Turkeys are the largest native bird in all of North America and even though some people who have tried turkey eggs say they don’t taste any different than chicken eggs they are quite different in appearance. The turkey egg is much larger, weighing around 75 to 100 grams or 3 to 4 ounces, and is generally speckled with a deep reddish brown pattern.
You might be wondering, if turkey eggs taste similar to chicken eggs but are much larger then why don’t we see them in the grocery store? Well unlike a chicken that can lay up to 300 eggs per year a turkey hen will only lay 100 to 110 eggs on average during a 28-30 week period. This reason alone, other than the size difference between chickens and turkeys of course, is why you can’t buy a dozen turkey eggs at your local grocery store. The limited amount of turkey eggs that are produced are used to hatch baby turkeys, or turkey poults as they are called.
Unless you are going to let the turkey hen hatch her poults naturally then you will need to know how to properly use an incubator to successfully hatch turkey eggs on your own. The following steps will help you do just that:
Step 1 – Setting Up The Incubator
First off you want to make sure the incubator is clean and sanitized. Once cleaned it is advisable to warm up the incubator for at least 24hrs prior to putting the turkey eggs in. Next you will want to ensure there is sufficient water in the incubator to achieve an adequate humidity level. And finally place two thermometers in the incubator so you can keep track of the temperature inside.
Step 2 – Preparing The Turkey Eggs
While the egg is still warm from being laid, it can be cleaned by removing any debris or dirt on the shell surface with a clean rag. The storage of turkey eggs will affect their hatchability, so if possible it is advisable to do a pre-storage period of 12 hours at 15.5 ºC or 60 ºF. This step will make the turkey egg more resistant to egg handling. After you take the eggs out of storage and before you place them in the incubator for the 28-day incubation period a 10 to 12 hour preheating process at around 22 ºC or 71.5 ºF will assist in a uniform and predictable hatch of all turkey eggs.
Step 3 – Placing The Turkey Eggs
Before you place the eggs in the incubator make sure the temperature is 37.5 ºC or 99.5 ºF. Within the first 48 hours you may see the temperature fall, it is advised not to raise the temperature because the cooler eggs being introduced into the incubator cause this. By raising the temperature at this point you may end up cooking the eggs. Since turkey eggs are generally placed in an incubator a few days after they have been laid it is recommended to add 1 additional hour to the incubation period for each day that the egg has been in storage. For example, if the turkey eggs have been in storage for 6 days, the incubation period would be 28 days and 6 hours.
Step 4 – Turning The Turkey Eggs
Turkey eggs should be turned at least five to seven times each day as an odd number of turns is recommended to prevent the egg from sitting on the same side each night. You also want to make sure you are turning the eggs a full 180 degrees. The easiest way to do this is by placing a small mark in pencil on either side of the egg. Please note that you should not use a colored pencil, a pen, or a marker as these may contain chemicals that will be harmful to the turkey poult. In the same respect you should always wash your hands before turning the turkey eggs as the oils from your skin can permeate the eggshell and harm the turkey poult.
Step 5 – Hatching Time
When it gets close to hatching time you want to make sure you have stopped turning the eggs. It’s best to stop for the last 3 days before they hatch. Since turkey egg incubation period is 28 days, stop turning them on day 24. You should also keep an eye on the water level and make sure the humidity during hatching is around 65% or more. Above all make sure you do not help the turkey poults out of their shells. You can actually do more harm than good. Just let nature take its course, turkeys have been hatching in the wild for thousands of years. Overall the hatching process can take anywhere between 5 and 10 hours, so just be patient.
Step 6 – Removing The Turkey Poults
After the turkey poult is fully out of its shell they will probably be peeping, wobbly, tired and wet. The best thing you can do for it is let it stay warm and dry up in the incubator. After about 6 to 12 hours after they hatch you can remove the turkey poults when they are fluffy and dry.
Now it is time to care for your turkey poult, the hardest part is trying to teach them how to take water and feed on their own. For more information you can read my article on How To Care For Turkey Poults.