Rearing Turkey Poults

Rearing Turkey Poults

If you are thinking about rearing turkey poults, either as pets or for the best Christmas lunch you will ever have, you may find the following information useful.

Please be aware that we are not saying that our system of rearing turkey poults is what you must do – it is just the way we do it and it works for us!

Hatching Turkey Eggs.

Turkey eggs take 28 days to hatch and should be incubated at 37.5º.  If using a manual incubator, the eggs must be turned at least three times a day.  An automatic incubator does the turning for you.  Turkey eggs can be candled after 7-8 days to ensure they are fertile and progressing.  If after candling you are uncertain about the eggs, leave them for another few days before candling again.

Rearing turkey poults

After 25 days, stop turning the eggs, increase humidity and leave the eggs alone – this is called lock down.  On the 27th day, you may hear cheeping and see some pipping (shell chipping/cracking).  On the 28th day, the eggs should hatch.  Do not be tempted to open the incubator during the lock down period.  The poults should be left in the incubator for at least twenty four hours before being moved to a pre heated brooder.  Not all eggs will hatch at the same time so do not worry if some eggs seem to be delayed.  Just leave for another 24-48 hours in the incubator.

Rearing Turkey Poults.

After leaving the incubators, the poults are placed into heated, round brooders, so the poults which panic easily, cannot squash themselves into corners and suffocate.  For the first two weeks of their lives, to avoid leg problems from slippery floors, or from choking after pecking at sawdust/straw, etc., the poults are on bare concrete – no bedding.  After being in the round brooders for three to four days, the poults are moved into a larger, heated pen.

It has been said that we are fanatical about bio-security, but we believe that prevention is better than cure.  We clean all the turkey houses every day with a non-toxic biocide cleanser.  Water drinkers and feeders are changed daily.  We have a disinfectant foot dipping tray at the entrance to the poult pens and everyone, including any visitors, must use these.

From time to time, after walking through their droppings and spilled food, turkey poults can get little bobbles of muck on their feet.  We take a bowl of warm water, add Dettol and without getting any of the turkey poult plumage wet, dip the poults feet into the water and then gently remove the bobbles.  Great care must be taken not to damage the tiny claws.

The turkey poults are kept under heat until they are six weeks old.  From the age of four weeks the turkey poults have the heat lamp on at night only.  The heat lamps are turned off completely when the poults are six weeks old.  We do not give our turkey poults any proper wooden perches until they are at least twelve weeks old.  When the poults are about six weeks old, we put a bale of straw in their pen so they can practice perching.

When the poults are off heat at six weeks, we move them from the nursery pens into the outside poult house.  Here they learn to graze, catch insects and generally have fun.  When the poults are about twelve weeks old, the straw bales are replaced with two inch round wooden perches – height about nine inches from the floor.  The floor is covered with a thick bed of fine wood shavings, so when jumping down from the perches, the turkey poults do not damage their legs.  Unlike chickens, turkeys do not put themselves to bed, but they are easy to round up and guide into their houses.

Turkey poults do not like change and can be easily stressed so we try and maintain the same routine every day.  Time spent with turkey poults is never wasted as the more time you spend talking to them, the friendlier the turkey poults will be.  A friendly, happy turkey is easier to handle.

We will not give genetically modified (GM) feed to any of our turkeys or other animals.

Feeding: From hatching, the poults are fed ad lib on Allen and Page turkey crumbs and have actual cider vinegar (ACV) in the tepid (never cold) drinking water – 10ml to one litre of water which is replenished daily.  You must not use ACV in galvanised/metal drinkers.  Twice a day, the poults have mashed up hard boiled egg sprinkled onto the turkey crumbs – this is a great treat and the poults always look forward to it.  Turkey poults also love dock leaves which we tear up into small pieces and sprinkle around their pens.  When the poults are four weeks of age, Allen & Page turkey rearer/grower pellets are added to the turkey crumbs and at six weeks of age, the poults are only given rearer/grower pellets.

Worming: From six weeks of age, before they move into outside pens, and every ten weeks after that, we worm all of our turkey poults with Flubenvet mixed into the feed.  The adult turkeys are wormed three times a year (December, April and August) again using Flubenvet.

Illness: The greatest risk to turkeys is blackhead, which can be fatal, so turkeys and turkey poults must be wormed regularly and must not mix with or be on ground used by chickens.  We recommend that everyone who keeps turkeys (or any poultry) should register with an avian vet.  We have heard that if turkeys catch blackhead, Metronidazole or Flagyl, obtainable from a vet, can cure them.

Treats: Adult turkeys and poults love grapes (for the turkey poults, we peel the grapes) sliced apples, peaches, blackberries and nectarines.  No citrus fruits should be given.  In the winter, we give our adult turkeys cooked porridge which also contains dried fruit.  We soak the porridge and fruit overnight, cook, and feed it cooled the following afternoon.

From about two weeks old, we give the turkey poults access to a dust bath comprising fine sawdust or wood ash and Diatomaceous Earth (DE).  The poults love this and it helps with keeping their plumage shiny and bug free.

Christmas Turkey

If you are rearing a turkey for Christmas, then please, please get a licensed poultry slaughterer to do the deed for you as this will ensure your bird is slaughtered in the most humane way possible.  The best person in this area, and the only chap we would recommend is Steve Burrows, tel: 07795357750.

If you ever have any questions about rearing turkey poults, please feel free to contact us at any time.