A Tale of Two Turkeys

journey11

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My Bourbon Red turkey poults are 6 weeks old now. I found out the hard way that turkeys have a really steep learning curve! These are the two survivors. We started with 6 poults and very mysteriously, every few days, one would just get sleepy and then I'd find it dead the next day. After asking around BYC, the best answer we could come up with was a failure to thrive. I think they were getting too comfortable under the heat lamp and not eating and drinking enough. It is advisable to put a chicken chick in with them to show them how to eat and drink, since they are slow to catch on themselves, so I'll definitely do that next time. They really don't eat and drink as voraciously as chicks, although most every other aspect of their care is the same. These guys are about the size of a banty chicken now.

They are very nervous and flighty little critters. I had to cage them within the brooder circle because they kept flying out and couldn't figure out how to get back in. I got 6 poults for $40 from a local breeder, which is a really good deal (they go for $10.50 each on MMH's website, plus shipping.) But I think the time of year isn't really the best. I will have to keep them in the garage all winter, or maybe in the barn, since young turkeys are said to not tolerate drafts or dampness well and our winters are usually pretty cold and wet. They'll go out with the chickens in the spring.

These are supposed to be DH's turkeys, my gift to him, but really they're more mine. I feed them and everything. He just mentioned in passing that he'd like to get turkeys someday, so that was all I needed to hear. ;)

I was hoping to have a couple of hens to keep for breeding and I was going to get a new tom off of another breeder about an hour from here. I don't know what I'll do with them now, depending on whether I have toms or hens there. If I have at least one tom, he will be grown out and ready for Easter dinner next spring.
 

so lucky

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Where is @TheSeedObsessor? Doesn't he raise turkeys? I see that today is his birthday. Hey, SeedO!
 

Ridgerunner

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A few years back I got four Palm White Turkey hatching eggs shipped to me. I put them in the incubator and week later put I some chicken eggs so they would hatch at the same time. I only got one of the four turkey eggs to hatch and I had to help it hatch. It was shrink-wrapped for some reason. Anyway it did fine and tasted great at Thanksgiving. I named it "Pilgrim", partly for its special day and party because it reminded me of John Wayne the way it strutted around. I put deer netting over the run to keep him from flying out.

The next year I got five hatching eggs from the same source. I included chicken eggs just like the year before to have chicks to raise with them. All five of those turkey eggs hatched. Yeah, all five shipped eggs. Wow! One had a deformed foot and just couldn't keep up. It was a runt, stayed real skinny, and just couldn't move around. I finally and probably too late put it out of its misery. You could tell it was suffering. Wish I'd done it sooner.

The other four died. One would get lethargic and the next day be dead. That started around two weeks and the last one died at about 2-1/2 months so I don't think It was failure to thrive. It wasn't blackhead or at least the symptoms did not match. I have not tried turkeys since.
 

journey11

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A few years back I got four Palm White Turkey hatching eggs shipped to me. I put them in the incubator and week later put I some chicken eggs so they would hatch at the same time. I only got one of the four turkey eggs to hatch and I had to help it hatch. It was shrink-wrapped for some reason. Anyway it did fine and tasted great at Thanksgiving. I named it "Pilgrim", partly for its special day and party because it reminded me of John Wayne the way it strutted around. I put deer netting over the run to keep him from flying out.

The next year I got five hatching eggs from the same source. I included chicken eggs just like the year before to have chicks to raise with them. All five of those turkey eggs hatched. Yeah, all five shipped eggs. Wow! One had a deformed foot and just couldn't keep up. It was a runt, stayed real skinny, and just couldn't move around. I finally and probably too late put it out of its misery. You could tell it was suffering. Wish I'd done it sooner.

The other four died. One would get lethargic and the next day be dead. That started around two weeks and the last one died at about 2-1/2 months so I don't think It was failure to thrive. It wasn't blackhead or at least the symptoms did not match. I have not tried turkeys since.
Oh, that sounds eerily similar to what occurred with mine. They were exactly two weeks old when the first one died. I would notice that one would become lethargic and sleepy compared to the others and without a doubt the next day I would find that one dead. It seems to be a very common problem, from what I read in several threads on BYC. No one really had any specific answers for me. I do know as a whole they weren't consuming much feed or water. I wouldn't think it could be a disease to strike so randomly and only kill one every few days. Turkeys just seem to have a more fragile constitution than chicks do. :idunno

The few things I did differently with the two that made it was to back the heat lamp off a little more, switched them gradually from cistern water to city water, put Nutridrench in their water, put some glass pebbles in there for sparkle, and dipped their beaks in the water a couple more times to hope they'd figure it out. From the start, these turkeys have been really nervous and jumpy too. They hit the deck every time I come to check on them, so I have yet to actually observe them eating and drinking.

@Nyboy , for the length of time I had them before they started dropping off, it really wasn't anything I could trace back to the breeder. They were five days old and quite lively when I bought them. Most hatcheries only give you 48 hours to claim any losses. I guess I should have done a necropsy. I could have ruled out a few things maybe. One other thing I might suspect would be impacted gizzard from possibly eating their bedding material.
 

journey11

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Yeah, they really wanted to play with these too, but I didn't think that would be a good idea. They usually have a ball playing with the baby chickens as they grow.
 

baymule

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If you get a breeding pair, I do believe Bourbon Reds will brood their own young. Which would be a much better scenario, letting Momma raise them. On BYC, there is a turkey thread and one of the members has a lot of Bourbon Red turkeys. Hers go broody and raise their own poults.

I hope these remaining two stay healthy. I've thought about turkeys, but thinking about it is a s far as it has gone. Haha, MY DH knows better than to say, "I've always wanted _________" in reference to ANY animal. :lol:
 

journey11

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I was considering Midget Whites myself, actually, but these Bourbon Reds came available at a good price, and I liked the fact that they can breed naturally. I'll have broody hens too, and maybe put a few eggs under.

I am just learning about turkeys and still have a lot of studying to do! I am nervous about how to house them over the winter. I think they'll be too young to go outside, so I'll have to set something up in the garage instead. I've also heard not to let brooder raised turkeys out on the ground until at least 6 months old, that they need time to build up their immune system first. I can't imagine how a farm animal could be so "fragile", but after losing 4 of them right off the bat, I've been erring on the side of caution. :\ I think that is a benefit of raising them with their mother, that they should be hardier and can go right out.
 
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