We have new turkey babies (which are called poults) at the farm, and they are so very adorable! For those of you unfamiliar with turkey anatomy, the snood is a protuberance above a turkey’s beak, which is long on the toms and quite short on the turkey hens. This is our third year having our turkeys hatch and raise poults, and it’s a wonderful experience watching the mommas raise the babies. Two of the turkeys went broody in the small empty coop in the turkey yard that we have used in the past to let the mommas raise their poults. Unfortunately these two mommas are not my tried and true mommas from years past, they are two of our younger turkeys that we hatched last year. These two ladies are not quite as friendly toward me as our other turkeys, and I’ve endured quite a lot of hissing and more than a few pecks over this last month as I go about tending to filling waterers and feeders and scooping poop (that’s gratitude for you!) Since they are not experienced mommas I was a bit worried about their qualifications at first, but they’ve turned out to be pretty good mommas. Out of the 12 eggs I gave them to hatch, five got broken during the 28-day incubation period. Six of the remaining seven eggs hatched, and there was only one unfertilized egg, including the broken ones (way to go Ringo!)
After a few days in the coop with the newly hatched poults, the mommas were ready to leave the coop for some fresh air, green grass, and dust baths. The poults were a bit apprehensive to leave the coop at first, but after repeated encouraging calls from the mommas while they went in and out of the coop several times to show the babies how it was done, the poults eventually took the big plunge into the great outdoors. It wasn’t long before the poults were learning how to eat grass and take dust baths by following their mommas example. Sadly, during one of these first days out it appeared that one of the poults got trampled by one of the mommas from what I could tell. When I found the poult it was all sprawled out and gasping for air. I brought it into the house to try to save it, but it died shortly after. These accidents do happen, and although it’s very sad it’s really not that surprising when you consider the giant size of the mommas when compared to the poults and the fact that for the first couple of weeks the poults are constantly either under the mommas or underfoot when they’re moving around.
The poults grow up very fast, and at a month old now they have transformed from tiny fluff balls to adventurous youngsters that can already fly several feet off the ground. We took the poultry netting fence down yesterday that we had surrounding the turkey mommas coop to protect them from the rest of the flock. Either one or both of the mommas would fly over the fence multiple times a day, getting temporarily separated from the poults, or sometimes the poults would sneak through the fence leaving the mommas inside frantic to get out to the poults. Occasionally my favorite turkey and lowest on the pecking order, Pumpkin Pie, would get a bit too close to the fence, and I’d come out to find her and one of the mommas viciously pecking at each other through the fence, and I would have to separate them. It’s a good thing that I work from home so that I am available to run outside a dozen or more times a day whenever I hear sounds of distress coming from the turkey yard!
Now that the poults can fly and run pretty fast, we decided it was time to take down the fence so the mommas and their littles could roam the pasture and start to integrate with the rest of the flock. For now the mommas try to keep the poults as far away from the rest of the flock as possible and keep them out of trouble. Any time another turkey or chicken gets too close, the mommas will go into attack mode and chase the intruder away, and Ringo’s advances are met with a hasty retreat by the mommas, all the while calling the poults to hurry along and follow the mommas to safety. So far so good, and fingers crossed for a successful integration. The next step will be when the mommas decide it’s time to go back to sleeping on the high roost again instead of in the coop, and I’m sensing that this transition is right around the corner. That’s always an entertaining nightly ritual to observe, with much jockeying for position taking place, much pecking and flying up and down from the roost for a good half hour or more until everyone settles into position for the night. I’m sure to be taking lots of pictures during this time, so stay tuned for those in my next turkey blog!