The Life Cycle of a Turkey

A typical turkey will live on three farms during its lifetime. Each farm will provide the requirements of the three different stages of production. The farms are called breeder farms, hatcheries and turkey farms.

Breeder Farm: This is where turkey eggs are produced. Hens (mature female turkeys) are bred using artificial insemination (A.I.). The fertilized eggs are collected daily and carefully stored to be sent to the hatchery. Hens start to lay at approximately 32 weeks of age and will continue until 57 weeks of age.

Hatchery: The fertilized eggs are then incubated and hatch within 28 days into poults (young turkeys). Just like pets, the poults are vaccinated against the most common turkey diseases by injection or spray.

Turkeys have a natural “pecking order” and can be aggressive with each other, so trained professionals who work in the hatchery trim the top hook off the poults' sharp beak using lasers. Their sharp claws can also be hazardous, so they are also trimmed. Treated birds can still eat and drink normally.

Turkey Farm: Poults are sold to a turkey farm like this one and transported within 24 hours of being removed from their incubator. These day-old turkeys are then raised in climate-controlled barns that protect the birds from harsh weather, disease and predators.

The first stage of production from one-day of age to five-six weeks of age is called brooding. During this time the young birds are carefully watched and kept warm. As feathers replace the birds´ down, the heat is gradually reduced from 35°C to 21°C.

The next stage of production is called the growing cycle as the birds grow from five to six weeks of age to between 11 and 17 weeks of age, when they will reach their desired market weight. Depending on the size of the farm and the type of turkeys grown, three to seven flocks can be raised each year on a farm.