Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hardening off the Turkeys

It's time to think about making the move for the turkeys from the brooder out to the big world of the barn. So I'm heading over there in an hour or so to re-do some slatted walls that were originally only meant to keep sheep at bay. Since the barn currently has tools and half a loft of hay in it we want to make a small area for the turkeys that we can expand over time and keep them out of the rest of the stuff. The advantage of the barn is that it's fox proof and will help the turkeys get used to living outdoors while still having some protection from the extremes of weather. Right now they are still under the heat lamps in the brooder but we've been cutting back their heat gradually as their feathers come in and we're almost ready to turn the heat off completely.

Some tips for getting your birds ready for the outdoors:

--Get them used to the changes in temperature slowly by decreasing heat from 250 watt, to 150, to 100 and then 60 over the space of a couple of weeks. Then have heat only during the night if it's very chilly. Of course you don't start this process until they have feathers at 4-6 weeks.

--Make sure to use the same feeders and waterers to avoid any confusion for the transition time. Continue with the starter crumbles to make sure they have lots of energy to stay warm for the first week or longer if the weather turns nasty.

--If they have gotten used to going to bed when you turn on a light, consider having a light for them when they're moved. Keep the routine similar.

--Have good dry bedding ready for them to use and limit their area for the first week to a pen or other safe structure. Remember, turkeys and chickens at this age have suddenly learned the joys of flight and can get themselves into all sorts of interesting dilemmas if possible, so cover their pen on the top also. (Then you won't find turkeys peeping at you from the workshop shelves half way up the wall).

--Have a nice dry sheltered place for them to roost. Nothing gets chilled faster than a wet bird.

--And watch them. Pay attention to them and see if they appear happy, alert and drinking.

Our turkeys consist of a couple of little Beltsville White and some Eastern Wild x Broad Breasted Bronze. It's amazing to watch them grow and we're excited to see them explore the outdoors, they're so fun to watch! Turkeys are also amazing grazers and will forage for a good portion of their food if allowed to roam. Free-range turkeys, coming soon to Humblebee Farm!

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