Place the poults in the brooding quarters and give them feed and water within 24 hours after hatching, the sooner the better. Poults may be started on covered or uncovered litter (see ''Litter for Brooding'' and "Litter Manage- ment'') ; on asphalt roofing (not tar paper) ; on wire or slat ñoors (see ''Wire Floors for Brooder Houses" and "Slat Floors for Brooder Houses") ; or in batteries.
To start the poults on covered litter, put down about 2 inches of suitable litter material distributed evenly over the brooder house floor. On top of this litter, under the hover and 1Y¿ to 3 feet beyond it, place a layer of strong, rough-surface paper and enclose it by a brooder ring, or poult guard (fig. 12). After 5 or 6 days, remove the paper and allow the poults on the litter, which should be deepened to about 4 inches after another week. To start a brood of 250 poults on asphalt roofing, place a layer of the thick, waterproof roofing directly on the brooder house floor to cover an area about 9 feet in diameter, includ- ing the hover.
The roofing helps to insulate the poults from the floor, an especially impor- tant consideration if the floor tends to be damp or cold. Then sprinkle a thin layer of sharp, clay-free sand or fine gravel on top of the roof- ing. The poults can remain on this surface for up to 3 weeks, after which the roofing can be taken up for possible re-use or it can be kept there but covered with litter. It is not neces- sary to use sand on top of the roofing, but it is desirable. If sand is not used, add litter on top of the roofing as well as on all of the brooder house floor when the poults are 5 to 7 days old.
Litter for Brooding For starting poults on uncovered litter, non- splinty softwood shavings is one of the few suitable materials generally available. Bright, clean, wheat straw sometimes can be used, but it must be free from chaff and all other small particles. However, with these and most other litter materials, it is safer either to confine the poults on a bare rough surface or sand- covered surface for 5 or 6 days as suggested above or start them in batteries for 5 to 10 days.
There is a fairly wide choice of litter to use after the first few days, including shavings, wheat and beardless barley straw, peat moss, shredded cane, rice hulls, processed flax straw, and cedar tow. Peanut hulls, crushed corncobs, and shredded corn stover make good litter, but they may contain harmful molds unless they are promptly and thoroughly dried. There are other satisfactory litter materials, hut selec- tion should be based on reliable recommenda- tions and guaranteed freedom from molds.
Among litter materials not recommended for brooder-house use are splinty shavings, saw- dust, oat hulls, cottonseed hulls, dried beet pulp, and the straws of rye, oats, and bearded barley. The brooder ring, or poult guard (fig. 12), should be 16 to 18 inches high and can be made of I/2- to %-inch-mesh lightweight hard- ware cloth or %- to 1-inch-mesh lightweight chicken wire; the %-inch mesh is preferred. Heavy corrugated paper or lightweight aluminum roll sheeting sometimes is used as a poult guard in cold weather in large, open brooder houses to shield the poults from cold drafts.
If paper is used, it usually needs to be supported by the wire ring or other stiff material. The poult guard usually encircles the hover I14 to 3 feet out from it. After a week it can be removed or it can be enlarged and retained for a second week, which often is desirable.
A male turkey is called a tom or sometimes called a gobbler, and a female turkey is called a hen. In some types of wild turkeys males and females can be told apart by the breast feathers. Males' breast feathers have black tips, females’ are brown. Some types of domestic turkeys must be artificially bred, other types can breed on their own. For a wild turkey the breeding season is in March and April. To attract females, in both the wild and domestic turkey, the male will gobble and strut, fanning out his tail feathers. This dance attracts the female for mating. Males breed with more than one female. Even in domestic turkeys that cannot mate without human intervention, the male will still strut around trying to attract a female. The incubation period of a turkey egg is about 28 days. Nesting period is mid-April through mid-June; peak hatch time is about mid-May. Wild turkeys will lay on 8-16 eggs at a time; 12 is the average. Baby turkeys are called poults. Wild turkey poults cannot fly until they are about 2 weeks old.
The maximum recorded lifespan for a turkey in captivity is twelve years and four months. For turkeys living in the wild, the maximum is less than ten years, but the average life expectancy of a male turkey is just over 2 years and just over 3 years for females. Some domestic male turkeys often grow too large and too heavy to carry their own weight after their first year. Domestic turkeys bred for food consumption were not bred to live over one year.
Turkeys will take care of their own grooming needs. If you own wild turkeys and do not wish for them to fly away, their wings need to be clipped on a regular basis.
Separating the Sexes
The sex of day-old poults may be determined by examining the vent.* The procedure is the same as with chicks, and as with chicks, both study and practice are required to obtain ac- curacy and speed. Commercially sexed poults are available at many hatcheries. Where accurately sexed day-old poults are available at reasonable cost, raising toms and hens separately is practicable. Advantages are : (1) Injuries to the hens due to treading in the later growth stages are eliminated; (2) hens can be marketed at an earlier age than the toms without loss of grade due to injuries oc- curring when the sexes are separated during the loading operation; (3) there appears to be less fighting and competition among the toms when hens are not present; and (4) sex- separated flocks sometimes can be fed more efficiently, using the complete feeding plan.* In mixed-sex flocks, treading by the toms is likely to occur in the later growth stages of early-hatched flocks but is unlikely to be notice- able in flocks hatched later than about April 15 in the central and northern areas of the United States.