What is Brooding?

In my January blog post you were introduced to these little gals as they arrived at our farm and made themselves at home.

In the video above, the poults are babies, one day old, and in pens. During the time poults are in pens is referred to as brooding. The length of time for brooding poults is generally up to 5 to 6 days depending on how the birds are doing.  The amount of chore time dedicated to brooding is significant. Someone is in the barn most of the first day to ensure the poults are spreading out, eating, drinking, warm enough, and that all systems are working properly. The poults are tended to numerous times during the day throughout each day of brooding.  The red Plasson waterers in all of the pens are emptied and rinsed many times during the brood to ensure the water remains cold and fresh.  The green water lines are called Ziggity watering systems. The water lines are flushed every day as well to promote bacteria free water. The feeders and scratch pads are topped off numerous times per day with fresh feed to encourage eating. A worker being in the barn also keeps the birds up and active as they are very interested in people and will often flock to you if you stay to too long in the pen. The pens are made new for each flock with 18” cardboard which is cut specifically to the size of pen required for the brood barn. They are held up with metal stands.

Each day during the brood, all of the feeders are filled with fresh feed.  The process begins by grabbing feed scoop(s) and filling the feed cart with feed.  The feed is  brought into the barn from the feed tank outside.  It is augered into the barn and into the feed cart through the feed fill system. In this photo you see the fill system filling a feed box for one of the feed lines. To fill the feed cart, the white plastic tube goes into the feed cart instead of the feed box.

When the feed  cart is full of feed, it is pulled around the barn to each pen and the feeders in the pen are hand filled using the feed scoops.

During this time, the workers are evaluating the health of the flock, the temperature of the barn, the height of the feeders and waters, the ventilation and the humidity which can all fluctuate depending on the flock and the weather conditions.  Because ventilation is so important, I will address it in another blog post.

Feeding turkeys during brooding is a lot of manual work. Along with assessing flock heatlh, air quality conditions and feeding, the workers are also adding new dry litter as necessary and filling in depressions in the litter created when too many turkeys want to sit in the same spot.  The barn temperature during brood is around the 90 degree range.  We all rather enjoy it when the feed cart is empty, knowing we did a very important job very well.

When it is determined the poults are ready to be let out of pens and to have access to the entire barn, all the brooding equipment is removed and the middle feed and water lines are lowered.  We call this process letting birds out of pens.  We start at the far end of the barn and begin by taking  down and removing  the draft shields, metal stands and the feeders.This is a big job that requires lots of careful walking to ensure the little turkeys running around are not hurt. Turkeys are very inquisitive and are quickly running around the barn.

The above video clip is of the same flock at 3 weeks of age.

At age 4 weeks 5 days they will be moved to the finishing barn.  Stay tuned!

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