Inside Our Turkey Hatchery
A Little Bit About Our Hatchery
We maintain our own breeding flock of approximately 60+ breeding hens and approximately 30 tom’s. We have no less then 5 different blood lines. This insures that we raise healthy and strong stock. Turkeys will mature in 9 to 13 months, depending on what Heritage Breed is used. Turkeys, like most poultry, breed by light of day, not temperature, this means in “most cases” turkeys will start laying eggs from early to late March. With increased lighting, the hens may begin laying earlier. After turkeys mate, the fertility of the hen can be maintained from 2 weeks to 2 months. This is dependent on the age of the hen and tom. Year old hens will lay more eggs than older hens but the older hens will lay larger eggs. Hens do not have to mate after every egg.
Heritage Turkeys will lay an egg clutch of 9 – 13 eggs before they will normally start to sit. The amount of eggs can be almost doubled, if two hens are sharing the same nest. Heritage Turkeys like to have their nest well hidden under trees or in tall grass. They will carefully cover their nest, and make an extensive effort to turn their own eggs.
Here at Heritage Turkey Farm, we let our breeder hens out in large pens and let them lay where they want to and then collect the eggs a couple times a day. Our eggs are then held in an automatic turning rack, which exercises the embryo and keeps the yolk from sticking to the shell. (similar to what the hens do naturally). We will hold the eggs for 2-3 days until we have enough to set on one of our incubator racks.
We maintain 2 small commercial incubators, which will hold a couple hundred eggs. But we choose to set only 60-75 eggs at a time. This gives us the ability, to give each hatch the special attention they need. Each egg gets individual attention as we try to give every one of them a chance of survival. One of our motto’s here at Heritage Turkey Farm is that we take it from the “egg to the table”. We give our turkeys the best and healthiest environment we can and produce superior turkeys.
The hatching process takes 28 days. At approximately 2 weeks, after setting the eggs, we candle them to sort out eggs that have not developed. The incubator is maintained at 99.5 degrees. At approximately 3 days before hatch, eggs are removed from the turner and put down in the hatching tray. On hatch day, it can take from 6 – 10 hours for a poult to “hatch out” of it’s shell. They actually create a “hatch on the top of the egg shell. (larger part of the egg) It will take them 3-5 hours to dry off and become stable on their feet. Temperature and humidity are critical in incubation, i.e. too much humidity, the poult will over grow it’s shell and die, too little, and it will not develop.
After the poults have dried off and have become stable on their feet, they are removed from the incubator and put into one of our “grow-out totes”. This is where they will learn to eat and drink. Their beaks are dipped into water and crumble feed is spread onto the bottom. Turkeys will naturally start pecking at what they are standing on. Bottom feed is gradually reduced until they recognize, that the feed is right next to them. They are off to a great, healthy beginning.
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