Baby turkeys are adorable and cute fluffy balls worth to add in your turkey coop. Poults are not very different from chicks only that they will need more protein in their diet plus other basic needs.
You may decide to use the mother hen to sit on her eggs and hatch or go the artificial way and use an egg incubator. Either way will work as long as the eggs are good and fertile.
Someone is scratching their head and wondering what if I don’t have both the hen and the incubator? There are known hatcheries with a good reputation like Hoovers Hatchery and McMurray hatchery where you can buy turkey chicks from.
Baby turkeys can be raised by the mother or kept in a brooder until they are big enough and fully feathered. However, in either way, the birds will need to be monitored closely because they are very delicate.
So, do you want to know more about baby turkeys? Just go ahead and scroll!
Tips for Raising Baby Turkeys
Baby turkeys will require maximum attention and care for the first eight weeks. They are not able to regulate their body temperature from the time they hatch until most of their juvenile feathers have fully developed.
Raising them successfully requires know how as many people have complained their poults dying within the first 2 months.
Those tips you require to raise your flock of turkeys from poults to adults are all here. Let’s roll!
After poults are hatched, the brooder is the first place they will set foot and call home for the next 6-8 weeks. The brooder provides all the required conditions for growth by acting like the turkey hen.
A good brooder should have the following qualities:
Baby turkeys are not able to regulate their body temperatures. They require to be supplemented with heat by using heating plates or infrared bulbs.
The brooder temperatures should remain at 95 degrees F for the first two weeks. Thereafter, the amount of heat should be reduced by 5 degrees each week by raising the heat source 5 inches every week.
Heat should be reduced until the brooder temperatures are the same as outside temperature. This will help harden them and adapt easily once they are moved to the turkey coop.
Hang the heat source if your using the infrared bulb from the ceiling is very safe to avoid any fire outbreaks. Ensure it is suspended at least 18 inches from the ground.
Use a thermometer in your brooder and place it in one of the corners to tell when the heat is too much or when it is cold. This will help keep the temperatures at optimum levels.
Additionally, by looking at the behavior of the poults you will tell the brooder temperature. When the baby turkeys are huddled together under the heat source they are cold. If they are fussy and far from the heat source in the corners they are hot.
When the young birds are evenly scattered inside the brooder, that tells you the temperatures are at optimum levels as required.
There are several types of beddings to choose from like straw, pine shavings and sand. For me, I prefer to use straw because it has air pockets that help retain warmth. Additionally, straw is cheap and is readily available chopped and bagged. (You can check my article straw vs. Hay as bedding).
Ensure that your beddings are at least 4 inches thick to prevent cold especially if the brooder floor is made of concrete. Always check if the bedding is moist in case there was water spillage as molds and other bacteria love moist surfaces.
Shallow waterers are ideal for young turkeys. Ensure your containers are not too deep as baby turkeys can easily drown. Check them regularly to see the water level and refill or clean when necessary.
Place the baby turkey waterers in other large containers as this will prevent spillage and wetting the beddings. If containers used are deep, rocks can be put inside to act as islands to step on and prevent poults from drowning.
The number of waterers will be determined by the number of your birds. Remember that multiple drinking stations will help prevent congestion, bullying and a possible stampede.
Multiple feeding stations should be there to ensure that baby turkeys have equal access to food at all times. Poults are slow learners and can starve even with food around them.
Place colored marbles in the feeding tray to help teach the young birds locate food. Poults get attracted to bright colored marbles or foil paper will do a good job.
Some people also place several chicks together with the young turkeys to help them locate food sources since baby chicks are fast learners.
Be careful when feeding turkeys because turkey food should be free from aflatoxins. It should also be rich in protein at the rate of 28% to30%.
Common chick starter feeds will not give these birds the protein they require because they only have protein at the rate of 22-24%. Therefore, it is good you give game bird starter feed which is very rich in protein.
Additionally, you can supplement them with a high protein treat like mealworms or scrambled eggs when they are above six weeks old.
High levels of hygiene are very important as baby turkeys are very sensitive and any slight mistake can lead to death.
Check the condition of your poults again and again to ensure they are well. Vaccinate your birds to make sure they are safe from any disease outbreak.
Observe their droppings to check whether there are any visible signs of diarrhea or worms. If any, call a qualified bird vet near you to treat them.
Welcoming your baby turkeys
Before the poults arrive, test everything to ensure it is in the right order and working as required. Pre heat the brooder 24 hours before so that it will have uniform warmth when the birds are coming in.
Make sure there is sufficient circulation of air. Put the brooder in a safe and secure place where predators cannot sneak and steal.
Dip the beaks of your baby turkeys in water to help them learn to drink as fast as possible because they are likely to suffer from dehydration.
The young flock will remain in the brooder for 8 weeks until they are fully feathered. At this time they are able to regulate their own body temperature.
What most people don’t know is that turkeys are large birds and within a few months the young birds will quickly grow into jakes and Jennies.
Space requirements in turkeys go with age and they require it as follows per bird;
0 to 8 weeks 2 to 2.5 square feet
8 to 16 weeks 3 to 4 square feet
16 to 20 weeks 5 to 8 square feet
20 weeks and above 6 to 10 square feet.
Importance of space to turkeys
- Helps to reduce disease spread. When turkeys are crowded, there is a probability of spreading diseases like coccidiosis.
- Adequate space will prevent your flock from crowding. Lack of space can lead to stampede and discomfort among the birds.
- When many birds are living in a tiny space, cases of bullying and harassment are common. This will make the weak suffer from oppression by the strong.
- Crowding leads to competition of food and water. This will make the birds lack equal feeding and drinking opportunities.
Health and Sanitation Practices
Baby turkeys are very sensitive and fragile. Wrong health practices can lead to illness or even death. A clean living area is very important as it helps keep disease outbreak at bay.
Here are some of the practices that ensure health is maintained when raising baby turkeys.
Fresh food and water
One of the reasons that can causes mortality in baby ducks is the food they eat. Poults, ducklings and chicks are very sensitive to aflotoxin and it kills them than other causes.
Aflotoxin are a harmful mold growth that is present in feeds and dry grains stored in dump conditions. It is highly poisonous and causes death even in humans.
Chicken feed should not be fed to turkeys because it has low nutritional value. Turkeys require high protein feeds because they are more like game birds.
Avocados, beans and livestock feed are not good food for the young birds as they cause various health issues.
Baby turkeys require clean and fresh drinking water every day. The water should be put in clean containers that are not too deep. Young birds may easily drown.
Common diseases that affects turkeys
Despite harmful food, turkeys are also attacked by diseases. They can lead to death if not controlled or treated on time.
Some of these diseases are;
Coccidiosis is a type of disease that affects turkeys and is caused by a pathogen called Eimeria. This disease is not common and can be prevented as turkeys are vaccinated.
This disease is caused by some medicated feeds. Signs are depression, weight loss, watery diarrhea and ruffled feathers….thepoultrysite.com.
2 Black head
This is a disease that affects chickens and quickly spread it to turkeys if they are living together. The best way to prevent this disease is by keeping turkeys and chickens separate.
3 Vent pasting
This disease is also referred as pasty butt where feces dry, solidify and stick in the vent area. This condition affects baby turkeys where dried feces block the vent creating a potentially fatal condition that can cause death.
Vent pasting can be controlled by removing the sticky feces on the vent area by use of a moist cloth. Raising brooder temperatures and offering grit to baby turkeys can also help prevent this disease.
This is a condition caused by deficiency of some nutrients. It can cause problems such as feather picking or blood quills.
They can be treated by adding the amount of space to avoid congestion, reduce the amount of light in the brooder by using sources that do not produce too much light. Adding the amount of protein in the feeds and also keeping your young birds busy with green matter can also help.
Feeding baby turkeys
Baby turkeys require a high protein diet of 28% to 30%. Starter mash or game bird feeds are good as they contain high amounts of protein. Feeding poults with chicken feeds or bread is wrong as they do not contain high protein in them.
Feeds for turkeys are specifically made according to the age of the birds. From the time poults are hatched until they are 8 weeks old, they should be fed with a diet rich in protein of about 30%.
From 8 weeks old until the birds attain market weight, feed your birds with a grower’s mash that is low in protein of about 20%. This mash is rich in calories that help in growth and maintain body size.
If birds are meant for laying, their diet should be supplemented with calcium. Include oyster shells as they are rich in calcium that helps in shell development.
Do not forget to include grit in small amounts from the time your birds are 3 weeks old as it helps in food digestion.
Supplement their diet with green matters. Giving your birds an opportunity to free range will ensure they get enough green matter in the backyard as well as a free snack of worms and insects they find.
Avoid junk foods as they are very unhealthy for your poults. These kinds of food will make your birds obese and overweight which can lead to leg and back problems.
Avocados, raw meat, potato peels, beans and livestock feeds are some of the foods you should not feed your baby turkeys. (Check my article What not to feed turkeys).
After 8 weeks, your rafters are now fully feathered and ready to be moved to the coop. A good turkey coop should have the following qualities;
Ventilations in the turkey coop are very important as they allow free movement of air. Still air that is highly concentrated in carbon dioxide gets out allowing fresh air rich in oxygen in.
They also ensure that maximum amount of light and cool air gets in the turkey house. Ventilations also give you a chance to monitor the turkey coop as through them you can see inside.
2 Roost bars
Unlike ducks that sleep on the beddings, turkeys roost like their close cousins chickens. May it be wild or domestic turkeys breeds, they all prefer spending the night above the ground.
Roost bars help entice turkeys to sleep in the coop as they are sometimes notorious and decide to roost on trees and fences.
Use pieces of timber that are 4 by 2 or strong pieces of wood since turkeys are heavy birds and too much weight may break the wood especially if the birds are many. Place the roost bars 2.5 to 3 feet off the ground.
Meat birds raised in a commercial setting should not be provided with roost bars as they can bruise their breasts. This may make them lower the meat quality.
Beddings ensure the coop has sufficient warmth and prevents the birds from chilling when it is cold. Good quality beddings should have the following features;
- Should have a high moisture absorbing capacity.
- It should emit ammonia in low amounts.
- Have low moisture content of less than 25%.
- The bedding material should be hard to burn or catch fire.
As for me, straw is the best bedding material for poultry as it meets the above qualities. Beddings will prevent cold especially where the coop flooring is made of concrete. They also ensure eggs laid on the floor of your coop are clean.
4 Nesting boxes
Nesting boxes should be put in the turkey coop early enough. This makes the young birds used to laying in their house since they are sometimes notorious and often lay in the bush.
They require large nesting boxes as they are large birds. A nesting box that is 18 by 18 by 18 inches is an ideal one. Sometimes several birds will share one box.
5 Doors and security
A good coop should be well secure to keep predators at bay. Ensure there are no loop holes for predators like snakes as they can cause destruction. Doors should be large enough to allow entry and exit with ease.
What are types of baby turkeys?
Turkey poults vs. chicken chicks
Although turkeys and chicken are all poultry, they are different in some ways. Here is the comparison between the two.
|They are very fragile||They are less fragile|
|Require high protein of 30%||Require less protein of 24%|
|They have long necks and legs||Have short necks and legs|
|They are slow feathering||They are fast feathering|
What are the best treats for baby turkeys?
Turkeys love treats very much and will come to you when you call them for some. Cracked grains mixes are a favorite snack for your baby turkeys. However, limit the amounts of treats you give to your birds as they make them dependable on them rather than eat their food.
Bread and junk foods are not good for them as they are very unhealthy.
After all the advice I hope raising baby turkeys will be an easy task for you. These birds are cool and can be kept as pets.
All the best as you start your turkey journey!