When a friend asked me to incubate some turkey eggs for him, I was hesitant, to say the least. Messing up your own eggs is one thing, ruining some else’s eggs is a whole other thing, but he assured me there would be no hard feelings if I completely screwed up the whole thing, so I cautiously agreed to do a turkey hatch.
I have hatched many chick eggs, but that is pretty much it except for a few ducks. As a teenager, I worked at my aunt’s game bird ranch, but I didn’t pay attention as much as I wish I had now and I have retained a shockingly small amount of what I did learn… At any rate, my hatch rate is about 85-89% for chickens, which isn’t horrible… Even with experience, I have incredible doubt in my ability right around hatch day.
Turkeys are slightly more complicated than chickens. Firstly, turkey eggs don’t ship as well as chicken eggs, which lowers the hatch rate in its self, so if you can buy your turkey eggs locally, that would be preferred. Secondly, turkeys are a bit more particular about humidity and temperature. I have had people tell me they didn’t even worry about the humidity level and had a surprising rate of chicks hatch, of course we are in the south and humidity is through the roof here anyway, but simply winging it won’t work for turkeys.
After a LOT of reading, I realized there as many ways to hatch an egg as there is to cook one, everyone has the “fool-proof” way to do it, however, I settled on Porter’s Rare Heritage Turkeys. The site offered a certain level of credibility… I recommend reading what they have said if you are planning on hatching turkey eggs.
The Set Up
I have a Little Giant Incubator with a Circulated Air Fan Kit installed (very easy to put in, highly recommended for hatching any eggs) and a standard Little Giant Automatic Egg Turner. Turkey eggs are bigger than chicken eggs, as you might have figured, so they will not fit if you put them right next to each other, so no turkey neighbors.
Turkeys incubation period is 28 days. You need to set up your incubator a least a day in advance, I preheated the incubator two days in advance, this time around, because getting the temperature and humidity correct are paramount. The goal is, for a forced air incubator, 99.5-101.5 degrees and a humidity level between 50-60% for the first 24 days. Higher or lower than that and the embryos could very easily die. On day 24, I will simultaneously lower the heat to 98-98.5 degrees and raise the humidity to 80%… No pressure.
If you have an interior room, that would be the best place to set up your incubator, that way you temperature is not affected by the opening of doors and such. I don’t have that option, so my incubator is in the kitchen. I wrap a beach towel around the base to cover the crack where the top meets the bottom and that seems to do the trick.
I had a minor issue getting the humidity high enough, but with a few new sponges (you do not want to introduce bacteria into an incubator, or birds will not be the only thing growing) in the bottom, I reached my goal easily.
Once the eggs are in and you close it up, you may notice that it is taking a really long time to get back up to the proper temperature. Do not adjust! The eggs are room temperature (ideally), so they will affect the environment of the incubator. Once they are warmed up the temperature will regulate. After 24 hours if the temperature is still not accurate, try a blanket or towel or you can make minor, let me say that again MINOR adjustments. Like barely-an-adjustment adjustments.
Now it’s time to watch and wait, not obsessively, but occasionally glance at the gauges make sure everything is copacetic. More to come on turkey egg incubation.
Read Turkey Hatch PART 2