Return of the Turkeys, Part 1

"Most teens’ moms leave notes like ‘There’s lasagna in the fridge, I’ll be back at six,’” my daughter Kelsey observed today. "My life is so weird.”

by Cherie Langlois
This baby Bourbon Red poult was purchased by Cherie
Photos by Kelsey Langlois

“Most teens’ moms leave notes like ‘There’s lasagna in the fridge, I’ll be back at six,’” my daughter Kelsey observed today. “My life is so weird.” 

The note I’d left for her read: “Kelsey, can you please check poult to see if he’s flipped over ASAP?  Just set him upright again (if he’s not dead).  Back soon!  Love, Mom”

I suppose that is kind of weird, now that she mentions it.

As you may have guessed, another turkey saga has begun on our farm. 

This past weekend, we bought four Bourbon Red poults, the heritage variety we raised last year, and two Royal Palms, which will (hopefully) grow into striking white and black turkeys (read about heritage turkeys and see pics here, click on turkeys). 

It's important to keep an eye on the health of the chicks

After setting them up in a brooder box in our mudroom—where I could keep a close watch on these notoriously delicate babies—I spent the evening fussing over them to ensure they had mastered the arts of eating and drinking.  Unlike chicks, poults are slow learners in this regard.  I usually tap the food with my finger and dip their beaks (just the tip) in the water until they catch on. 

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All seemed well, but the next day the smallest Bourbon Red had become sluggish and weak.  After a day of extra babying and dipping her beak in electrolyte water, she seemed to recover.  But then the flipping started.  I kept finding the poor poult on her back, feet kicking, unable to right herself. 

Then, returning home from a school event, we found a different Bourbon Red on its back, barely breathing and cold.  He’d become stuck and exhausted outside the light-warmed area (I should have used a brooder guard), but slowly revived after I warmed him up again.  I placed the two “flippers” together in another box for the night, and sadly, the littlest one died this morning.  The larger one seems pretty much back to normal, but still flips over every so often, so I’m constantly checking on him.   

None of our turkeys last year experienced this strange and frustrating behavior, so right now I’m trying to dig up some answers—that is, when I’m not checking to see if our poults have flipped again.  I’ll let you know next week what I find out.

~  Cherie  

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