Raising turkey poults can be a challenge, but the resulting adult birds are a great reward.
Adult turkeys are far more robust birds than chickens, but in their first few weeks of life they are actually more fragile than the average chick and require more care. For the most part, raising turkey poults is quite similar to raising chicks, so we suggest you start by reading our article Raising Baby Chicks 101. Then please see below for the differences to keep in mind when raising poults.
The Fragile Poult
Poults are delicate and very sensitive to their external environment, nutrition and hydration. Dehydration is the #1 killer of poults. The best way to prevent dehydration is to dip their beaks in water to teach them how to drink right after you receive them. Another risk for poults is “starving out”. This is when certain poults are essentially pushed out of the feeder by the other poults. To avoid this you should use several feeders placed apart from each other and avoid overcrowding.
Poult Pile Ups
We mostly think of pile ups as occurring between cars on a busy freeway, but they can also occur in a turkey brooder. When the poults are frightened or feel too hot or cold they will all rush to a corner of the brooder, get stuck and ultimately stampede each other. To avoid this use a rounded brooder and extra light in the brooder.
Brooders for Turkeys
The bedding used in a poult brooder is similar to that for baby chicks and ducks. And, cleanliness is extremely important. Poults grow quickly and need ample room to avoid pile ups, bullying and overall stress. Roosts can be added to a turkey brooder when they are as young as one week old. Doing so will provide them a comfortable place to sleep and will help avoid overcrowding. You should also plan on expanding your brooder as your poults grow.
Feed for Turkey Poults
Turkey poults require higher levels of protein than chicks. It is recommended that they are fed unmedicated chick starter with a supplement of brewer’s yeast (2 cups per 10lbs of feed). For their first 12 weeks poults should be given a 28% protein feed. After 12 weeks they can be fed a 20% protein feed and you can begin to add grains such as corn and oats to their feed. Oats are a great bone strengthening supplement for poults. We recommend working with your local veterinarian to come up with a complete dietary plan for your turkey poults.
Turkey Poults with Baby Chicks – Not a Happy Union
Turkey Poults can not be housed with baby chicks for several reasons. First, the baby chicks mature faster than the poults and will pick on the poults. Second, the turkey poults might mature more slowly, but they have sudden growth spurts making them a lot bigger and more aggressive than the chicks, causing the “picking” to go the other way. Thirdly, baby chicks carry diseases which a poult’s immune system cannot fight.
Poults are Worth the Effort!
Whether you are looking to raise turkeys for their meat or to keep as pets we recommend you spend some time getting to know these birds first hand. Turkeys are smart birds with unique and even humorous personalities. As long as you are prepared, turkeys can certainly make great additions to your farm.