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Brooding day old poults are 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).
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.
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!