Monday, May 18, 2009

More Turkey Poults

Our first two turkey poults died. We were able to buy two more from some friends who have a farm about 40 minutes away. Vet2Be's 4-H leader told us last year that, "When you raise live-stock, sooner or later you are going to have dead-stock." Sad, but true.

Then I did some more searching on the internet and reading in some books to find out if there was anything else that we could do that we weren't doing. The three things that we decided to try were to add some 'sparklies' to their water and food, put a 'spotlight' on their food and water, and never give them cold water.

The lid is off in the pictures so you can see how things are set up. We usually leave the lid on to keep the heat in and the cat out. When these guys get a bit bigger, they like to fly up to see what is in the outside, so the lid keeps them in at that point, too.

Sparklies! We used an old necklace in the feed dish and some decorative glass pebbles in the water dish. Vet2Be said that they drank most of the water on Sunday, so the sparklies seem to be helping.

We cleaned and sanitized the brood box (large plastic tote) and the water dish they are using. We are still using grass hay for their bedding, since we have so much of it. And the new poults have a light on them for heat, just like all young poultry. Hopefully these two new poults will do better than the last two.

We have divided the brooder for a few days. The turkey poults are on the left, the chicks are on the right. Both little flocks are hiding under the light. I used an old piece of foam insulation as the divider. It is tucked against the sides securely. As soon as they decide the divider is something fun to peck at, I'll have to put each little flock in their own brooder. That means I'll also have to go by another reflector lamp cover.

New turkey poult.

The other new turkey poult.

This is taken from Grange Co-op.

Tips on Raising Turkey Poults
Turkey poults are fairly easy to raise if you follow a few simple steps.

Turkey poults love heat. They will be happiest if you keep their brooder temperature at 95-100 degrees F for the first week, then lower the temperature by about 5 degrees F per week, until they are fully feathered, approximately 6-8 weeks old. They will still appreciate a heat lamp at night for a few weeks after this period if the nights are cool. You can tell if they are comfortable by the way they arrange themselves in the brooder--all clumped under the heat source, they are too cold; all far away from the heat source, they are too hot; spread all over the brooder, they are comfortable. They will also cry if they are cold or ill, and will be fairly quiet if they are happy. Always make sure they have room to get away from the heat.

Keep them clean and dry. Pine shavings, ground corn cobs, or rice hulls all make good bedding. Never brood them on slick surfaces like newspaper.

Never give a turkey poult cold water, as it can kill them. The water should always be lukewarm, and it is a good idea to add a vitamin and electrolyte supplement to their water. You can also get them eating and drinking well by placing shiny colored marbles in the feed and water to get their attention. Change waterers daily or when they get dirty.

Turkeys need higher protein than chickens. The poults will need a starter crumble with 28%-30% for the first 6-8 weeks (Rogue Gamebird Starter is a good feed for this period), then you can change them over to a feed with about 18% protein (Rogue All-In-One works well). Never feed them layer pellets, as the calcium level is too high for growing birds. When they are about 3 weeks old, you can start sprinkling a little chick grit on their feed, like you would salt your food. Do not give them scratch until they are at least 8 weeks old, then you can give them a little as a treat. I feed my adult breeder birds a gamebird breeder ration during the breeding and laying season, but you can feed them All-In-One with good results. When the hens begin to lay, they should have free choice access to grit and oyster shell. They will appreciate greens, bread, garden trimmings and other treats as well.

Turkeys are very personable birds and you can easily teach them to eat out of your hand, come to your call, and they will often follow you around, begging for treats and attention. The more you handle them, the tamer they will become. Contrary to popular belief, turkeys do not drown in the rain, although young birds have been known to become ill and die if they become wet and chilled. They are not stupid, and they can be a very enjoyable bird to have around.

The turkeys you purchase from us are heritage turkeys, the old-style varieties that are still naturally mating, long-lived and hardy. The turkeys you buy at the feedstore are usually broad-breasted varieties, used only for meat birds, so they are not meant to be raised beyond 3-3-1/2 months. They must be artificially inseminated, will squash their eggs if they try to set on them, and usually die at an early age either of heart failure or their legs fail.

If you wish to use heritage turkeys for meat birds, it will take 6-8 months to grow them to eating size (approximately 9#-10# for hens, 12#-16# for toms), but you will have a much better-quality bird, moist and flavorful, unlike anything you can buy in a grocery store. They also make good breeding or show stock and pets. They are much more disease-resistant than broad-breasted varieties, and will do well on free-range or in pens.

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