Raising a Thanksgiving Turkey - Part Two
When your turkey poults begin to mature, it becomes necessary to move them from their brooder. Unlike most birds, you do not move turkey poults directly from a brooder to a coop or other more permanent environment. First they need to be placed in a ‘brooder house’. They will be in this brooder house for about six to eight weeks.
The brooder house is a hybrid between living in the brooder and living outdoors, and is meant as a sort of stepping stone between the two stages. The three most important aspects of a brooder house are temperature, sanitation, and proper feeding and watering. Also, be sure to make the brooder house extra big because the poults will be two to three times larger by the time they are ready to be moved to permanent outdoor quarters.
Artificial temperature should be provided somehow, usually by overhead heat lamps. Start at about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Decrease it gradually. For the last two weeks the chicks are in the brooder house, they should not be receiving any artificial heat.
An Example Brooder House
The floor of the brooder house should be clean and sanitized, then covered with wood shavings or a similar type of flooring. Make sure it stays dry, and change it out every one to two weeks to help prevent disease. Some turkey farmers also recommend keeping feed and water dishes a few inches above the ground to prevent contamination. Watch closely for disease, particularly blackhead. There are various products designed to prevent and kill diseases. Some work, some don’t. It may be necessary to separate or kill diseased birds from the flock.
Fresh water and turkey mash are still the staples of the poults’ diet at this point, but you can and should start adding fresh greens and vegetables to their diet. Chop it finely, and give them small amounts. This is a great nutritional benefit for the growing poults.
Because the brooder house is a step towards fully outdoor life, it is important to begin exposing them to conditions similar to those they will find outside, particularly sunlight. Make sure they have some exposure to sunlight every day. Also be sure they have good ventilation in their brooder house. It may be a good idea to connect the brooder to an outdoor area during the last few weeks. For the first 10 to 14 days, expose them to little ventilation, and carefully protect them from drafts. During the last 7 to 10 days, give them maximum ventilation to help them adapt to outdoor temperature and weather.
After they are about ten weeks old, they will be ready to move into outdoor life. More details on this will be covered in a later post.