14 Interesting Facts About Baby Turkeys

A group of baby turkeys and mother turkey

In the world of big fowls, it is fascinating to see something as adorable as baby turkeys. With their unique behaviors and characteristics, the early life stages of these birds are crucial to their development into adult turkeys.

As they come out into the world around them with natural curiosity, their journey is full of learning and adaptation. From the moment they hatch, they are on the move, following their mother and mimicking her actions. 

This article aims to spark your interest in these sociable and lovable little birds. Follow us as we go through amazing facts about baby turkeys, such as their appearance, environment, diet, care requirements, and more!

14 Interesting Facts About Baby Turkeys

1. Baby turkeys are called poults

Three baby turkeys called poults

A baby turkey is known as a poult, which comes from the old French word ‘poulet,’ meaning ‘young fowl.’ They are also sometimes called chicks, a term they share with baby chickens and pigeons. 

They are also referred to as turkeylings in some instances. This name lasts until about 4 to 5 weeks of age, marking a significant period in their development.

As they mature further, the males are referred to as jakes and the females as jennies before reaching full adulthood. This transition from poult to jake or jenny is a critical phase, filled with learning and adaptation.

Fun Fact: A group of turkeys, regardless of age, is known as a rafter, reflecting their communal nature and tendency to stay together.

2. Mother turkeys give birth to only one brood of baby turkeys a year

Mother turkey and her baby turkeys

A mother turkey is known for her commitment to a single brood of baby turkeys each year. Her clutch typically consists of a substantial number of eggs, ranging from 4 to 18 in number, with an average of 10 to 15.

They are distinguishable by their white to pale buff color, adorned with brown spots. 

Their size, measuring between 2 and 2.7 inches in length and 1.6 to 1.9 inches in width, makes them larger and pointier than those of chickens or ducks.

Additionally, the incubation process, solely undertaken by the hen, lasts about 28 days. During this time, she exhibits remarkable dedication and care, ensuring the safe development of her eggs.

Fun Fact: Though just as tasty and full of nutrients, turkey eggs are not as popular at the dining table compared to chicken eggs. This is due to several factors, including their rarity and cost.

3. Baby turkeys stay with their mothers until they are about four months old

Young baby turkeys following their mother

A mother turkey closely stays with her poults for up to four months after they hatch, especially during the first eight weeks of life. 

This period is crucial as the poults’ feathers are not fully developed, making them vulnerable to cold. The mother’s warmth and protection are vital during this early stage of their lives.

In colder environments, human caretakers often use a heat lamp to ensure the young turkeys stay warm and dry, particularly at night.

After the first two months, the poults’ feathers are usually fully developed, allowing them to regulate their own body temperature. 

However, they continue to stay with their mother for up to four months, learning essential survival skills like foraging for food and evading predators.

4. Baby turkeys experience a high mortality rate 

Three baby turkeys in a farm

Unfortunately, despite the mother turkey’s efforts to keep her poults alive, 50% of turkey chicks die before they reach adulthood. In fact, 25% of them do not even reach four weeks old. 

Factors affecting the death of poults include predators, illnesses, unsuitable temperatures, improper diet, and injuries.

My curiosity on this topic led me to a study highlighting the relationship between turkey poults’ mortality rate during the early stages of life and starvation. 

The results of the study made me realize that the reported mortality rate of 6% in baby turkeys within their first week of life is primarily due to factors such as “starve-outs” and yolk sac infections

5. Turkey poults look different from their adult counterparts

Turkey poult and an adult turkey

Adult turkeys are easily recognizable with their large bodies and decorative tails, similar to peacocks. However, baby turkeys, or poults, present a stark contrast in appearance when compared to their grown counterparts.

At birth, turkey poults wear a light layer of downy feathers, known as a “preen.” These feathers are usually brown, tan, or yellow, making them look more like baby chickens than future majestic turkeys. 

The smallest breed, the Royal Palm, weighs under a pound at birth, while larger breeds can weigh up to four pounds.

Furthermore, wild and domestic turkey poults exhibit different color patterns. Wild poults tend to have camouflage-like coloring, blending with nature to evade predators. 

On the other hand, domestic poults showcase a diverse color palette, ranging from white to bronze.

Check this video to clearly see the physical difference between turkey poults and their adult mother:

Mother Turkey with Poults

6. Turkey poults have a rapid development phase

Two young turkey poults sitting in the grass

A baby turkey’s journey to maturity begins remarkably early. Equipped with an “egg tooth,” much like other baby birds and reptiles, they break free from their egg, ready to encounter the world. 

Once hatched, poults waste no time in getting acquainted with their environment. Within 12 to 24 hours, they are on their feet and are already able to leave their nest, and within hours, they can run! 

By about two weeks old, young wild turkeys can fly short distances or up to 50 feet — a skill that allows them to roost in trees with their mothers and enhances their survival.

Remarkably, all turkey species demonstrate this swift development. This quick learning curve is crucial for wild turkeys to keep up with the flock and ensures they aren’t left vulnerable or isolated.

In captivity, their owners usually keep them in special enclosures that ensure their protection and well-being.

7. Their gender can be determined by what their poop looks like

Wild turkey chick walking in summer

A unique aspect of baby turkeys, or poults, is that their gender can be identified through the shape of their droppings. 

Male poults typically have spiral-shaped droppings, while females have ones that are shaped like the letter “J.” This unique characteristic provides a natural, easy method for gender determination.

Additionally, the size of a poult’s droppings can indicate its age; larger droppings usually belong to older birds. 

These observations are particularly useful for caretakers in managing and understanding the growth of their turkey flocks.

Pro Tip: Besides droppings, you can also reveal the sex of turkeys through the sound they make — only male turkeys make the classic ‘gobble’ sound.

8. Turkey poults are very sociable at their young age

Four young turkey poults on perch together

When considering social animals, turkeys might not immediately spring to mind. Yet, these birds are surprisingly social, often regarded as the most sociable among all bird species. 

Their interactive nature can even be compared to commonly recognized social animals like cats and dogs.

At a young age, poults enjoy forming friendships within their flocks and engaging in playful and affectionate interactions with other turkeys. 

Their ability to form lasting bonds highlights their emotional intelligence and capacity for companionship.

Moreover, poults exhibit a high level of friendliness towards humans, similar to that seen in chickens. Their intelligence is evident in their trust and recognition of their owners, making them a viable option as pets.

Fun Fact: Turkey poults develop such a strong emotional intelligence into their adulthood that these birds demonstrate a wide range of reactions.

Some of the emotions they display include mourning the death of a flock member and displaying distress when seeing another in pain.

9. Baby turkeys tend to chirp a lot

Newbown baby turkey

Baby turkeys, or poults, have their own unique set of vocalizations, distinct from their adult counterparts.

They frequently use a high-pitched yelp, especially when they are lost or in need of their parents’ assistance. This sound is different from the yelp of adult turkeys, which is typically a mating call. 

Another common sound from poults is the “kee-kee,” a call used when they become separated from their flock, often heard in situations where flocks are dispersed.

The reasons behind a poult’s chirping can vary. If the temperature isn’t optimal, they chirp more loudly and frequently, signaling discomfort. Chirps can also indicate pain or sickness that may require immediate attention.

Fun Fact: While “gobble” is synonymous with turkeys, it’s just one of over 20 vocalizations these birds make.

10. Turkeys and their poults can be found across North America

Mother turkey and their poults

Wild turkeys, native to North America, are a common sight across various landscapes in the United States and parts of Canada. These birds adapt to diverse environments such as woodlands, forests, and grasslands.

In contrast to their wild counterparts, domesticated turkeys are bred predominantly for consumption. 

They are a global presence, with significant production in countries like the United States, Brazil, and several European nations. 

These turkeys and their poults are primarily raised on farms and are known for being larger with distinct characteristics.

While baby wild turkeys thrive in natural habitats, baby domesticated turkeys are tailored to farming practices.

11. Baby turkeys thrive on a rich and diverse diet 

Baby turkeys eating from the bird feeder

In the wild, baby turkeys indulge in a mix of small insects, berries, grains, and seeds. This varied diet provides the essential nutrients needed for their rapid growth in the early stages of life.

A friend of mine who breeds domestic turkeys has shared an effective diet for his farm-bred poults. He feeds them first with a starter containing 28% protein in the first eight weeks.

He then shifts the diet to a crushed protein grower of 24-26% between eight weeks and six months. Beyond six months, they are transitioned to layer pellets, crumbles, or mash with 16-18% protein content. 

While he occasionally gives snacks like garden trimmings and bread, he limits the quantity he gives to avoid spoiling their appetite for nutritious food.

Additionally, always providing them with fresh, clean water in a shallow dish is crucial for their well-being.

Note: Avoid giving turkey poults chicken layer pellets, breeder mash, and oyster shells. The calcium in these foods may cause liver, bone, and kidney issues.

Additionally, be cautious of giving them foods that may be toxic if consumed in large quantities, such as rhubarb leaves, avocados, and potato peels.

12. Turkey chicks prefer a warm environment

Baby turkeys in the coop

Turkeys, like many birds, hatch from eggs that require a constant source of warmth. This warmth, typically provided by a roosting mother turkey, is crucial for the development of the chicks within the eggs. 

The heat ensures that the chicks grow properly before they’re ready to hatch.

After hatching, poults still require a warm environment to thrive. A warm setting is essential for them to maintain their body temperature and to help with digestion and bowel movements. 

This need for warmth remains especially critical in the first few weeks of their lives, a period when they are most vulnerable.

For turkeys raised in captivity, owners use a brooder, an enclosure equipped with a heat lamp, to create a suitable temperature or simulate the warmth usually provided by the mother. 

This controlled environment helps protect the poults from risks like hypothermia, particularly if their down feathers get damp. Ensuring a warm and dry environment is key to the healthy development of these baby birds.

13. Raising baby turkeys can be hard

Woman holding turkey babies on hand

Breeding and raising turkey poults present unique challenges, especially when compared to more common poultry like chickens and ducks.

These birds are particularly sensitive to environmental conditions and have specific nutritional needs that must be met to ensure their well-being.

When raising turkeys, attention to detail is important. Their diet, living conditions, and health must be carefully managed. 

Proper sanitation and disease prevention are also critical, as turkeys are more vulnerable to illnesses that can rapidly spread within a flock. This requires diligent care and monitoring.

Moreover, turkeys are social creatures that thrive in group settings. It’s important to keep them in flocks rather than in isolation. 

If they are housed with other bird species, heightened attention to cleanliness and disease control is essential to prevent cross-species disease transmission, ensuring the health and safety of all birds involved.

14. Caring for baby turkeys involves more than just meeting their basic needs

Baby turkey chick close up

Raising baby turkeys can be a fulfilling experience, but it requires an accurate approach to ensure their overall well-being. Knowledge and preparation are key to nurturing a happy and healthy flock.

Here are some quick tips to effectively care for poults:

  • Set up a specialized turkey brooder to provide a safe and controlled environment.
  • Use a 100-150 watt hanging clamp-style work lamp to maintain a warm temperature, essential for the poults’ comfort and growth.
  • Provide fresh, clean water and high-quality turkey starter mash or crumbles as their primary food source.
  • Regularly sprinkle grit over their food to aid in digestion.
  • Monitor for health issues like pasting up, where droppings stick to the poults, preventing them from being eliminated.
  • Gradually transition the turkeys outside when they show signs of readiness and have developed adequate feathers for outdoor living.

Caring for baby turkeys involves more than just meeting their basic needs; it’s about creating an environment that supports their growth and development. 

With the right care and attention, you can raise a thriving flock that is both healthy and happy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Little baby turkey sitting on an egg

What Are Little Baby Turkeys Called?

The most common terms are “chick,” “poult,” and “turkeyling” for little baby turkeys under four weeks old. Each name carries a unique significance in the world of turkeys.

In the wild, baby turkeys are typically referred to as a “chick,” while in poultry settings, the terms “poult” and “turkeyling” are more commonly used for domestic ones. 

What Is a Group of Baby Turkeys Called?

A group of baby turkeys is collectively referred to as a “brood” or a “chattering.” These terms capture the essence of these young birds’ social nature and their unique ways of communication.

Baby turkey broods, unlike adult turkeys that group mainly during mating season, tend to stay together longer. They often remain as a unit until after their first molt, showing their strong familial bonds during their early stages.

What Do Baby Turkeys Look Like?

Poults are adorned with soft, fluffy down feathers, typically in shades of brown, tan, or yellow. This gives them a distinctive appearance from adult turkeys.

These young birds also have beaks and feet that are often pale pink or yellowish in color. Further, their body shape is elongated compared to baby chickens.

How Long Do Baby Turkeys Stay in the Nest?

Baby wild turkeys typically leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours after hatching. However, for the first 8 to 14 days, or until they can fly, poults return to the nest each night. 

Post this period, they begin roosting in trees with their mother. The length of time they stay with the brood hen varies; male poults usually stay until fall, while females may remain until the following spring.

Are Baby Turkeys Hard to Raise?

Raising baby turkeys presents unique challenges compared to more resilient poultry like ducks and chickens. Their sensitivity towards environmental and nutritional factors makes it a careful endeavor.

While not inherently difficult, baby turkeys require specialized care, particularly because of their higher susceptibility to diseases and respiratory problems. 

They need a diet rich in protein and additional precautions to protect them from cold temperatures and respiratory ailments. However, with proper management, raising baby turkeys can be successfully accomplished.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with all the facts you need about baby turkeys. If you have experiences with poults or have additional questions, please feel free to share them with us in the comments!

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