Caring for the Brood: Week #2-6

The Need for Space

As poults grow and mature, they will need space. Have you ever watched a turkey hen with babies? If you’ve ever raised chickens naturally, you’ll notice immediately: the lil’ birds are very independent. While chicks hover about a hen’s feet, poults wander and stray. In fact, by 1 week of age we hardly ever see them within 2 feet of the hen, unless they need warmth. If weather is warm, they may begin roosting by two weeks of age! These fellas are wild to the heart!

We’ve found that giving the mama space is crucial to the success of the brood. In the wild, poults will be out from underfoot in a week’s time and hens become less and less particular about foot placement. We’ve found this to be true with our heritage hens. It’s just how they are wired. Make space for poults to move about or you may lose some of ’em!

We upgrade to a larger pen at 5-7 days of age. The 4x6ft run on our turkey tractor is quickly outgrown. The nesting box detaches and can go wherever we move the hen! Cool, hey?

The New Pen

At this point we move the little family into the main pen. Sectioning off a corner, their nesting box may be added. The hen is exposed to the other birds again, they to the poults and when the days comes, transition should be smooth.

Can you turn poults in with the other birds at 1 week of age? Maybe! You could try. Its a risk as the other birds may pick on the little guys. We choose to not to, partially because of the fencing we use.

While we love our deer fencing wire, it has its downfalls. Poults can easily pop through it until 6 weeks of age! Being independent they will wander far. Some get lost. They are an easy target for predators with mama stuck behind the wire!

For this reason we section off a corner of the main pen by running chicken wire or another type of small-woven wire along the bottom of the deer fencing and form a semi-circle. Chicken wire is adequate for this purpose. Go with 4 ft stuff. Poults will begin flying soon and you don’t want ’em to get through the deer wire and separate themselves from mama!

Ensuring Security

After running the wire, check for small spaces underneath it. Check for dips or holes in the landscape and block ’em with rocks or pieces of 2×4.

Make certain that their nesting box, water, feeder and anything else in the pen is pulled away from the fence. Baby birds are infamous for cramming themselves into tight places, getting stuck and waiting for rescue (and sometimes starving to death).

Want to see our setup? Go to my facebook page, look for “Hen & Poult Care” and click on the video labeled “Poult Care-Fencing.” You’ll see it all!

 

Food, Shelter and Water

If you have spring rain (as we do), make certain your hen has access to shelter and a dry place. Equally important is dry food and access to it without getting wet! Due to my oversight, we lost a poult due to this spring’s rain.Four signs that your poult is too cold? They include:

  • sluggish behavior
  • hunched posture
  • closed eyes
  • gently swaying or rocking back and forth

Once you see the signs, its usually too late. We tried!

Check out the video on my facebook page under the”Hen & Poult Care” section. Click “Poult Care-In the Rain”

 

 Upgrading Your Bird’s Feeding & Watering System

As poults grow, they need to upgrade from their shallow water and feeding dishes! They quickly bring their own manure into open containers. If there’s anything that will make your birds sick, an intake of their own droppings will do it!

Go to videos on my facebook page and under “Hen & Poult Care” click the video labeled “Poult Care-Upgraded Watering System.” Next to it you’ll also see “Upgraded Feeding System.”

 

Roosting

Poults love to roost. Some begin early as 2-3 weeks of age. How soon should you introduce roosts to your birds? It depends on the outdoor temperatures! If its a wet-and-cold spring, introducing a roost may not be wise until poults have their full adult feathers for warmth. Making ’em stick to the ground (and mama’s body temperatures) is usually a safe guarantee. However, if you have warm summer night, go ahead and give ’em a roost soon as they’ll take it. Just be aware that they may use it as a ticket to get over their wire!