Hatching Poults With A Broody Turkey Hen

I remember when I got my first pair of Blue Slate turkeys about 10 years ago.  I purchased them as an adult pair in early spring and thought it would be really neat to have a turkey go broody and hatch out her own poults.

There are advantages to letting a turkey hen raise her own babies. The poults hatched by a turkey hen tend to be stronger than those hatched out using an incubator, and they will also tend to integrate into the flock quicker as they learn survival skills from the hen earlier in life.

But there are sometimes disadvantages also. You will lose some poults — the hen may step on them or they may get chilled. Of course, some hens mother poults better than others, but you can’t know until you let her try. If you are raising turkeys for eggs, another disadvantage is that the turkey hen will lay fewer eggs since she stops laying while broody and raising her poults.

Which turkey breeds are most likely to go broody? The Bourbon Red tends to be the most common breed to go broody, which is a heritage breed. Heritage turkeys tend to go broody more often than other breeds, with good sitting tendencies and strong mothering instincts. The breed least likely to be successful is the Broad Breasted varieties. They will not go broody very often, but they do have the potential.

For success at using your turkey hen to produce strong, healthy turkey poults you will first want to give your hens the best diet possible. A well-balanced diet will help her stay strong during the 28 day time period that she will sit on her nest.  A hen that goes broody will not leave her nest very often to eat and therefore will naturally lose some condition. Better body condition increases the chances that the hen will be able to successfully hatch out her eggs.

Turkeys lay 2-3 eggs a week on average.  A clutch usually contains approximately 10-14 eggs. If you remove her eggs, she will be discouraged from laying. Therefore, to encourage her to go broody you can give her some nice nesting materials in a quiet area and then leave her eggs in the nest. Be sure not to disturb them. You can occasionally check the nest to make sure none are broken. You will want a nice clean area which will increase the hatch rate.  A dirty area, especially with moisture, will greatly decrease your hatch rate.

After the poults hatch, give them a separate area where they can wander around safely. Turkey poults are very sensitive when they are first hatched and need more protection than baby chicks. I like to fence off a corner of the turkey coop and give the little family a chick-sized waterer and feeder so they can come out, eat and then go back under mama without having to be around other turkeys or chickens. 

I hope this helps you understand how to encourage your turkeys to hatch out their own babies. If you ever have any questions you are always welcome to chat online, call or send us an email. Thank you for reading!

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