Brooding turkey poults and managing pecking.


Along with assorted chicks, ducklings, and goslings, we are raising two broad-breasted white and two broad-breasted bronze turkey poults.  Despite my warning the children that the turkeys already have a fall date at Munsell’s Poultry Processing, they wanted to name them anyway. I insisted that the names be food related, so the bronzes are named Feast and Leftovers, but one of our daughters humorously named the whites Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

They started out at two days post-hatch in homemade brooder boxes on steel wire shelves in the garage. We use red lights because they are warmer,  but also because turkeys and chicks will peck at each other if they see a wound on one of the birds, to the point of cannibalizing each other. The red light makes it more difficult to detect a wound on each other.


Nevertheless, Leftovers turned out to be a bit of a bully. He pulled some downy feathers off Guildenstern’s wing and made a little wound. That attracted the other birds’ attention, and they were all pecking and picking on poor Guildenstern.

My husband called a work colleague who raises turkeys who said to coat the wound with something called Blue Kote:


Blue Kote is an antiseptic wound dressing for horses, but it not only cleans wounds on poultry, but it also dyes the wound and feathers blue, which disguises it from the other birds so that they will not peck at the injured bird.


I also did some research online, and found the following helpful information about pecking behavior. First, if birds feel overcrowded or overheated they will peck more. So we separated the four turkey poults into two separate brooders. We also raised the heat lamps up in order to lower the temperature in the brooders.

Next, we increased the protein content of their diet by feeding them hard boiled egg that had been run through the food processor shell and all. We also finely chopped some raw beef liver and fed it to them with some finely ground granite chick grit.

I also added 1 teaspoon of seasalt to a gallon of water and used that as their drinking water for a few days in case they were missing any necessary minerals.  And to give them something appropriate to peck at, my husband hung a head of cabbage on a piece of rope into the brooder.

And finally, I moved them outside to a little coop in the backyard and made one of those heating pad “mama hen” brooders I wrote about before.


A wire mesh “cave” covered with a heating pad covered with a towel wrapped in press-n-seal and pine shreds over that makes a cozy outdoor brooder


The poults were thrilled to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine with grass and bugs to peck at instead of each other:


Rosencrantz’s wing is all healed up and Leftovers has been much less peckish.