If you’ve decided to hatch your own turkey eggs and raise turkey “poults,” or chicks, this is an ambitious but not impossible task. Turkey eggs will take about 28 days to hatch, and if you’re incubating them, you should stop turning them on the 25th day.
Hatching turkey eggs in an incubator
You can use a chicken incubator for your turkeys; if possible, do a “dry run” with chicken eggs because these are generally easier to handle. When you decide to hatch turkey eggs, keep the incubator to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and at about 40% humidity. On the 25th day, after you stop turning the eggs, keep humidity between 60 and 70%.
The biggest advantage to hatching turkey eggs in incubators that you’ll hatch more eggs because a hen will lay fewer eggs than you can put in an incubator.
Hatching turkey eggs naturally
If you hatch turkey eggs naturally, this can have significant advantages over hatching them in an incubator — although it has its advantages, too. One of the reasons it can be advantageous to hatch turkey eggs naturally is that the poults will learn from watching the mother hen, so that they’ll grow up to raise poults themselves much more naturally.
In general, poults raised by hens are in better health and are stronger than those raised in an incubator, although you’re going to lose some poults either way because hens, too, aren’t perfect; they can step on eggs or allow them to get too cold.
Raising poults in a brooder
Make sure you have everything ready before you put the poults in a brooder. Incubator temperature should be 95 to 98 degrees; watch poults for behavior can tell you whether or not it’s too hot or too cold. If poults sit out on the edges of the brooder, it’s too hot, and if they’re huddled under the heat lamp, it’s too cold.
Don’t take poults out of the incubator before they are dry once they’ve hatched; watch them closely, especially the first two weeks, to make sure they’re behaving properly. Make sure all poults are getting enough to eat, because there is a definite “pecking order” with them, such that little ones or weaker ones will be pushed out even if there is enough food to go around.
Finally, it’s a good idea if you can to put some chicken eggs and with your turkey eggs when you’re hatching them, because the chicken eggs will hatch about a week before the turkey eggs do. The little poults can watch the chicks for clues on how to behave, and they will definitely learn from them.
Once the little poults are drinking and eating all right, you can take the chicks out of the brooder — and in fact you should, because poults are twice the of chicks so that overcrowding can become a problem.
Taking care of the mamma hen if you’re hatching naturally
When you notice your hen is ready to lay, she’ll start looking for a quiet place to nest. You can take her from the nest once she hatches her brood; move little ones and mommy to a secure pen that’s isolated and covered, so that rain isn’t a problem. Make sure before you move mommy and babies to the pen that you’ve put down fresh covering, such as sand, so that the turkeys aren’t exposed to diseases like coccidiosis from other birds that may have previously occupied the pen, or to organisms in soil that are dangerous for them.
If you would like to raise turkeys I would recommend reading the book How To Raise Turkeys. It not only covers which foods to feed your turkeys but it covers a lot of other issues that are important to your turkeys health.