You’ve decided to raise your own turkeys this year, yes! Thanksgiving is going to be awesome! As fun as turkeys will be to have around, we need to get them raised first!
Before your poults arrive, you’ll need to have your brooder set up and ready to go. Which bedding material is the best to use for poults?
The best bedding material to use for turkeys is straw. Straw can be used for baby turkeys (poults), growing birds and turkeys of adult size.
What breed of turkeys would be best for you to raise? Read 10 Breeds Of Turkeys to see which turkeys are best for you!
Is Raising Turkeys For Meat Worth It? gives you a budget for buying and feeding your poults, from day old to freezer.
Straw is the best bedding for turkeys
Straw is the best bedding to use for turkeys. You can choose whatever straw, wheat, rye, oat, barley, that is available in your area.
The reason that straw is such a great bedding choice is that it is easy to find, easy to spread around in the pen or brooder for your poults and has compost value when you are done using the bedding or just want clean out the pen.
If you are lucky, you’ll be able to find chopped straw, this stuff if great! As the name suggests, it is straw that is cut in shorter pieces when it is baled.
The reason you’ll like chopped straw is it spreads out so easily, really you just need to rake it around. Not that shaking out normal straw is hard, it’s not, but spreading out chopped straw is easier!
Use straw for both adult turkeys and poults
A big concern with keeping your turkey poults healthy is keeping control of the ammonia fumes (smell) from their manure. This seems to be more of a problem for poults, than adults.
By using plenty of straw, especially in the brooder, you’ll be on top of any smell before it gets overly noticeable.
The next challenge for bedding turkeys is that their manure is “hotter” meaning has more nutrients in it than manure of a horse, for example.
This makes turkey manure a great fertilizer option, but a more demanding manure to keep safely trapped in carbon, which is what you are doing with the straw. It’s kind of like a diaper for the whole pen, vs an individual bird diaper!
Here’s a link to Manure on Your Farm, an article by Washington State University Extension on how to compost and use manure of all sources on your farm or garden.
Stomp down the straw so easy walking for poults
The only catch with using straw is that sometimes it can be too fluffy, especially if you were in a hurry when you spread it out. You’ll need to get the bigger clumps of straw spread out to keep the floor walkable for the poults.
It’s easier to put down multiple thin layers of straw than one big, thick layer. The straw will lay flatter in the pen. Once you have the straw in place, stomp down the top a bit, to keep things easy access for the poults.
If you are spreading straw for bigger turkeys, don’t worry about this one too much!
Other bedding materials can be used for turkeys
If you are having trouble sourcing straw or it is prohibitively expensive in your area, of course use something else!
The poults at the beginning of the article are in the brooder at Echoinghills Farm. If you look closely, you can see Echoinghills uses wood shavings in their brooders.
All areas have an economical bedding source, yours does, too. Visit your local farm store (or as close to a farm store as you can get), ask around or see what is for sale in online ads.
Be sure to double check sizes and absorbency before you go with a straw alternative. What I mean is, quite often small packages are cheaper per package but more expensive, overall to get the job done!
Here are a few suggestions of things that may work out for you and your turkeys: sawdust or shavings, wood chips, old hay, leaves and shredded paper.
If you decide to use any of these other bedding sources, know that whichever you choose must be chemical free. For instance, you would not want to use colored mulch because of the colorant.
Be aware that the turkeys, especially the poults will definitely try to eat some of the bedding. This is why sawdust and shavings are not the best idea for young birds, they are too easy to eat instead of their feed!
Using Hay As Bedding goes over the reasons why we frequently use old hay as a bedding material.
If you decide to use sawdust or shavings, keep an eye on the poults and see how they act. If they are not eating the bedding, no problem.
If the poults are picking at the bedding rather than the food, get some straw to put over the top of the sawdust/shavings to “hide” the small pieces from the poults until they figure out eating the feed.
Also know that shredded paper looks good but does not absorb much wetness or odor. We have used shredded paper in the past and I’m not a fan. It kind of reminds me of cotton candy, all fluffy but then melts down to nothing!
I also am aware of pelleted bedding options that are popular for smaller caged animals, like hamsters or guinea pigs. I have heard this stuff works great, but I’ve never used it myself, due to the main drawback, at least to me, a high price.
Photo credit: Echoinghills Farm took this photo of Blue slate, Black Slate, Lavender and Bronze poults in the brooder.