How difficult is it to hatch turkey eggs?

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Feathyr, Oct 22, 2019.

  1. Feathyr

    Feathyr Songster

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    Idaho
    Hi folks! I'm looking to increase folk numbers this year and I've got some questions. Not sure if I've been doing something wrong or if I just have poor luck, seeing as how my chickens generally have an 80-90% hatch rate.

    I've raised Bourbon Reds for five or six years now and during that time, I've only had a handful of successful hatches. Three off the top of my head, if I remembering correctly, the most live poults being seven. My hens are great mothers and diligently tend to their eggs but, despite my best efforts to provide a clean, safe and quiet brooding area, the embryos are dying 14-20 days through incubation. All eggs are fertile to start with - I candle them a week after incubation to confirm live embryos - and then bam, all dead.

    What is going on here? No one (aside from the mother) is handling these eggs; I only place clean (but not washed!) eggs in the nest and make sure they're not sitting on bare ground. Nor is the mother abandoning them - I've had the same hen brooding my last couple batches; she broods so hard you almost have to force her to eat and drink lol. Are turkey eggs naturally more fragile than chicken eggs?

    At first I chalked it up to the odd temperature swings we get around during breeding season; now I'm not so sure. Like I mentioned, the chickens have no issues hatching. People who know I raise turkeys keep asking to purchase some from me, and every time I have to tell them no.

    Any tips, help, or advice is appreciated - I'm at my wit's end. Thank you for reading!
     
  2. R2elk

    R2elk Free Ranger

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    How closely related are your parent stock?

    Two main things that can cause problems are if the parent stock are too closely related and poor nutrition leading up to and during laying season.

    Personally, if I want a hen to hatch the eggs, I do not disturb the nest or the hen at all. My hens typically hatch 100% of fertile eggs. My hens also do not get to try to hatch eggs in the spring. I collect eggs until I have enough for the incubator. After that, I will let them have their own nests.

    I may never see the hen off of the nest during the 28 day incubation period, but since they are alive and well and I occasionally find huge broody leavings, I know they are getting off of the nest when they need to. Many people think that because they never see the hen off of the nest that they aren't getting off of the nest. They can't go that long without water, if they are not getting off of the nest to eat and drink on their own, they will die within a week.

    The thing that I do differently than most is too take the newly hatched poults and put them in a brooder. One reason is that there are just too many bad things that can happen to poults during the first couple of weeks if they are in the general population. Another reason is that it is much easier to collect sold poults from a brooder than it is to gather them from a protective hen.
     
    ColtHandorf, Trimurtisan and Feathyr like this.
  3. Feathyr

    Feathyr Songster

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    @R2elk -
    Thank you for responding!

    I'm not sure; with the exception of one hen hatched from the last successful batch, the others are sourced from Strombergs hatchery.

    The nutrition problem makes a lot of sense, seeing as how I've had to treat deficiencies in all of our animals at some point or another the last couple years... horse, cattle, birds, you name it. We ended up changing our mineral program and, as of two months ago, started mixing our own chicken feed. Had some problems with worms and mites as well. Not sure if the feed has made any difference, but the birds seem to have completed their molting more quickly than they usually do. We'll see, I guess.

    I could be disturbing that hen too often - generally I pull her off the nest every two-three days, mostly to clean up droppings and check for mites. What time of year do you generally incubate? Unless I put a light on mine, they don't usually lay until late April / early May. Brooding is usually in June.

    I do have a (very reliable) homemade incubator, but the high incidence of power outages around here generally discourages me from using it unless someone is around to supervise. Would it be worth getting Silkies to hatch some turkey eggs, or are they more suitable for chickens?
     
  4. R2elk

    R2elk Free Ranger

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    Good nutrition makes a huge difference in the molt. Some will go to a higher protein feed during the molt. Last year I had a hen with a late hatch and had the room to remove her from the general population with her poults. She got the same 28% protein feed as her poults. Her molt was over at least a month before her sister's molt and she looked fantastic.

    If you are mixing your feed to chicken parameters, you may want to revise it to also benefit the turkeys. A higher level of lysine, methionine and niacin will be good for the turkeys and will not harm the chickens. I know on person who has started giving her flock Rooster Booster during breeding and laying season. This person is now getting the best hatches that this person has had.

    I am currently feeding an all flock feed that is 20% protein and has the higher levels of lysine, methionine and niacin to all of my poultry.

    My turkeys normally start laying in mid March (no supplemental light) so my first incubator batch is set the first of April. I have a generator for those unexpected power outages. I prefer the incubator over broody chicken hens because I can't control when the hens will go broody. I have used a bantam hen to hatch one turkey egg. I found my White Laced Red Cornish to be very broody as well as their half Light Brahma offspring. I used those hens to hatch turkey and guinea eggs.

    I was never very successful with raising my own Bourbon Reds but my Blue Slates did fantastic. My current Sweetgrass are doing very well also.

    I do recommend that you leave the hen alone once she goes broody. I know that inquiring minds want to know but you will find out 27 or 28 days later if you leave her alone. If you are really concerned about whether or not she is getting off of the nest, put up a game/trail camera and let it spy on her for you.

    I also recommend that you do not put feed and water near the nest to make sure she gets at least a little exercise when she gets off of the nest.

    Good luck.
     

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