This is a special guest post by Krysta Morrissey, Senior Animal Welfare Specialist, Global Animal Partnership.
Ever wonder what it takes to raise a turkey? GAP’s standards cover all aspects of farm and flock management, including making sure that young stock are well looked after. Our partners at JD Farms in British Columbia, Canada know all about what it takes to make sure their turkey poults get the right start to life.
At the hatchery
Did you know that it takes 28 days of incubation for fertile turkey eggs to hatch? Specialized operations called hatcheries use large appliances (incubators and hatchers) to provide the ideal environment for developing turkey embryos – the temperature and humidity must be closely monitored and controlled for optimum hatching success. After four weeks, the group of poults begin the hatching process – pecking their way out of the eggs. After they’ve all finished hatching, the hatchery staff will begin transferring them to the containers that will take them to their new home – the farms.
Prepping the barn for the poults’ arrival
In anticipation of the poults’ arrival, the farmers must make sure the barns are ready for their new charges. At JD Farms, they are cleaned and the floors covered with fresh litter (we learned about litter in a previous turkey blog – check it out here) before the poults arrive. Of course, feed and water must be available and ready for the poults to discover once they arrive at the farm. Also, as a way to keep the poults closer to each other and to feed and water, the poults are usually kept in smaller areas within the barn. At JD Farms, the poults are given access to only one side of the barn. The divider will be removed as the birds grow and need more space. Finally, like most young animals, poults need extra warmth to keep them comfortable for the first few weeks of life. The barns are heated to 89-91°F (31.7-32.8°C) to start, and from there, the temperature is gradually reduced each day to match the needs of the turkeys as they grow.
Arrival at the farm
At JD Farms, the freshly hatched poults have a short ride on the truck to the farm – a quick 15 minutes from door to door. When they arrive at the farm, each container of poults is swiftly, but quietly, removed from the truck and unloaded by the farm workers into the barns.
Special care during brooding
“Brooding” is just farm-speak for caring for young poultry. Similar to the care given after the arrival of a new family puppy, the poults are monitored extra closely for signs of comfort or discomfort. Are they huddled in one corner? This might indicate they are too cold or there is a draught somewhere. Are they as spread out as possible and breathing with their beaks open? This might indicate they are too warm. Are they active and expressing normal behaviour? This means they’re healthy and have been accessing feed and water successfully. Making sure the poults are adapting well to their new home is very important for raising a healthy flock of turkeys.
Being GAP Animal Welfare Certified
Did you know? GAP’s comprehensive animal welfare standards cover the entire lifecycle of the animal. Check out one of our other blog on turkey farming and the standards around maintaining good litter quality inside barns here. GAP sets the standards, our valued partners implement them, and our third-party certifiers audit every farm to ensure the standards are being met. It’s an important process that helps us impact the lives of more than 416 million animals annually. At GAP, we value our loyal farm and ranch partners who work diligently to care for the animals and their environments every day. Interested in getting GAP certified? Click here to learn more about our standards or click here to fill out a pre-application and be contacted by someone from our farm team. We welcome your questions and interest.