Brooding days are a lot of work. It’s fresh in my mind because we just started (brooded) our spring flock a couple weeks ago. The work of starting poults is made all the more challenging because we’re doing it in intense heat in our brooder barn, with our air temp close to 100 degrees to keep the baby turkeys comfortable. And, there’s the constant watching your step, as eagerly curious baby turkeys dart around on the fresh sawdust underfoot.

In the “good old days,” we hatched our own poults (fun fact: our market is in our former hatchery), so the birds had a very short trip from the incubator to the brooder barn. Today, they’re custom hatched for us and arrive early in the morning on a carefully climate-controlled truck. Much like anybody who’s purchased chicks at the local feed store, ours arrive in boxes of 100 poults before we welcome them to their new home.

This is definitely the baby-cute phase for turkeys, tiny and covered in soft, yellow down.  But, it’s also the most challenging time for farmers. Despite their innocent cuteness, the baby turkeys are disaster prone and need nearly constant watch. On our last brood, the birds wanted to huddle in piles near some of the drinkers. Were they too hot? Too cold? Thirsty? Did they feel a draft? All of this is for us to decode, as we work to keep them comfortable. As my dad says, we’re doing our very best to replicate Mother Nature.

Farmers were probably the inventors of the theory of constant improvement, always looking for a new technique or small tweak, hoping for the best chance to give our poults a strong start. The first week or so is a defining period in getting a flock off on the right foot. We’ll be back at it again in July, once this flock has moved outdoors.

Speaking of which, we have official word that the Eat Local Co-op Farm Tour will be held on Saturday, July 10th, so mark your calendars. You’ll be able to come see these same poults – much bigger by then – on a farm tour!

Enjoy these spring days and we’ll hope to see you at Ferndale Market soon!