Hatching and Raising Turkeys


Spring is right around the corner (hopefully), so we thought this would be a good time to write about hatching and raising turkey poults. Every year we have people contact us at S and S Poultry saying, “Help, my turkeys aren’t doing well.” It’s easy to get attached to the little guys and always sad when things don’t go as planned, so we decided to share what works for us.

Turkey eggs take approximately 28 days to hatch (stop turning them on day 25 of incubation). With the number of incubators available to use, it’s best to start with the instructions for your incubator and make adjustments as necessary. It’s best to start with chicken eggs until you have your incubator set up correctly and the chicken eggs are hatching well. (For those who use a GQF Sportsman, ours runs about 99.6 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 to 40 percent humidity during incubation. When we stop turning the eggs, we add a humidity sponge which brings the humidity near the 60 to 70 percent range.) Our hatch rates are about 90 percent year after year.

Beltsville white turkey poults

Natural Versus Artificial Incubation

We use both natural and artificial incubation and have found that each has advantages and disadvantages. Two of the biggest advantages of natural incubation are that the poults hatched by a turkey hen will be more inclined to sit and raise poults themselves, and we think the hen-raised poults are overall stronger. They will also tend to integrate into the flock quicker as they have learned the skills from the hen. The biggest disadvantages are that you’ll loose some poults — the hen may step on them or they may get chilled. Of course, some hens are better mothers than others, but it’s best to be prepared. Another disadvantage is that the turkey hens will lay fewer eggs; when a hen goes broody she stops laying eggs. You can control the number of eggs you set and when they will hatch when incubating eggs in a machine. This is a big advantage if you have limited brooder space or want to keep the poults from different matings separated.

Natural Hatching Tips

It’s best to have your hen sit in a secure area. Many times the hens will seek a quiet place to make a nest, such as a bush or brush pile, which makes them easy targets for predators, especially at night. After the hen hatches her brood, we move them all to a “maternity” pen for at least the first two months. The maternity area is covered to keep out the rain, plus it keeps the hen and her poults in a smaller area and closer together. We always put a fresh layer of sand down for each group to help prevent soil-borne diseases. Coccidiosis can be a major problem for poults raised on the ground if other poultry has occupied the area before.

White Holland turkey hen and poults

6/4/2011 8:15:29 PM

When do I chip off the little egg-beak tip on my poults. If anybody can advise me, thanks so much!

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