It has now been a month since we last updated on our turkey hen, Jenny, who at the beginning of June was busy producing her second clutch of eggs for the season.
Although two chicks hatched from the first clutch, neither survived due to some misguided curiosity on the part of our Tom, and the remaining eggs were damaged as a result of him repeatedly running through Jenny’s nest, while attempting to chase off intruders.
As it’s completely impossible to reason with a Tom Turkey, once Jenny starting laying the second clutch, we did some creative rearranging of the turkey pen so we could separate Jake and Jenny.
We expected the second clutch to be smaller than the first, but Jenny still managed to lay 17 eggs in this clutch! We found one discarded shell the week before the Fourth of July, and from the appearance of the shell membranes, it never contained a chick. As for the remaining 16 eggs, all we could do was watch, and wait.
We had calculated that the earliest Jenny’s eggs would hatch was the Fourth of July, 26 days from when she started hard incubation (sitting on the nest full time, day and night).
On Sunday afternoon, the 3rd of July, while Jenny was up taking a brief stretch, I was quickly able to count the eggs, verifying there were still 16. There didn’t seem to be any overt signs of impending hatching, yet, but we hoped we’d see something soon. It was miserably hot, and as Jenny wasn’t getting up, even to drink water, we left some slices of watermelon in reach, which she seemed to appreciate (just in case you notice a few pink wedges in some of the following photographs).
The morning of the 4th of July I spent a little time with Jenny in the pen, and just before noon, if I listened very closely, I could just barely hear a faint peeping coming from underneath her. Was someone about to hatch? Had they hatched already?! Jenny wasn’t telling.
After a number of visits to Jenny that day, late that afternoon we finally saw an egg shell at the edge of the nest in front of her, with the large air-cell end of the egg perfectly removed. The membranes were discolored, just as we’d expect, and it seemed that someone, somewhere under Jenny, really had hatched!
Jenny wasn’t revealing much on that first afternoon though. The chicks were still damp, and huddled very close to their Mother to keep warm.
Cameras clearly were not welcome, and Jenny hissed at me to let me know to leave her alone. I respectfully gave her some space, but by the very end of the day though, we could see the first little poult peeking out from under Jenny’s feathers, giving us the first good look at one of her tiny chicks, all fluffed out…
Just a few hours old, this first little one looked like he or she was going to be a redhead! Jake and Jenny are both Bronze Reds, the offspring of a Bourbon Red tom, and a Standard (Heritage) Bronze hen, and we’d expect most of the offspring to be either Standard Bronze, or Red Bronze in coloration like Jake and Jenny (more on why in a later turkey feather color genetics post from Mr. Curbstone). However, it was also possible for them to produce Bourbon Red colored chicks.
So at least we had one chick, but wait…
…here’s another peeking over an egg…
…no, a miscount, it’s three!
By dark we had seen three, but had no idea how many more were to come. The next morning was a chilly 48F for July, so although I was anxious to see if anyone else had hatched, I was glad that Jenny was keeping her eggs and chicks snug and warm beneath her. I left for a while, but by the afternoon of the 5th, with the temperatures well into the 80s, during one of my numerous visits past the pen door I realized that Jenny was standing up. I peered through the fence, and all the eggs were gone! There were just shells, and this…
…a profusion of poults!
I was completely shocked, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing through the fencing. There were peeping poults all over the place, huddled in little piles in the warm afternoon sun.
I almost felt guilty relishing in so much adorableness, especially as Mr. Curbstone wasn’t home, and missing all this! I thought I was going to burst!
It took me at least half a dozen attempts to count everyone, which was eventually made much simpler once the poults finally succumbed to a nap attack. Sixteen…there were SIXTEEN! Really? No. Count again, can’t be right, they couldn’t have all hatched, surely? In less than 36 hours, every single egg HAD hatched! My umpteenth count was still 16!
Compared to Jenny’s disastrous first spring clutch, to have all 16 eggs hatch was completely unexpected. Very welcome, very exciting, but so very unexpected! That said, young turkey chicks are very fragile in their first few weeks of life.
The first afternoon alone I’d already given myself a half dozen minor heart attacks when I found upside down turtled chicks in the pen that were tired from struggling to right themselves, laid out in the sunshine. Fortunately, a quick flip right side up seemed to set everyone back on their feet just fine. You’ll see in this video, around the 1:30 mark, when a little Bourbon Red chick gets bowled over by a boisterous bronze sibling, and is briefly turtled until Jenny reaches over to help out.
I spent the rest of the afternoon with a grin as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s, suffering from a full-on case of cute overload.
Jenny however, just seemed to be taking everything in stride.
Good grief, how on earth will she keep track of 16 tiny poults!?! Yesterday, watching all the poults scurry underneath her for a mid-morning nap, I couldn’t help but wonder how long they’re all going to fit under there, and the whole scene was reminiscent of watching clowns pack themselves into a clown car…
Honestly I’ve succeeded in getting almost nothing productive done all week! Would you?
Jenny though has been busy, keeping track of everyone, leading them to food and water, providing a shady place for naps, and stealing naps herself whenever she can.
Occasionally she’s been able to sneak in a dust bath too.
Note to self, a dust bath in 1/4″ drain rock can make taking photographs inside the turkey pen potentially hazardous to camera lenses! Oh well, it might be worth sacrificing a lens, or two…
So despite the failure of Jenny’s first spring clutch, this clutch of eggs has proven to be an amazing success. The chicks have quickly figured out where everything is and are regularly seen going from naps to the feeder and back again, and seem savvy enough to snooze in the shade in the hot afternoons.
The poults are now 4-5 days old, and growing by the minute. Already they’ve lost their little egg tooth at the tip of their beaks that helps them hatch out of their shells.
Growing though, as fast as turkey poults do, is hard work. It’s important to get plenty of rest…
Is it possible to have too many chicks? What a problem to have! It’s certainly made for a truly fantastical Fowl Friday…
…with many more to come!