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How to Raise Baby Turkeys (Brooder Stage)

Learn how to raise baby turkeys after they hatch from their egg and are small enough to hold in your hand. They aren’t much different than raising a chicken.

Baby turkey in a man's hands.

Free Range organic turkeys are extremely expensive at over $8 a pound. This game bird can be difficult to find so we decided to try raising turkey poults ourselves. We chose the Bronze Breasted turkey poults, and our results were astounding! 

After they hatch from their egg and are small enough to hold in your hand, turkeys have a few differences, but aren’t much different than raising a chicken.

Learn these slight differences in  how to raise baby turkeys by knowing what supplies you’ll need, how to create a proper turkey brooder, and food and water requirements.

Baby turkeys in a brooder.

When Should I Purchase Baby Turkeys?

It’s important to consider when you plan to butcher your turkey as well as the breed. Broad breasted domestic turkeys take 16-20 weeks to mature, while heritage turkeys take longer at 24-28 weeks. We purchased our baby turkeys (or poults) in May so that they would be adult turkeys and ready for harvesting at Thanksgiving time.

Are Baby Turkeys Hard to Raise?

Baby turkeys are not difficult to raise. They are more susceptible to cold temperatures and respiratory diseases than baby chicks, so you’ll need to take extra precautions. Baby turkeys need to be kept warm with fresh bedding for the first eight weeks of life.

Poults (baby turkeys) are bigger birds therefore they need more space than chicks. The more brooder space you give them, the more they will thrive.

Since turkeys are a bigger bird, they will eat more than a chicken. It’s important that baby turkeys eat a diet high in protein, especially for the first eight weeks of their lives.

Can You Raise Turkeys and Chickens Together?

To keep your turkeys healthy, do NOT raise them with chickens. In addition to different temperature and nutritional needs, raising turkeys with your chickens increases their risk of getting blackhead disease which can be deadly to turkeys.

What Will I Need to Raise Baby Turkeys?

  • Brooder – A brooder (or a brooding house) is where your baby turkeys will live. We bought a metal 8’X2’ trough at Tractor Supply and it worked really well. We kept the trough in our house so the poults would remain at room temperature. After a few weeks, they were able to jump out, so I built a custom cage on top to prevent this. 
  • Heat Lamp – Baby turkeys need to be kept warm for the first several weeks of life so heat lamps are important. If your poults are resting far away from the heat lamp then it’s too hot. If they are huddled up together in a pile then they aren’t warm enough. We started with a standard heat lamp bulb, but noticed that our birds were less agitated and seemed to rest better at night with a red bulb. Pro-Tip: When you bring your poults home, set the heat lamp at 95 degrees. You can gradually reduce the heat by 5 degrees per week until your turkeys are fully feathered.
  • Bedding – Baby turkeys should be kept warm and dry. Pine shavings are a great bedding for baby turkeys. Make sure that the shavings are big enough that they can’t be ingested by the baby turkeys. Lay several inches down and make sure to remove any visible turkey waste. Lay fresh bedding as needed.
  • Feeder – Baby turkeys will need a heavy duty plastic feeder base that sits on the ground to begin with. As the turkey grows, you will raise the feeder off the ground.
  • Waterer – Baby turkeys need a lot of fresh water. We love this threaded poultry water base that easily connects to a one quart mason jar. Pro-Tip: Baby turkeys can easily drown so start with this small waterer and move up to the half gallon size as they grow.
  • Roosting Bar – One may ask, “Do turkeys need roosting bars?” This is optional at the baby stage, but if you’re able to provide them a roost in their brooder, as the poults grow, they will begin to use it at a very young age. Adult turkeys are naturally roosters, so providing them with a roost will help them to feel safer and help them to sleep better. Grab this free tutorial for building a turkey shaw once your turkeys are old enough for pasture.
Turkey feeder in a brooder.

What Do Baby Turkeys Eat?

Baby turkeys need to eat a blend created especially for their development and growth. Never feed a poult food created for older turkeys as this will create a choking hazard. 

You can find turkey starters at any farm or feed store but choose one that contains at least 28 protein grams per serving since young turkeys have a high protein feed requirement. We like this New Country Organic Turkey Starter that we were able to get at our local feed store.

We recommend fermenting young turkey feed. To ferment their feed, soak it for 2-3 days and then scoop out rations with a strainer.

Baby turkeys will also need grit (small rocks) and will enjoy fresh greens from your garden.

Magic water for baby turkeys.

What Do Baby Turkeys Drink?

Baby turkeys need lots of fresh water which should be kept slightly off the ground to help keep it clean. We were told that we would probably lose several of our baby turkeys in the first couple weeks so for four weeks we gave them magic water.

Pro-Tip: We found that our baby turkeys would jump up onto the waterer and poop into their fresh water so we taped a plate onto the top of the waterer to prevent this.

Supplies Needed for Making Magic Water

  • ½ Gallon Mason Jar – This size jars works perfectly for making a couple days worth of magic water.
  • Long Handled Spoon – You’ll want to make sure your ingredients are well blended.
Baby turkey on top of a waterer.

Ingredients Needed for Making Magic Water

  • ½ Gallon of Fresh Water – Tap water works fine.
  • ½ Cup Honey – I recommend using local honey.
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – Crushed garlic blends best.
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar – We like Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar.

How to Make Magic Water

  1. Pour honey, garlic, and apple cider vinegar into your mason jar and stir well.
  2. Add warm water to fill the jar
A boy tossing feed out to turkeys.

When Can Baby Turkeys Go Outside?

Now that you have learned all about the brooder stage and what baby turkeys eat and drink, it’s important to know the right time to put them out to pasture.

Your poults will be ready to go outside at about eight weeks of age. At this age, they will have all their feathers and don’t need the constant warmth of the heat lamp. If your nights are still cool, continue to provide them with a heat lamp at night.

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Hi, I'm Justin

I share from a love of teaching and the sustainable movement. Here, you’ll find exhaustive permaculture articles, plentiful photos, cinematic educational films and business tips and tricks.

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