Thinking about hatching your own turkey poults, that’s exciting! Here are the 6 aspects of hatching and raising turkey poults that you need to consider to have a great result and healthy, well grown poults.
Consider the cost to hatch your own turkeys vs buying eggs or poults
Believe it or not, you’ve got some options when it comes to getting poults. You can have the adults and let them hatch the poults, have someone else incubate the eggs for you, buy poults or buy fertile eggs.
How To Raise Turkey Poults shows you the specifics of keeping your poults healthy and happy.
Your breeding pair of turkeys can hatch their own eggs
Pros: you are hands off until poults hatch
Cons: keeping hen with poults is not likely to work, you need to care for poults just like you ordered them from a hatchery and you have the year round cost of keeping the adults
If you have a breeding age pair of heritage breed turkeys, you are set. The cost of hatching your own poults is no more than the normal cost of feeding your adult turkeys! Bargain!
I have always been amazed at how great heritage breed turkey hens are at incubating and hatching eggs! Wow are they incubation all stars!
10 Breeds Of Turkeys To Raise For Meat gives you an idea of which breeds will work best for you based on what you want from your birds.
Where things go wobbly is they are the worst moms ever! Once those poults are hatched the mom will take off walking and the poults get lost.
You’ll have 15-20 poults in the morning and be down to 3 by the evening. No joke.
We handle this by gathering up the poults and putting them in a brooder to be raised without their mom. Sad to say, but significantly better than dead.
You could try keeping the hen and poults in a roomy pen, like a box stall.
Be sure the hen is staying calm (she’ll freak out when you come in to feed and accidentally hurt the poults) and the area is cat and rat proof.
The main down side of keeping the hen with her poults is cost of feed. The hen will scarf the expensive game bird starter that the poults must have.
Try to keep the hen with the poults if you want, but honestly, you’ll most likely end up kicking out the hen and putting in a heat source.
Buying fertile eggs to hatch at home
Pros: lower cost, 12 eggs for around $75
Cons: incubation requires attention to detail and small mess ups cause big problems
I did a quick online search for “turkey hatching eggs” and got quite a few results. Here is the turkey hatching eggs page at Murray McMurray Hatchery to give you an idea of ordering options and prices.
I have to be honest here, I would buy day old poults rather than ordering hatching eggs.
The economics of buying hatching eggs never works out for me when poults of the same breed are available. I can hear you say “what is she talking about, eggs are way cheaper”. Yes, but you need more than the eggs.
You’ll need to get a decent incubator, the styrofoam ones are not accurate enough unless you are willing to check them every hour or so, you’ll need something more like a Brinsea incubator.
Here’s where the economics start looking not so great, that incubator is $1,100. It’s top of the line, but still, $1,100, so unless you are hatching nearly constantly throughout the year, I can’t see how that math works out.
If your interest in turkeys is casual, just buy some poults from a hatchery or someone who has the breeding pair, rather than incubate them yourself.
Pay a person to hatch them for you
Occasionally, we see ads online for a person with a large incubator wanting to hatch eggs for you in return for half of the hatchlings.
You would take your clean, fertile eggs to the incubator owner, who would monitor incubation and hatching for you.
If you do not have a nice incubator yourself, this is not a bad idea. Incubation is an exacting process that requires you to either have an automated incubator or be constantly monitoring the eggs.
If you are not willing to carefully tend the eggs, let someone else do it for you.
Purchase and run the incubator yourself
There are some really great incubators available, if you are thinking of hatching your own eggs. We have always used the square styrofoam incubators that you can find at most any farm store.
These work well, as long as you are willing to tend them a bit.
What do I mean by tend them? These incubators need to have the humidity controlled by adding water to the bottom of the inside of the incubator. You’ll also need to monitor the temperature and change it as needed.
Additionally, you will need egg turners, if you do not want to turn the eggs buy hand.
How To Successfully Use A Still Air Incubator shows you the steps we take to hatch eggs with our incubator.
There are incubator models that will do everything for you, monitor humidity, temperature, turning, the works. The catch is the price.
The good news is each hatch of birds sold at retail prices would nearly pay for the incubator. If you are planning on selling the hatchlings, this is something to consider.
Turkey poults require specific care
Turkey poults are not as “tough” as other hatchlings, they need specific care and are unforgiving of “mess ups”.By unforgiving, I mean you have to raise them as specified or they die.
How Much Space For Turkeys goes over the space requirements for your birds, both in the brooder and as they grow.
I am not saying that turkeys are hard to raise, they aren’t. They are just less able to handle stress than other baby birds.
Turkey poults must have a secure brooder with game bird starter (not chicken feed!) and be kept dry and draft free.
When you are raising turkey poults, you need to be on your game.
Give them what they need, you’ll have a great time raising turkeys. Skimp on something and the poults will have a hard time recovering and you’ll be disappointed.
Turkeys need a secure shelter
Turkeys do not need much in the way of a place to stay, but they do need something. Shelter makes them feel more secure and protects them from weather, specifically rain.
Sectioning off a corner of the garage or putting them in a home made pallet or cattle panel shelter would work fine.
Turkey poults, like all young poultry, need a brooder of some sort. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be warm and secure.
Be aware that your turkeys are going to be predator magnets once they come out of the brooder! Really the shelter is to keep others out, not so much to keep the turkeys in!
Penn State Small Flock Turkey Production article, great stuff in here, check it out.
As far as cost of the shelter goes, that completely depends upon you and your situation. You may have something already that will work great or you may have to buy or build.
Turkeys are predator magnets
Predators love to get ahold of a turkey, from baby to adult, doesn’t matter.
At the top of your turkey raising list needs to be a plan to keep predators out of your turkeys!
The easiest thing to do is to lock the turkeys up in a secure shed overnight.
If you feed them in the shed, they’ll go in at night to bed down. Give them a roosting option if you have the lighter built heritage birds.
Turkeys must have high protein feed
In some areas the high protein feed that turkeys need can be hard to find. What you are looking for is game bird starter for the first few weeks and then game bird grower for the rest of their growing period.
Once turkeys get to adult size they can eat an all flock type feed, but not as babies!
Feed For Turkeys shows you what feed you need to start out your birds then what to change to as you raise them.
If you are having trouble finding the feed you’ll need (you are figuring all of this out before you have the turkeys, right?) call your local extension office.
This is state run office that handles the 4-H programs for the county fair. If your county fair has turkeys, someone here has the information you need.
Heritage breed turkeys can wander
Wandering off, or just flying up into trees is more of a heritage breed turkey thing. The broad breasted birds are too heavy to make this happen!
When Can Turkey Poults Go Outside? goes over how to tell when your poults are big enough to venture out of the brooder and how to set up a poult safe outside area.
The lighter built turkeys have the ability to get out and can even fly a little. The good news is that turkeys aren’t big thinkers, if they like where they are they’ll stay.
As long as you are giving them a comfortable place to live where they feel secure, your birds will stick around the feed. If they are scared or you are not keeping them full, they will feel obligated to leave.