Poults Critical First Days
By CEVA LABORATORIE
"CEVA Laboratories expresses appreciation to World Poultry Magazine, published by the Farmers Publishing Group, England, for permission to reprint portions of the article which appeared in the March 1986 issue of World Poultry Magazine. The author, Derek Jee, is Deputy Editor of the magazine. CEVA has taken the liberty of changing certain British English terms to American English for this article."
Day old turkeys have been described as suicides looking for somewhere to happen. More than any other species of poultry, getting them through the first days of their lives is absolutely critical, whether they are stock destined for breeding or fattening.
They need what is described as tender loving care (TLC), which includes thorough preparation of the house, correct preheating, proper lighting and the provision of adequate feeders and drinkers.
Any signs of poults huddling together and you have a potential disaster on your hands, but get them over the first six to eight days of their lives and half your problems are over. A specially designed brooder house is essential, preferably one with a controlled environment.
Temperature at day old should be 102 - 104°F for the house. After the first seven days the temperature can be reduced by 5ºF per week.
All drinkers, feeders, lighting and ventilation equipment should be thoroughly checked well before the poults arrive, and house temperatures should be at the correct level at least 24 hours before delivery is due.
Use Cardboard brooder guards to protect poults from drafts and make sure lighting is adequate - - as bright as possible for the first few hours.
Additional feed should be put in the poult feeder lids for the first week and all feeders adjusted so that the lip is at poult beak height. Use supplementary drinkers for the first two weeks, by which time the young turkeys should be fully accustomed to using the automatic feeders and drinkers.
Poults should be eating and drinking regularly within 48 hours of delivery - - less than that if they have had a long journey. If they are not, starveouts will begin to arise at 5 days of age.
Lighting should be continuous for the first 36 - 48 hours, although within the first 12 hours it is a good idea to give the flock a short dark period - - maximum of and hour - - to get them used to it. From then on cut light back fairly rapidly until 14 hours (or natural day length) is reached by five days of age.
To help the poults find feed and water, light intensity should be at its maximum for the first 24 hours. Cut this back to about 60 per cent of maximum thereafter to prevent vent and wing pecking. Poults are not normally beak-trimmed before seven days of age, often later.
Looking after poults is mainly common sense. But such is their apparent death wish you will need to spend time with them just watching their behavior. The key signs to impending disaster are huddling and proportion of the flock failing to find feed and waters.
Having gotten the flock through its poult stage and into growing quarters at perhaps five weeks of age, management will then show wide variations depending upon whether they are reared as breeders or as fattening birds and, if the latter, at what age they will be killed.
All turkey feeds should be crumbled (starter ration) or pellet form. Most feed companies offer a very high protein (27%) super-starter ration for use to four weeks of age, followed by a lower protein starter (23% protein) to be fed to around nine weeks.
Birds suitable for killing at 12-13 weeks would then be put on a special early finisher (20% protein) but those destined for further growth would be transferred to a rearer feed (19% protein).
Flocks for slaughter at around 17 weeks of age would go from this to a "super" finisher (18% protein) at 14 weeks, while the real heavy-weights for killing at over 21 weeks and then be transferred to a "standard" finisher (14% protein) until slaughter.