Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Turkey update

For those of you that haven't read the previous blog on our turkeys, I will give you a quick outline. We were given 2 turkeys that were in a very bad state, May 2012. We named them Cranberry (the hen) and Paxo (the tom). These were hopefully going to be our breeding pair. Paxo was so fat he could hardly walk and had to roost on the floor. Within 3 months he had lost weight, was walking fine and even flying up on the coop every night to roost.

February 2013 we found our first egg in the turkey house. We were excited at the prospect of rearing poults naturally and allowed Cranberry just to get on with it. She laid 11 eggs and then went broody. We wrote down the date that she started sitting and worked out when they were due. Everything was going fine. We had a problem with the chickens going into the turkey house and so we started to shut the turkeys in the run to keep the chickens out.
The largest egg is the turkey egg, the other 2 are hens eggs.

Cranberry was appearing to be a brilliant mum, only coming out once a day for food, water and a dust bath, normally at feeding time in the afternoon.
One day Kev (who is normally at home all of the time) had to go out. When he returned Cranberry was outside the pen pacing trying to get back in. It's funny how she could fly over the fence out of the pen but hadn't worked out how to get back in! We didn't know how long she had been out so we just opened the gate and let her back in.
When the due date arrived and nothing happened, we decided to candle the eggs. They all looked like they had started to grow and then stopped. This must have been the time Cranberry flew over. We were very disappointed, mainly for her as she had sat for 4 weeks and nothing would come of it. We took the eggs away and just gave up on the idea for this year.

About 2 weeks later we noticed that Paxo was mounting Cranberry again at every opportunity. We crossed our fingers and hoped, without really believing, that Cranberry would lay more eggs. Within 4 weeks of taking the eggs away she was laying again. This time we took 2 of the eggs and put them in the incubator. We were determined to get at least one poult this time.
Reading on the internet rearing poults in the incubator is a very hard job. The eggs needed turning 5 to 7 times a day. This was impossible with our way of life, plus we had a hen die while she was sitting so hens eggs were placed in there too. We turned the eggs 3 times a day as we did the chickens eggs. The chickens eggs hatched within a week and then we candled the turkey eggs. Yeah they were both growing fine.
At this time Cranberry had got her clutch up to 11 eggs again and started to sit. She was a week behind our eggs in the incubator. This time if we went out we made sure she had water and food inside the house and we shut her in for the day.
We had visitors the week the incubator eggs were due and they got to watch them hatch. The first thing that we noticed was what massive feet they had! Both eggs hatched and we had 2 little poults, fantastic!

This one had splayed legs so a splint was put on. Within hours it was walking.

A week later was the due date for Cranberry. On the Friday we wanted to see what was going on and so in the evening at feeding time we waited for her to come out. We were going to sneak in and have a look to see what was happening. She came out of the house, ate a little food in front of it, walked around the house 3 times and went straight back in. We were so frustrated! We wanted to know if she had hatched any!
The next day we were working in the garden when we noticed Cranberry outside the house. We went running and inside the house were 7 little turkey poults. Wow, fantastic, none to 9 in a matter of a week!

Cranberry was the best mum, protecting her little brood at all times.  She brought them out at 2 days old to meet us and their dad. He was displaying all over the place. He wasn't bothered at all by the poults allowing them to run around him. Feeding time was funny as the little poults were copying dad eating but whilst standing under him.
All of this was an absolute pleasure to see. The poults have been taught well by mum and dad. They forage for themselves and are now almost 4 weeks old. Mum is happy to let them roam at a safe distance too.
The poults were 2 weeks old when we noticed Paxo mounting Cranberry again. At 3 weeks old Cranberry started laying another clutch of eggs. This will be her 3rd clutch this year! We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will hatch another brood successfully.

These are the 2 poults from the incubator. I am mum and they follow me around and call to me if they can't see me. This is them at 4 weeks old roosting on the gate we have on the terrace. This week they will be put outside on the land and allowed to free range.
Photo: Look what I saw tonight...first night roosting with babies under her wings...fantastic!
Cranberry roosting with her poults under her wings.
We are so happy that everything has worked for us and our breeding pair seem to be happy and content with their lives. It has been a roller coaster of a ride at times, but to see mum and the poults out on the land doing what nature intended is just a priceless experience!