This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in Thailand…
A post I wrote, Thai Turkeys for Thanksgiving, came to the attention of another Thai blogger, Stu Alan. Stu hosts The Grumpy Expat (no longer online).
The Grumpy Expat: Welcome. I’ve retired, in a way, to live with my wife in Thailand. I like it here! After more than 40 years of working to business schedules and deadlines, I’ve had the task of adjusting both to the pace of retirement and the pace of Thailand. Retired ‘in a way’ only because I can’t sit still doing nothing for the rest of my days. There’s so much to do and every new day reminds me that now I must get on with it.
And Stu just happens to be a turkey farmer (hence finding my post on Thai turkeys). I looked around for turkey farmers last year to interview, but nothing panned out. So here we are at Thanksgiving again, and Stu has agreed to tell all about raising turkeys in Thailand.
Interviewing Stu Alan about Thai, Thailand, and raising turkeys…
Stu, how long have you lived in Thailand?
Four years full time.
What is the level of your Thai language skills?
Beginner. I struggle with new languages and people here often mix Thai with Lao. Intonation is difficult to learn from books and I don’t want lessons. I have to make more of an effort.
Has your present Thai language skills in any way hindered your ability to raise turkeys in Thailand?
No. My wife translates when necessary and there are English speakers who are interested in turkeys to whom I talk.
What was the deciding factor of raising turkeys in Thailand?
We live in a village with some land and turkey keeping in a small way appealed to me as something else to do in retirement. You can nurture only so much pretty garden so some land was going to waste.
Have you run into any major snafus since you started raising turkeys?
The only real problem has been the loneliness of the learning curve. Local Thais who have turkeys take no more care of them than they do gai ban. Mosquito bites can kill poults so we had to learn the hard way that they can be protected against most ailments with a course of injections.
The standing water on some of our land, our own small flood, has isolated the turkey and chicken coops so we have to provide B&B near to the house. It’s like taking care of a bunch of two year old children but, hopefully, a temporary issue.
Why do so many expats have problems raising turkeys in Thailand?
If they do its because they don’t search for information and listen too much to local ‘knowledge’. Turkeys behave differently from chickens and that must be taken into account. Things are inconvenient for us at the moment for the reason stated above but they aren’t so difficult to care for. The main thing is to keep the newly hatched poults under mosquito netting until the course of inoculations is finished. That takes about seven weeks. After that, young poults need to be guarded from danger in the same way as human toddlers. We let the hens set on and hatch their eggs and then they stay under cover with the poults. After that, they care for their offspring for about three more months if they free-range. That all makes life for us easier than if we hatched in an incubator and then found ourselves appointed as parents. Nature’s way is better unless you have a factory farm.
What kids of turkeys are the best to raise here?
I have heard of someone who sells breeds but Thailand generally isn’t into that kind of fusiness. Ours seem to be mainly Bronze or close to it. The big white turkeys are Broad Breasted and developed for slaughter after six months. Kept longer than that and they are unable to walk and die young. They are intended for factory farms and I don’t recommend them for small producers or as pets.
How are turkeys in Thailand different than turkeys in the west?
I haven’t seen a difference yet but it’s possible that the laying season here is virtually continuous. Turkeys don’t lay as frequently as chickens. A hen will lay about twelve eggs and then incubate them. She may not lay again for some time but others will. It’s too early to be sure but we might be getting eggs throughout the year. What that boils down to, I suppose, is that the turkeys are the same but the climate makes some difference to their habits.
How long have turkeys been in Thailand?
I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect not long. I would guess that they were introduced within the last few decades by Westerners.
Do Thais have special recipes for turkeys?
As far as I can see they mince the meat and ruin the flavour with chili and garlic before adding hedgerow ‘vegetables’ and, of course, rice. I enjoy chili and spices but that’s not the way to enjoy turkey. Many Thai homes lack an oven, of course, and Thai cuisine favours small pieces of meat rather than slices. I intend to educate our neighbours but rural Thais are not adventurous in a gastronomic way.
What advice do you give potential turkey farmers?
Research before you start and do not plan to treat them the same way as chickens. There are books and websites that offer information. The climate here makes a difference and for that there is no useful literature. We learned a lot quickly and I’m willing to help people who want to keep turkeys. We can also supply inoculated and well fed birds to start a new flock.
Book: Not Just For Christmas – Janice Houghton-Wallace – is good for starters and available from Amazon.
Web: Here’s a great American based forum for all poultry keepers: Backyard Chickens
What was the most hilarious thing to happen to your turkey adventure?
Turkeys are fun to watch. Probably the funniest moments are when one finds a tasty piece of protein. At the moment we have a lot of snails and minute frogs on the land. The lucky winner has to place the morsel on the ground to turn it ready for knocking back into the crop. If he’s spotted by the others before he can do that we are treated to a Benny Hill style single file run around the garden as they try to snatch it from him.
And if you can think of anything else…
What else? Well, I suppose the main issue is learning how to take care of them properly because few keepers do here and the mortality rate is high. We’ve had to learn from experience about medication (we are lucky in Thailand because many vets in the West won’t treat turkeys and the fees here are minimal), coop design, perches, feed, safety and security.
As I mentioned above, I would be happy to help others get through all of that learning quicker than we were able to. Also, we prefer to sell our turkeys to breeders and keepers and can guarantee that they have had the best care possible.
The Grumpy Expat
16 thoughts on “The Grumpy Expat: Raising Turkeys in Thailand”
ASEAN Turkey Farming Centre
I am “The Pioneer” of Turkey Farming in Thailand since 1988.
From 2001 to 2005 I was supplying about 50% of the seasonal Thai market, mainly top hotels, from my Hua Hin Farm.,
I’m currently setting up this new ASEAN Project, and the H.Q. is not yet decided, but could be Cambodia, Philippines or Thailand
I supplied the best turkeys Thailand ever had, Fresh Chilled, Free Range , and even supplied the Thai Royal Family.
Hi Guys. I am looking for anyone with Bronze (preferably) eggs or poults for sale in Thailand. I am wanting to start a small, at first, flock and will need two or three sources to eliminate in-breeding. Any advice on inoculations against mosquito problems and avian flu would also be much appreciated.
I am turkeys farmer and live in Indonesia. There is a big market here of Broad Breasted turkeys. However, its difficult to import from EU, USA even AUS due to AI issue. Anyone from Thailand has this Broad Breasted Strain? if available pls inform me at my email: akhmadkhairudin [at] gmail.om
Dear Jim , I live in Khon Kaen in Chonnabot district looking for poults turkeys for breeding and would like to know the price of your 2-3 week poults or even d 3-4 months, Male or female is it the same price? This is my wife nu 080 765 8808 (Juan )
HI Jim, Iwould be intersted in buying turkeys from you my father in law has just started up breeding turkeys. regards Paul
I am breeding Turkeys in Yang Talat, about 40klms or so from Khon Kaen towards Kalasin, i started breeding hem about 6 months ago with 5 hens and one male, i recently had around 60, but after selling 15 or so have around 40 now with eggs still hatching.
I sell them either as 2-3 week old poults or 3-4 months old or if i have 5-6 months old, if you need some email me.
Hi Jim..yes Im interested in your Turkeys..please email your contact details..Thank you
Great disscusion, I’m interested in raising turkeys and am just now beginning research on the subject. I realize I’m a little late as the original post was 11 months ago, I hope you are still checking replies.
We live in Kohn Kaen, Amphoe Nahm Pawng, Moobahn Bua Yai. I would love to see your farm if you live anywhere nearby. Otherwise, do you know of any turkey farmers in my area?
I’ve seen frozen USA turkeys at Big C but they were very expensive. I could eat turkey avery day and the only practical way to do that here is to raise them.
Any info would be greatly appreciated.
KristoferA, I haven’t had turkey for awhile but when I do, I’ll try out those recipes.
Martyn, ah, in the UK turkey’s are for Xmas not for Thanksgiving. And what an adventure you had finding that turkey farm. It reminds me of a castle trek I took in Germany. So embarrassing, I won’t mention it here.
Catherine what a great interview and with Christmas coming it couldn’t be more appropriate. I didn’t realise you could get so many problems keeping turkeys, village chickens just seem to roam around, but Stu explains the two birds are so different. I must admit I’ve never seen a turkey in Thailand despite my efforts to do so.
Two years ago when visiting Phu Rua for its New Year Flower Festival our hotel advertised a trip to a Turkey Farm. I was sold straight away. A trip to a turkey farm was a great idea and it was also located on our way to the flower festival. We (me and Wi) decided to go it alone and not pay the tour fee.
On our way to the festival we stopped at the farm but it was clearly shut and so decided to check it out on our way back late afternoon. It was not open once again. Like the Famous Five (or two) we hopped the front gate and set about finding the turkeys ourselves.
We followed a well beaten track with woodland on either side but there was no sign of turkeys. We couldn’t hear them either and we were well into the farm. Here’s a bit from my post I wrote about it way back then:
….We had walked about 300 metres along a dirt track, there was sparse woodland on either side, no sign of turkeys. Wi suddenly stopped and said to me
“Hus…band maybe here have dog, me scare.”
My reply followed a line similar to this
“If there are dogs I think they’ve eaten all the turkeys”……
We didn’t see one bloody turkey that day and a farm worker we eventually stumbled upon explained the turkey owner had moved all his stock a few months back to his other farm in Korat.
Your post reminds me of that day and the fact me and turkeys in Thailand are probably never meant to be.
Thanks for the memory.
@Catherine: Yes, turkey curry is really yummy. One tip is to cook it one day and eat it the following day (I think it tastes even better the following day; after the turkey meat has really soaked in all the curry spices).
@Thai Turkey: Thanks, interesting to know. I have been thinking about getting a few turkeys for fun (and food). Do most vets know what those inoculations are, or is it something specific to turkeys?
Our young turkeys are inoculated against infection from mosquito bites and illnesses that can be brought on by chill and rain or wet grass.
I can’t comment on how turkeys deal with monitor lizards because we don’t see any here. If they managed to get onto our land I would be concerned about more than the turkeys!
Kristofer, your wife’s recipe looks delicious, thanks! And her classes look very interesting as well. I’ll have to get with you after the holidays…
I’m curious to know what inoculations the turkeys need? Is it against some mosquito borne disease? Also, are the adult turkeys able to defend themselves against monitor lizards? If not I can imagine that a monitor can cause some havoc if you have free-range turkeys…
Btw, here’s my wife’s recipe for a yummy Turkey curry (gaeng pet gai nguang): Perfect way to use the leftovers…
Talen, I’ve already raised my babies so I doubt I’d be on for turkeys either. But I do like turkey stuffing…
Great interview Cat, and just in time for the holidays. I don’t think I’ll be asking Stu’;s advice anytime soon though as I don’t think I have what it takes to be a turkey farmer.
Here’s hoping that Stu becomes the Frank Perdue of Thailand…