Our turkey hens, usually excellent mothers, had to deal with a move in the middle of nesting season. As a result, they were forced to leave nests half full of their clutch–usually around 10 eggs for these hens–and start fresh in an unfamiliar coop. As a result they frequently changed nests, laying their eggs randomly in different nest boxes. Some days all the hens would be stuffed into just one nest box while, peering out like a tricephalic turkey-monster, the eggs in adjoining boxes grew cold. As a result there was no expectation for turkey poults to hatch this year but the determined turkeys sat on what we thought were dead eggs.
So it was a surprise to hear the faint peeping of newly hatched babies a couple of days ago. And today a yet another poult emerged. Two of the hens are determined to be the mommy, squabbling to the detriment of the young. For the sake of the babies the older hen, who successfully hatched two clutches last spring, was chosen to raise them, and was given the poults and separated from the other hen. Meanwhile, the third hen adopted the remaining egg-mountain in the hope that someone else would still hatch out.
Life is always a surprise, frequently a mystery, and profoundly inspiring in its tenacity. In spite of the less-than-alive smell now coming off some of the eggs, another hatchling is not impossible.
The hen, under a primeval spell, will sit until nearly starved unless she hatches a chick.
Or unless your favorite delivery guy at Tractor Supply tells you they just got in day old chicks, and the two of you “hatch” a plan to ensure everyone gets a baby.
Turkeys can’t tell the difference between chicks and poults, and visa-versa. As a plus, adding chicks in with poults actually increases the survivability of the baby turkeys who learn to forage from the more precocious chicks.
At Big Branch Apiary we raise Royal Palm turkeys. These are significantly smaller than most other breeds, closer in size to a peacock to which turkeys are related.
Turkey eggs take around 28 days to hatch. Toms don’t take part in the resting if young and in fact our experience has been that they can be lethal. Once hatched we separate the poults and Toms.
The adventure us just beginning for these little guys. We’ll have to check in tomorrow to see how our multi-species families are faring.