Our momma turkeys hatched their poults a month ago, and all of them were doing well except for one little turkey that came to be known as Pumpkin Pie. We had a camera set up inside the coop that live streamed to our TV so that we could observe the two turkey mommas and the poults and make sure that all was well without disturbing them. Right away I noticed that momma Eleanor would get up and move to another area of the coop, and all of the poults would follow except for one that would be left lying on its back waving its feet in the air frantically trying to right itself and not being able to. I went out to the coop a couple of times that first day to pick up the poult and stick it back under the momma, and I hoped that after a good nights rest all would be well. The next day I noticed that the same thing was happening, so I brought the little one into the house and set up a small temporary indoor brooder with a heat lamp. I had read that sometimes newly hatched chicks or turkey poults had problems such as this, which could be caused by not getting enough nutrition during development in the egg. So I decided to keep this poult inside, give it vitamins in its water and make sure that it was getting enough to eat, and hoped that after a few days of good nutrition, it would stop having this problem and be able rejoin the flock.
Turkey poults need to be kept in a very warm environment, approximately 100 degrees, for their first week after hatch. Within an hour or so of getting the poult set up in its indoor brooder with a heat lamp and a stuffed animal for company and feeling like everything was under control, a big wind storm blew in and knocked out our power! I quickly lit a fire in the wood stove and moved the brooder right in front of the stove. We spent a couple of hours hanging out by the wood stove, and by that time I was already becoming quite attached to this little one. Thankfully the power came back on later in the day, and we settled into a routine. Throughout the day I would check on the poult, and I would tap my finger in the food and water dishes, encouraging the poult to peck in the dishes where my finger was tapping as a means of making sure that she knew where the food and water was and was getting enough to eat and drink. This was especially important since she wasn't with her turkey momma to teach her, and little poults cannot survive long without eating or drinking. Whenever I wasn’t with the poult and I would hear a loud peeping, I would run to check on her. Occasionally I would find her on her back, although mostly she would be just fine, standing on top of her stuffed animal companion and peeping happily as if to announce her climbing achievement. In the evenings we would sit on the sofa together, and after a couple of days when she seemed to be doing well and I was no longer worried that she wouldn’t survive, I decided to name her Pumpkin Pie and I let myself love her. I would get up several times during the night whenever I would hear loud peeping. Usually everything was just fine, I think she just wanted a bit of company. After the second night of loud peeping, my husband set up a metronome next to her brooder, which seemed to provide some soothing companionship and quieted her down. That’s when I knew that little Pumpkin Pie had worked her way into my husband’s heart too.
After about five nights in the house, Pumpkin Pie was eating and drinking well and was very energetic. I wanted her to be able to rejoin the flock, so I didn’t dare keep her inside any longer for fear that she would be rejected if I kept her inside too long. The morning I went to reintroduce Pumpkin Pie to the flock I carried her out to the coop in the pocket of my jacket. I opened up the coop door to find the mommas and the other eight poults and two chicken chicks all running around eating and doing what turkeys do, so I quickly put little Pumpkin Pie into the coop with the others and no one seemed the wiser that there was a new member of the family in their midst. The reintroduction went perfectly, and I went back inside the house hoping that little Pumpkin Pie would remember me now that she had her turkey family back. I was pleasantly surprised to find that every time I would go out to the turkey yard to fill feeders or waterers and check on the little ones, that Pumpkin Pie would come running up to me. I would kneel down and lay my hand flat on the ground, and she would sit down in my hand and let me pick her up. She is now a month old, and is still running up to me whenever I go out to visit the turkeys. The other poults will also come over to me to see if I have treats, but they will quickly lose interest in me if there are no treats to be had. Little Pumpkin Pie, however, is content to sit with me for as long as I like, no strings attached. It seems that after two years of having turkeys, I finally have the lap turkey I’ve always wanted, and I couldn’t be happier.