Turkey Farming – An alternative livelihood opportunity for women

Women of South Paraganas district have successfully taken up turkey farming. This convergent model promoted by the local KVK has broken the barriers of development and unleashed the potential of women groups. 

Indian poultry sector is witnessing a robust growth of around 8% per annum owing to many factors like high demand of poultry meat and eggs, development of integrated value chain, continuous research, and innovation (Toor and Goel, 2022). During the last few decades, this sector has shown a clear shift from a backyard poultry to a more commercially oriented activity. However, a large portion of small and marginal farmers and farm women who used to rear poultry birds traditionally in small flocks in their backyard remain clueless. They neither have adequate finances nor the technical expertise needed for intensive broiler farming.

In this backdrop, in 2016, Sasya Shyamala Krishi Vigyan Kendra (SS KVK) of South 24 Parganas district in Kolkata, attempted to promote backyard turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) farming as an alternative livelihood strategy for women, owing to many factors. Turkey birds can thrive easily in low input system. They are not prone to various diseases like broiler birds kept at intensive system of rearing. The meat from turkey birds is preferred by the urban consumers for its lean meat quality, distinct taste and aroma. It is also observed that the turkey meat is of lower caloric value (125 Kcal/85g) than broiler meat (140 Kcal/85 g) and thus more suitable in the dish of health-conscious people. It was believed that urban consumers in Kolkata city could serve as a good market for turkey meat.

Mobilisation of target women group for adopting turkey farming program

Some women farmers were earlier engaged in homestead poultry farming for additional income generation. They used to rear Kuroiler/RIR type of chicken breeds in small flocks. Gradually they were loosing interest in traditional poultry farming owing to three factors viz. i) lesser economic return compared to broiler farming, ii) forced selling of their eggs and ready birds to the middleman as there were no definite marketing channels in the existing system and iii) high rate of bird mortality. When they were approached for adopting alternative livelihood through turkey farming, they showed interest in it. Around fifteen SHG leaders from three development blocks of South 24 Parganas district namely Sonarpur, Baruipur and Budge Budge II were thus  chosen for turkey farming.

The women groups were first given hands-on training on turkey farming. They were exposed to the medium sized turkey farms managed by state government. Front-line demonstrations on scientific turkey farming using Beltsville Small White turkey breed were also conducted in farmers’ field from time to time. This helped in infusing confidence among women and helped in horizontal spread of the package of practices. Package of practice for backyard turkey farming was based on the principles of scientific housing, scientific feeding, and strict preventive care. In general, a turkey bird gains 5 kg weight around 5 months of age under homestead management condition, and then it is marketed.

Large scale adoption

The breakthrough of this program was achieved when KVK entered into an agreement with West Bengal Livestock Development Corporation (WBLDC), a subsidiary of Government of West Bengal, for marketing of turkey birds reared by SHG members. With this agreement WBLDC started to lift ready turkey birds from farmers’ home. The average farm gate price of live turkey birds is Rs. 270 per Kg which is much higher than commercial broiler birds. The amount is received through direct bank transfer by WBLDC. A turkey grower with an average flock size of 20 birds can thus generate net income of Rs. 15000-20000 per cycle of rearing. The net income can be enhanced further if birds are fed with locally available feeds, kitchen wastes and azolla.

The turkey meat thus procured from the SHG members, is sold under frozen meat category in various retail counters of WBLDC throughout West Bengal in the brand name of ‘Haringhata Meat’.

The large-scale adoption program of the turkey farming has been gradually taking momentum since the year of 2019 through an established model (Fig. 1) that is well integrated with financial institutions for credit linkages, various line departments of the Govt. of West Bengal for technology collaboration and WBLDC for market linkages. The program for turkey rearing and its marketing was overall spearheaded by the KVK.  

In the current year, as many as 160 women SHG members are engaged in successful turkey farming. The women turkey farmers mostly belonging to the small and marginal backward farming community, are now supplying around 1.5 tons of live turkey birds per quarter to WBLDC. They have sketched their own success story in the broad canvass of rural development through turkey farming. Not only the turkey farming is the source of their additional income but also a great source for self-confidence, satisfaction, pride and family nutrition.

Inspired by the examples of the women turkey growers, ARD department, Government of West Bengal has initiated to scale up this program in Sonarpur block from the year of 2023. Under a special scheme, ARD department along with KVK is distributing turkey chicks to the rural youths with an aim of achieving better income for farm families. 

Success factors

The impact of the training, demonstration and motivation classes from KVK on the farming community, were enormous. The training and awareness programs had given the necessary scientific foundation for the program. It also unleashed the skills of the leadership quality that was dormant inside each SHG member.

Box 1

From a house wife to a turkey entrprenurer: Inspiring Story of Mrs. Niyati Mondal

Niyati Mondal, aged 41, is a house wife, struggling to earn extra money for her daughter’s education. She is a member of Puspa Gosthi (SHG), of Jaikrishnapur village, Sonarpur block She used to manage a small poultry flock in the backyard as an avenue for her additional income. Unfortuanately, she was facing setbacks due to low returns from her backyard poultry venture.    Things turned positive when she first learnt about turkey farming during a training session at KVK. Motivated by the narratives of a fellow farmer who adopted scientific methods of turkey farming, she expressed her willingness to join the turkey rearing groups.

At first she received 10 turkey chicks as frontline demonstration from KVK. Gradually she assimilated scientific concepts of turkey bird management, azolla cultivation for birds’ feeding, vaccination of chicks and record keeping. After 6 months, she completely replaced her poultry flock with turkey birds. She learned and practised every aspect of scientific turkey farming including brooding, feeding and giving veterinary medicines. Eventually, she started to manage a flock of 50 turkey birds on her own using smart interventions like azolla cultivation, vegetable wastes feeding, recycling of litters and scientific biosecurity managment. She also used turkey manure in her small vegetable garden with good results. With all her efforts, she could earn an average annual net income of Rs. 60,000- 75,000 from her turkey  rearing enterprise. According to her, turkey farming is a smart alternative to traditional backyard poultry farming owing to less disease prevalence and assured marketing channel in turkey farming. 

 She slowly started talking to all the women in her village. Seeing her success, as many as 50 women farmers from her community joined the turkey rearing group in Sonarpur block. In her village, she gradually became an icon who inspired many for taking an alternative livelihood through turkey farming. The current farming situation in the village is contrary to what it was earlier. In 2022, she also deliberated in a TV channel program as a farming expert. In 2023, she was awarded as ‘Achiever Farmer’ by ARD department, Govt of West Bengal for her turkey farming business which improved livelihood of many fellow farmers. She is now willing to set up an incubator machine under her group for easy availability of turkey chicks. She is also planning to set up a small meat processing center in her village as her future endeavour. Mrs. Niyati Mondal who started her journey as a backyard poultry grower is now a celebrity turkey farmer for her great zeal, collective approach and smart interventions.

The assured marketing linkages along with technological backstopping by KVK, ICAR -IVRI and Animal Resource Development Department of Government of West Bengal have made the program a successful one. This assured marketing channel had sustained the turkey farming community even during the COVID pandemic situation when many other farming sectors stood still. Animal Resource Development department (ARD), Government of West Bengal collaborates in the program since inception of the program by supporting the turkey growers through continuous supply of day-old turkey chicks and immunization programs in the villages. This collaboration has become instrumental for maintaining the optimal value chain. The proximity of the megacity and its huge consumer base with appetite for turkey meat also remains one of the important factors for successful turkey farming by SHG women.           This convergent model broke the barriers of  development and unleashed the potential of women groups.  The success of turkey farming has been widely covered in local print and electronic media.

Further, thrust could be given by connecting more farmers’ organizations like self-help groups, farmers’ clubs and FPOs with this alternative yet profitable enterprise to optimise the farm income through diversification using scientific knowledge and attitude.   


  • Ghosh, Sarbaswarup, Narayan Chandra Sahu, and AVIJIT Haldar. (2023) Status of Backyard Turkey (Meleagris Gallopavo) Production System in South 24 Parganas District of West Bengal, India. Journal of the Indian Society of Coastal Agricultural Research 41: 1 https://doi.org/10.54894/jiscar.41.1.2023.128933


  • Ghosh Sarbaswarup and Manidipta Saha. (2023). Growth Performance and Meat Quality of Turkey birds Produced by the Small Holders in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal India. Exploratory Animal & Medical Research 13: 2. pp 184-190.


  • Toor, J.S. and Goel, R. (2022). Poultry Farming in India with Special Reference to Punjab: An Overview. Agricultural Science Digest. DOI: 10.18805/ag.D-5540
    (13) (PDF) Poultry Farming in India with Special Reference to Punjab: An Overview.

Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/362220105_Poultry_Farming_in_India_with_Special_Reference_to_Punjab_An_Overview [accessed Feb 10 2024].

Sarbaswarup Ghosh

Sasya Shyamala Krishi Vigyan Kendra,

Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational & Research Institute (RKMVERI)

Arapanch, Sonarpur, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal

Email: drsarba@rediffmail.com

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