A Journey Through the Life of These Incredibly Quick Little Learners
Baby turkeys are such adorable little birds. They look nothing like they do in adulthood. They look more like baby chickens with longer bodies. These little birds are warm, soft and incredibly curious. They make friends easily and love to make a noise!
Here are some cool baby turkey facts, as well as some pictures and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Baby Turkey Facts
Baby Turkeys Are Called Poults
Sometimes you might hear baby turkeys being referred to as chicks, usually within the poultry or livestock industries. They are actually called ‘poults‘, originating from the old French ‘poulet’ which means ‘young fowl’.
As they grow, juvenile females are called ‘jennies‘, before becoming turkey ‘hens‘ as adults. Juvenile make turkeys are called ‘jakes’ before becoming ‘gobblers‘ or ‘toms‘ as adults.
There is no specific name for a group of baby turkeys, but a group of non specific turkeys is collectively known as a ‘gaggle‘. They also live in large ‘flocks‘, particularly when kept as livestock.
Turkeys are typically born in a ‘ground nest‘, with their siblings. A mother turkey hen can lay between 8-15 eggs on average in a nest. Some breeds are different than others. For example, the wild turkey lays between 10-14 eggs on average.
The Poop Of A Baby Turkey Can Determine If It Is Male Or Female
Believe it or not, there is a lot you can tell about a baby turkey from it’s poop. For a start you can tell its sex, and it’s age by the size and shape!
Male turkeys poop is a ‘J-shape’ whereas female poop droppings have a ‘spiralled’ shape. The age can be determined by the size of the poop – the larger the poop the older the turkey.
You can tell the sex of a turkey with other observations too, particularly the noises that they make. Males for instance, are the only gender that make the typical ‘gobble’ sound. Young turkeys make a variety of different high pitched chirps.
Baby Turkeys Can Walk And Run Within Hours After Birth
It doesn’t take a baby turkey long to get familiar with their surroundings. When ready to hatch, they break free from their egg with the help of an ‘egg tooth’, which is common with other baby birds and animals such as baby crocodiles.
Once they hatch in the nest, they are up and about, walking within a very short time. Within hours they can run. They need to learn quickly to keep up with the flock and prevent being left behind, isolated or vulnerable. This is important for wild turkeys more so than those in captivity.
Baby Turkeys Grow And Mature Very Quickly
A newborn poult can vary a lot in size depending on the breed. There are two species and 6 subspecies of wild turkey. There are also ten breeds of domestic turkey, which all descend from the South Mexican subspecies of wild turkey. The smallest, (Osceola wild turkey) can weighs as little as 115 grams (0.11 kg) when born. They are tiny! Then there is the Eastern wild turkey which can weight up to 1.8 kg at birth and reach up to 14 kg in maturity.
Domestic turkey breeds can be even larger. They are bred commonly as livestock and prized for their size.
All species of turkey develop quickly though, able to leave their nest within 12-24 hours. By around 2 weeks of age, a young wild turkey will have learned how to fly short distances and will be able to start roosting in trees.
In one example, a poult of the ‘Large White’ domestic breed, grew from 1.65 lbs at 4 weeks old, to 25.10 lbs at 24 weeks old!
Most breeds are considered to be a poult for only the first 5 weeks, maturing into juveniles after that to around 22 weeks. At that point they are considered mature but not yet able to reproduce. Males become sexually mature quicker than females, around 7 months. Females can take between 1 – 2 years to start breeding.
Baby Turkeys Are Social Animals
Baby turkeys are very social animals. They love to play and make friends with other young turkeys in their flock, beyond their own immediate family. They have even been observed making lasting and intentional friendships, leading to strong bonds within their flock. Their social behaviours are much like those you would observe with domestic pets, like cats and dogs.
They can recognise each other by the sound of their voices, and this extends beyond other turkeys, but toward humans and other animals too. Given the chance, they will a wide range of close social bonds.
Baby Turkeys Prefer Warm Environments
Once hatched, baby turkeys leave the warmth of their roosting parents body heat sitting on their eggs. They still love to keep warm though, and in fact they need to be kept warm and dry especially for the first two weeks or so after hatching.
Their environment can play an important part in their development and their health. New bourn poults are very vulnerable to the damp during their first two weeks for example. If their down coat gets wet, they are at risk of hypothermia and this is very dangerous for young poults.
Those kept in captivity will normally be kept in enclosures during the vulnerable stage, with heat lamps to keep the temperature warm.
Baby Turkey FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Turkey?
A baby turkey, also known as a poult, hatches from an egg. The egg is incubated for about 28 days. Once the poult hatches, it is able to walk and find food on its own within a matter of hours. The poult will continue to grow and develop into first a juvenile for a few months, then an adult turkey over the course of several months.
Poults typically stay with their mother until they are fully grown, which can take 4-5 months. After they reach adulthood, they will pair off with a mate and live in their own flock.
The lifespan of a baby turkey, or poult, is about 12 to 18 months.
How Many Baby Turkeys Are Born In A Litter?
The average litter size for turkeys is between 10 and 12 poults, but some litters can be as large as 30. A female can remain fertile for around a month after receiving sperm, and if they lose a roost they have been known just to create a new one.
What Do Baby Turkeys Eat?
Turkeys are omnivorous birds, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. Baby turkeys, or poults, typically eat a diet of insects and other small invertebrates. As they mature, turkeys will consume a greater variety of foods, including seeds, berries and plants. They usually eat lots of insects in the first 4 or 5 weeks and only get a taste for more plants at this time.
Where Do Baby Turkeys Live?
Baby turkeys live in a nest at first, and part of a wider flock with their parents, but they mature quickly. In the wild, they will roost in trees, and in captivity they are often kept in special enclosures for their protection. They are native widely across North and Central America, but were exported widely to Europe as a domestic species for livestock. There are now populations kept far and wide for livestock.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Turkeys?
Baby turkeys have many predators in the wild. The biggest predator of all is us humans, but we tend to like out turkeys grown up, and laid out on a thanksgiving or Christmas table. Baby turkeys have other predators to look out for, particularly canids such as coyotes and wolves, bobcats, mountain lions, birds of prey such as Golden Eagles and Great Horned Owls.
There are also predators that are opportunistic with nests, and will eat eggs before they hatch given the chance. These include raccoons, opossums and skunks, as well as different types of snake and rodents.
Do All Turkeys Gobble?
No, only male turkeys grow up with the ability to create the ‘gobble’ sound. Females make other vocalizations but don’t have the ability to make this distinctive sound.