all going to keel over and die on you (you may lose a few though; most folks do), but because turkeys are amazing to have when it comes to trading and selling.
I bought 10 poults (baby turkeys) back in June, but lost 4 during growing season. The remaining 6 turkeys sold like hotcakes and I have had an overwhelming flood of interest from local people all clamoring for a Thanksgiving bird (alas, I had none left to sell). And mind you, I didn't sell these cheaply... More than that, I traded a turkey for some electrified netted fencing, and have had so many other people ask to trade things for a turkey. I had people offer lambs, goats, calves, misc. livestock supplies... The market was wide open. I am kicking myself for raising such a small number of turkeys this year, but I will be prepared for next year. Next year, I will have turkeys for sale and for trade. Who says legal tender comes only in the form of a paper bill? I've found some in the form of gobbling feathers.
My last turkeys were butchered this morning, and I was sad to see them go. I adored the turkey's docile (if somewhat dim-witted), yet curious nature. Although, wrangling a 15 lb. bird who doesn't wish to be picked up does leave something to be desired... But I hear that turkeys can be herded, so next year I'll just have to make sure that I have a dog to help me with moving the butterballs.
Despite the groans from many people over my choice of turkey breed, I went with the Broad Breasted White for my first time. This is like the cornish cross of the turkey world; they're huge, they can't mate naturally, they need a high-octane feed to make them grow, and as most folks say, "they just aren't "natural"!" I heard a lot of stories from people saying how terrible their BB whites were, how they wouldn't forage, etc. but I'm just going to shrug my shoulders here. My birds did awesome. I bought them from a bad hatchery (lesson learned there, too), so that's probably the reason why I lost 4 poults right off the bat, but all the rest were fabulous; foraging like nothing else, and just being turkeys. Lately I've been thinking about trying some heritage breeds next year... As great as the BB Whites were, I always like to keep on trying new things. That, and I just can't resist the available breeds over at Porter's Turkeys. I mean, how can one NOT resist a turkey that goes by the name of 'Sweetgrass', 'Fall Fire', 'Harvest Gold', or 'Tiger Bronze'??? One of my reasons for choosing a white bird on my first try was because I was sick to death of colored birds. I had slaughtered well over 5,000 turkeys while working at the processing facility and 3/4's of that number were dark colored, heritage breeds. Utter nightmare to pluck, let me tell you... Even while taking my last turkeys to the facility today, I got a lot of happy exclamations from the workers over the feather color on my birds. White birds! Yes, yes, yes!! But now that I'm thinking about raising some heritage breeds, I think I will at least stick with the lighter colored ones. No black turkeys for this girl...
Just today, I had three different people ask me if I had any more turkeys for sale... I've been hearing this question for two months now and have sadly had to turn people away. Why did I wait so long to start raising these birds? I really didn't think there were that many people in my area who would willingly pay $60 to $80 for a holiday centerpiece, but I have found differently. I also just learned of a local farmer who charges $200 to $350 per turkey, and they sold out before they even bought their poults!!!! Holy kohlrabi.
I'm not writing this post as some sort of hype; trying to give y'all the idea to raise turkeys as a get-rich-quick scheme. I think this has a lot to do with locality, and I just happen to be in a very good county that embraces local food (at any cost I might add...). But for years I have heard stories from people saying that turkeys were terrible to raise. I would like to take a moment here and say "Bah-humbug" to those stories. My turkeys were wonderful.
Lesson learned: Turkeys are quite enjoyable, and I did not raise enough of them this year!