Haskins Family Farm

  (Middletown, Virginia)
Growing for the community, growing for the future!
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Brooding chicks and poults

So we ordered 20 poults (baby turkeys) that arrived this week. Well, actually, we did get 20 turkeys but 13 were dead when we picked them up at the post office. We got a call from the USPS expediter at 11pm (!!) Wednesday night from the local sorting center who said "I've got some turkeys here and I don't they all made it". (That was an understatement.)

Turkeys are one of the hardest birds to brood. Their immune system develops much slower than chickens. A chicken's immune system is fully in place at 4 weeks; a turkey takes twice that amount of time. As one of the apprentices for Polyface says, "Turkeys live to find new ways to die." There is a lot of truth to that statement!

Last season, with our 35 heritage breed turkeys, we lost 10 in the first three days, had the hatchery ship us 10 replacements, and ended up with 27 live birds to butcher at Thanksgiving. (Almost every hatchery has a policy that they will refund or replace any birds that die within 48-72 hours of arrival at the farm.) Several (but not all) of the final 8 that died were later in the season due to my errors ie, too many birds in too small of space.

Both chicks and poults are very susceptible to chilling, and wind exascerbates this problem. Unfortunately, all of our buildings are very drafty and we must use extra heat lamps in our brooders during winter brooding to compensate for this. In fact, we have the latest batch of poults in our basement in order to ensure we don't lose any!

We lost 1/3 of our last couple of batches of chicks before we figured out the effect that wind has on brooding birds. It has been an expensive learning experience, brooding birds on a relative large scale in the winter here in Virginia!!

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