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Brooding day-old turkey poults is very much like brooding day-old chicks but with a few little adjustments to ensure the health and well-being of your new little ones. Most often poults will be fully feathered and will be ready to move into their outdoor housing around 6-7 weeks of age. But until they are fully feathered they need to be kept in a draft-free, temperature-controlled brooder space protected from predators and supplied with fresh food and water.
During the first weeks, your new poults will need to be kept at a much higher air temperature than you would be comfortable. I recommend setting up their brooder space at least 24 hours prior to their arrival so that you have plenty of time to make any necessary adjustments before they arrive. Your brooder is their temporary home and should consist of the following:
- A plastic tote, stock tank, wooden box, cardboard box or swimming pool…something with solid sides to help prevent drafts and keep your poults contained. If it has been used for poultry previously, scrub with 10% bleach solution and allow to dry before new babies are introduced.
- Pine shavings or similar bedding material. Do not use newspaper in your brooder. It is too slick for baby poults to get a foothold and can cause a condition called “spraddle-leg.”
- A heat source for keeping the brooder at the proper temperature. This is often in the form of a 125-250 watt heat bulb. Varying the height and/or wattage of the bulb will yield the desired temperature. Raise the bulb or lower the wattage to decrease temperature. Lower the bulb or increase the wattage to raise the temperature.
- A thermometer is highly recommended. This should be placed at chick level in the brooder. 95 degrees is the ideal brooder temperature for the first week of the poults’ lives. After the first week, you can decrease the brooder temperature by 5 degrees each week until they are fully feathered (6-7 weeks).
Special notes when using a brooder plate-
- Place your brooder plate on the opposite side of your brooder space away from waterers.
- Set the height of your plate making sure there is a minimum of 1 1/8" space between the brooder plate and your bedding
- Allow enough space for your poultry to be able to move freely from underneath the brooder plate. Some brooder plates give you the option to adjust one side of the plate a bit higher than the other giving your poultry the option to choose their preferred height.
- Turn your brooder plate on 24-48 hours prior to the arrival of your poultry
- When your poultry arrives be sure to encourage them to go underneath the brooder plate showing them where warmth is.
- Brooder plates mimic a mother bird using warmth and touch so using a thermometer to measure the temperature is not reliable. It is important to watch the behavior of your poultry to determine their comfort level. If they are peeping and huddled together, adjust the plate lower, as this is a sign they are too cool. If they are avoiding the heat plate altogether it may be too low, therefore providing too much warmth.
- Brooder plates are ideal for indoor brooding. If the temperature of the room falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit your brooder plate will not provide enough heat for your new hatchlings.
Learn more on how to brood poultry using a heat plate here: Brooding with the Brinsea Ecoglow Safety 600 Chick Brooder Plate
Feeding your Broad Breasted Turkeys:
Weeks 1-8- 27-30% Turkey Starter or Game Bird Feed
Week 8-Processing 20-22% Turkey Grower Feed
- Water containers that poults can reach but not crawl into or spill. For poults, we recommend placing rocks or marbles around the lip of the waterer to prevent your poults from getting into the water and drowning.
Feeding your Heritage Turkeys:
Weeks 1-6 - 28% protein turkey starter feed
Weeks 6-20 weeks - 20% protein turkey grower feed
5 months+ 17% finisher or maintenance turkey feed
When your poults arrive, carefully dip each of their beaks in the drinking water to help them learn where their water source is located. You may need to do this several times the first day. I also recommend showing them where their feeder is as well. I have found that day-old poults are much like infants and need a little extra TLC upon arrival. Once introduced to their food and water sources let them explore their new home. They should start to eat and drink and will soon settle down for a rest. Being a newly hatched poult is lots of work and they tucker out quickly.
If your brooder is too cool, you will notice the poults huddling together in a tight group underneath the heat source. Lower the lamp, increase the bulb wattage or make other adjustments as necessary. If you have a large brooder space you may need a secondary lamp or heat source in order to maintain the correct temperature for your little ones. If your brooder is too hot, your poults will try to get far away from the heat source and you may find them in far corners avoiding the heat lamp area. Raise the lamp, try a lower wattage bulb or make other adjustments as necessary. You want your poults to spread out in an even pattern within the brooder space.
While we do not anticipate a loss, Meyer Hatchery does cover losses of properly cared for birds that arrive deceased or that pass in the first 48 hours after arrival. Losses must be reported within 72 hours of arrival. To report a loss with a recent order, fill out our Loss Reporting Form.
Raising heritage and or broad breasted turkeys can be very rewarding. Broad Breasted turkeys are ideal for the backyard poultry owner that wants a quick growing turkey. Heritage breeds are great for someone with the space to allow their turkeys to free range, with a little bit more time to allow them to get to a processing weight and or wants a smaller bird when finished. Have patience as they navigate this big wide world and enjoy your little gobblers!