Thursday, 8 October 2015

Overdue Hen

My white turkey, Lilly, overstayed her brooding by 6 days

Brooding is one of the most difficult periods in the life of any naturally incubating bird. During the period the bird limits most of its life activities like roaming, eating, mating and sand-bathing. These activities all play vital role in the total development of any bird.

Turkeys have an incubation period of 28 days. At the start of the period, the hen takes time off the eggs about twice daily using 30 mins or more to explore and feed. However from the 7th day upwards, the broodiness become intense and the hen reduces the number of times it takes time off. In the last week of the brooding period, the hen further reduces the amount of time it stay off the eggs. Mostly the hen limits that to just 5 mins or below! 

When the eggs finally start hatching on the 28th day, the hen totally abandons any form of leave and permanently stay on the eggs 24 hours. It is a crucial period because the eggs need the right temperature to hatch. The mother's brooding temperature is just what the poults need to emerge. After each egg's hatch, the mother provides the protection from the outside weather which would have rather killed it. Normally the last viable egg should hatch after 3 days from the hatch of the first egg. The body of the hen can survive three days on the egg without a break. 


For some reasons however, the hen may stay on the eggs for more days. At the intense brooding start, the hen virtually starves. It stays on the eggs the whole day. That means no water and regular food. It may eat some insects around the nest but the diet will be limited to just that! It is very important to take action if the intense period travels past the third day. Leaving the hen on the eggs after the third day without food and water may end in tragedy.

The ideal situation is to remove all the unhatched eggs and just move the mother and poults from the brooding area. Any attempt to feed the hen while in the intense brooding period will yield the same result because the mother will get the appetite back and abandon any unhatched egg. 

Share your hen brooding experience in the comment section


  1. Enjoying your posts really.
    can you do one on raising turkey from young poults, the housing/cages to use; the healthcare and the feed formula. thank you
    also; my understanding is that turkey thrives better with artificial insemination rather than natural mating; can you confirm this?.
    what should you watch out for when buying turkey poults?

    1. Tope I am very happy you are enjoying the posts. Thanks so much!

      I am working on raising poults project massively with images and videos. I want it to be as simple to understand as possible. The journey will start with the candling series which will start tonight. Afterwards, I will use the produced poults to make the series as easy to understand as possible. It will cover all the topics you have mentioned.

      With regards to artificial insemination, I think that believe stems from the fact that hens avoid mating as much as possible. I have already done a piece on that. If you are on a large scale turkey farming, artificial insemination is the way to go.

      Backyard farmers can do fine with natural mating.