set up for breeding/nesting

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by KatyTheChickenLady, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    going on 2nd year with Turkeys (heritage), pretty much total beginner, first year with "breeders".
    I have 1 Tom going on a year & three hens 1-3 years all laid eggs last year, but not for me.
    They currently free range, 3 acres of yard and grass, & roost on top of the chicken house.
    What I hope is for them to lay their eggs, sit on their nests, and raise their chicks.
    what should I expect, and what should I be doing to facilitate this?
  2. Steve_of_sandspoultry

    Steve_of_sandspoultry Overrun With Chickens

    The hens will pick a spot (who knows where) they like unless you contain them. They will go for out of the way, quiet, dark spots, the bad thing is when they start sitting on the nest they are easy picking for predators. Ours lay in the chicken houses so it's easy for us - I built 18 inch square nest boxes in each house for them. Some people use dog houses or pet carriers anything that's big enough to lay and sit in will work. Once you have a spot they will lay in I always mark the eggs, usually the first eggs layed are not fertile and the last eggs are layed after the hen starts sitting so they will hatch a few days later than the main group. If the hens waits for them to hatch the first hatch will be getting weak, if she doesn't those eggs will die right at the end. By marking them you know who is who.

    By letting the hen raise them you will have some losses that is a given but the poults will be stronger for it. The strong survive type thing. We have a couple maturnity pens that we use just for a hen and her poults. They are covered to keep them dry and we put down a layer of fresh sand before we put her in it. That way there is no chance of any soil borne illness, that helps alot. This article we wrote will help some.

  3. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    thanks so much steve I was hoping you would reply.
    couple of questions if you don't mind.

    If they start laying soon, while it is still in the teens weather wise, will the eggs be "killed" when they get off the nest . . . I am assuming they get up and walk around like chickens until the whole clutch is laid?

    If I try to move my chicken hens once I discover them setting where they shouldn't they always abandon the nest; will turkeys do the same?

    more later after I read your article,thanks!
  4. spish

    spish De Regenboog Kippetjes

    Apr 7, 2010
    may i also butt in with a question or two about breeding, at what age will turkeys start breeding, at what age do the hens start laying? many thanks
  5. Steve_of_sandspoultry

    Steve_of_sandspoultry Overrun With Chickens

    Yes the eggs can and do freeze, the hen doesn't stay on the nest until she is ready to sit. They are very much like chickens on the whole sitting and nesting thing. The hens are very much creatures of habit, they will go back to the same nest spot. It's best to confine them before they start laying.

    Spish, if they were hatched last year they will lay in the spring.

  6. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    I read your article, very nice, thank you.

    One more question please;

    I intend to let my hens set on their eggs as I don't really care for hatching. But after reading your information I see that I had better pen them at least at night so they are safe.
    So what I am wondering is can I take the eggs daily and keep until she is at the number I want her to sit on, then return them to the nest? Would this work? would she accept them? What is a good number for a turkey hen to brood? What if I have one that is a bad ahtcher/mother can I stick someof her eggs under a more maternal hen?
    I saw that you said you have a 90% hatch rate when you incubate, that's great; how does that compare to a hens hatch rate?
  7. Steve_of_sandspoultry

    Steve_of_sandspoultry Overrun With Chickens

    I usually use duck eggs to make a turkey nest, we have Muscovies and they lay like crazy. The eggs are tough and if they are lost it's not an issue. Collect the turkey eggs and number them until your hen is ready to sit. Depending on the hen it might be 15 to 20 eggs before they have that magic number to sit on. Turkey hens can brood quite a few poults but the trick is keep them and her contained in a pen. She will lead them out in the rain etc and they will drop like flies or they will wander away. Heritage turkeys are full of instinct but have lost alot of what a wild turkey has in brooding and rearing poults. The hatch rate of hens is pretty high as well if she has a nest of her own and not molested by other birds. Equal to incubation. Like I said before though even if you pen her and the poults you are going to loose some.


  8. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    Nice article Steve!

    I'm in the same situation as Katy, raised birds last year and have 1 tom (bronze/naragansett mix) and 4 hens (3 naragansetts and a blue slate) . I don't plan on keeping any of my poults for breeders, just strictly for meat and to sell the poults for folks to raise for their own meat. (Sorry about the mutts if it offends you)

    I do have a local turkey breeder so I can get additional turkeys to add into the stable when needed by driving 10 miles and dropping off a $10 bill. I may actually add two poults each year from this other breeder, just as a safety net in case I lose my tom, as it might be nice to have a back up.

    Can I combine eggs from multiple hens to put under a broody hen? By doing this I would hope to keep the three remaining birds laying, collect those eggs and then set another hen, and so on, trying to maximize the use of the different hens. The last hen would have all her own eggs.

    The problems I see with this are the hens recognizing their eggs vs. others.
    Too many eggs under a hen (if possible).
    Mixed broods in case I wanted to continue breeding this stock.

    The benefit I see is the elimination of the early and late egg die offs because the compressed laying schedule.
    Possibly more chicks.

    Total rookie, so feel free to laugh and point. Then give me the scoop. Somewhere in there I'd like to try a batch of 10-12 in my incubator, so maybe after each hen has laid a few eggs (breakfast) collect a dozen or so and fire up the machine.
  9. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    One more question. Would it be possible to put two broody hens in say a 12'x4' pen, with a partition, while they are sitting and raising poults?
  10. Steve_of_sandspoultry

    Steve_of_sandspoultry Overrun With Chickens

    Quote:That would work fine. Our broody pens have 2x4 welded wire so we put chicken wire on the bottom to keep the poults in


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