There are ways to break a broody hen from her broodiness. Many articles have been written on the subject. But we decided to take this as a golden opportunity to raise baby turkeys – the easy way.
What’s a broody hen?
It’s a hen that has decided it’s time to stop laying eggs and sit on them to hatch them out – and sit she shall until they hatch. This is quite problematic if 1.) There are no fertilized eggs or, 2.) You don’t want her to hatch the eggs. Because you see, some hens will become ill from malnourishment or dehydration due to not leaving her nest to eat or drink.
So you can see, after about a week of noticing this hen staying in her nesting box all day, we needed to figure out a solution – especially because some of her hen pals were starting to play copy cat… Well, it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to get our broody hen to raise baby turkeys for me. One of my homesteading goals for this year was to raise turkeys this summer, and this was the perfect chance to do it with very little effort on my part.
A quick search on Craigslist, and two days later I had three baby turkeys in my van!
A note on Turkey Breeds
We like to keep to heritage breeds around here as much as possible, so I was tickled pink when I found day old Bourbon Red crosses just down the street! Why heritage turkeys? Well they are smarter, for one. This means they are less prone to dying from said stupidity – like not drinking water right in front of them. Ehem. Also heritage breed turkeys are more naturally proportioned. Meaning they won’t die from the weight of their breasts at 3 months old. And finally they are better foragers than commercial breeds. Winning all the way around, I’d say.
Why have a Broody Hen Raise Baby Turkeys?
Well firstly, it’s less work for us. No brooder set up, and Mama teaches them how to eat and drink, and she protects them from the elements and predators. And she helps them integrate into the main flock more easily than brooder raised chicks. Also, it eliminates the need for me to have a turkey breeding pair/trio, or at least a turkey hen. On a small scale homestead like ours, I don’t really want to dedicate the space or feed to keeping a full grown turkey year-round. Plus, our layers are perfectly capable of raising them. So its less expensive and less time consuming for me all around to have one of my laying hens adopt them for a while and raise what our family needs until they reach butchering weight.
How to get a Broody Hen to Raise Baby Turkeys (or any chicks)
Okay, so your hen is broody, you’ve found some turkeys or chicks you’d like her to raise and you brought them home in a box or carrier…now what?
Well, prepare yourself for a clandestine affair.
Get your hen in a brooder area, separate from the rest of the flock. This will be where she raises her newly adopted turkeys for a few weeks. We put our broody hen in this area 24+ hours before we introduced the chicks, so she could get used to her new space. We also put a few eggs in her new nest, to complete the illusion. Once your hen is settled, wait until the cover of darkness.
Sneak outside to the brooding nest – she should be in there sleeping – and then quickly and carefully grab your baby turkeys and tuck them underneath the broody hen. Step back and wait a few minutes to make sure there’s no commotion, then cross your fingers and wait until morning. The next morning, if all goes well, you should see a proud mama hen showing off her “newly hatched” chicks 😉
How NOT to get a Broody Hen to Raise Baby Turkeys (or any chicks….)
You had to know things didn’t go completely smoothly, right??
We did the process above exactly and it worked PERFECTLY. Mama hen protects those chicks fiercely and has done a terrific job of teaching them the ropes.
But you see my original plan was to get three easter egger chicks along with the three turkey chicks…but I didn’t hear from the easter egger chick people until AFTER we had introduced the turkeys to the broody hen.
Do you see where this is going??
I knew it was risky, but I really wanted to try. So only one day after we introduced the turkeys, we repeated the process with the three easter egger chicks… my rational was that chicks often hatch out on subsequent days, so maybe she could be fooled a second time…right?
Well, that next morning I found a dead easter egger chick and the two others were cowering from the mama hen. It was super sad. So we collected the two remaining easter egger chicks and set them up in a brooder on our porch. They are doing great now, but lesson learned.
Hen – chick adoptions are all or nothing!
But not all is lost. My daughters each have a little easter egger chick that they are helping me raise, and because it’s summer time we haven’t even needed a brooder lamp. They are already out in the garden most of the day.
Our easter egger chick debacle aside – getting our broody hen to raise baby turkeys has been a huge success for us so far. She’s been a great mama.
She has started bringing them out into the yard – which gives me a heartattack whilst simultaneously making me die from the cuteness. It’s been so fun to watch her care for these chicks, she shows them how to forage, and I’ve seen her on more than one occasion catch a bug, let out a special cluck to which all three come running, and then she gives them the bug. I mean, seriously, how cool is that??
Have you ever had a broody hen raise baby turkeys before? How did it go for you? Share in the comments!
Looking for more information on raising Turkeys? Check out these great resources!
- Getting Started Raising Turkeys
- Raising Turkeys on the Backyard Farm
- Raising Turkeys with Chicks
- Story’s Guide to Raising Turkeys
This post shared at: The Art of Home-Making Mondays