5 hours ago
Friday, February 26, 2010
Turkey Q&A from email
I am an intern at [redacted]. We are
currently working on a show for [redacted].
In my research I stumbled upon your blog and found it very
informative. I was wondering if you could answer some questions about
the life span of your turkeys.
- When do your turkeys mate?
- How long does it take them to hatch?
- When do they hatch?
- Do the chicks stay with their mother? Fathers role?
- When is a turkey considered an adult? How long is it a chick?
- Time of slaughter?
Basically we are looking for exact dates of these events or the dates
when they would be happening. So they could be filmed.
My turkeys start being interested in mating in early february each year. But the end of february they're in full-swing, the toms are trying to out-display the other toms and the hens watch with interest. They'll continue to display and mate throughout the summer, until next november.
small turkeys are called poults
It's 28 days for an egg to hatch, and they lay eggs from march until september. They're still interested in mating, but the egg production tapers off until the next year.
When chicks hatch, if there's any other poults of about the same age, all of the poult and all of the mothers of that batch tend to hang out together. The poults recognize and stick close to their hen, but all of the hens protect all of the chicks -- from other birds in the barnyard, or from percieved predators.
The hens and toms tend to stay in different flocks; there isn't much interaction between the hens and the toms after the chicks are hatched.
A hen turkey, sitting on a nest, will sit there no matter what. I've run over turkey hens with my brush hog (big mower that attaches to the rear of the tractor) and that means that the hen sat there, allowed the tractor to go right over her, and then got caught by the mower behind the tractor. That's a dedicated mother. The last one wasn't in any normal nesting area and I didn't see her in the tall grass. She survived, but lost a bunch of feathers. lucky bird. coyotoes will often pick them off the nest. They don't resist.
Turkeys are slaughtered when they're at the weight desired for the market, or for seasonal use, like thanksgiving. So theres no particular age that a turkey is slaughtered, depends on the use they'll be put to. So a slaughter scene can be filmed pretty much anytime. I slaughter my turkeys the week before thanksgiving and the week before christmas.
the poults require supplemental heat (either via their hen, or via heat lamps) for the first 6 weeks of their life, as they grow feathers and their body gets used to heating itself. After that they're gangly adoloscent turkeys for 2-3 months, and then start getting their adult feathers and weight at about 6 months. All of these figures are for heritage breed turkeys. Broad-breasted turkeys grow much faster and the concern there, at least from a farmers point of view, is that they'll get too big for sale.
Hope that answers your questions.