Our Turkey Coop Design

Secure perch for the pouts and hens


Any large pen will work as a turkey coop. But has anyone every considered what the turkeys wanted?

As with any turkey or chicken coop, the primary function is safety however we added features that blended security, shelter, a baby nursery, and interconnecting doors that can be sealed into three separate pens for multiple hens, an injured bird or if requiring quarantine.


Our turkey coop design – (utilitarian but perhaps a little ugly) was selected and tweaked from years of direct observation of the heritage hen and brood & their inclinations of using the coop during the various stages of growth of the turkey poults.

We can only speculate at the behavior of wild turkey poults but we have witnessed firsthand the stages of heritage turkey behavior.


A rough approximation of coop use during poult growing phases:

Stage One:     1-2 weeks of age:  At dusk the hen takes her brood to a corner & settles on the ground covering her chicks with her wings.  -We provide clean pine shavings (large flakes only!) or hay for the birds to nest in. Almost universally, the hen will only take her brood inside the box during inclement weather.

Stage Two:    2-4 weeks of age:  The hen takes her brood to “top” of nest box, covering the babes with her wings until they can no longer fit under her.

By this age nearly all the poults can fly up to the box top but some have to ‘wing-walk’—we provide a branch and the baby turkeys will walk up/climb the branch while flapping their little wings.


Hint: The bottom divider between the pens is plywood so the turkeys cannot see each other because they will often attempt to fight each other.

Lifting doors between the pens present the option to create one super pen or three separate “nursery” pens.



Stage two: Top of the box


Stage Three:     4 -7 weeks of age: Hen and brood moves from the box top and spends the night on the perch (branch). Depending upon weather and lack of owls in the area we often let the mother and brood spend the night outside of the pen in an oak tree.


Turkey Coop Dimensions:

Three conjoining pens/coops were constructed using standard sized pre-cut treated lumber.

Each pen is 12’ long and 8’ wide. Other details: 6’ tall doors (for us). Chicken wire around the entire pen & 7’ tall (for us). A wire roof was added to ‘keep predators out and keep in hens in’.

Included in each pen:

A perch (branch) approximately 8’ in length and 2’ off the ground. Additional branches are added at higher locations.

 A box that doubles as a rain shelter for food and birds, an elevated nesting platform on the roof of the box.  The boxes were constructed for turkeys: 36” x 36” and approximately 30” tall. One half of the shelter box is covered, so the hen can tuck out of sight if she feels she has to hide. The walls of the box are approximately 24” tall, allowing heat to escape in the summer and giving the hens an option to warily scan outside the box.

A removable lean-to was added to the front of the nest box, where feed is placed to keep it dry during the often unpredictable Florida weather.

Lifting doors between the pens present the option to create one super pen or three separate “nursery” pens.

Strips of Metal ½ inch wire cloth was placed along the bottom, on the inside to keep poults from getting their heads trapped in the chicken wire. (Yes, it happened every hatching) The wire also deters predators from reaching inside the pen to grab an unwary poult.

Additional sections of wire buried at all locations where a predator might attempt to burrow.


List of the major considerations when designing the coops:

Security

Poult phases of use

Perches, use of coop by injured or old birds

Water containers adjustable per poult phases

Food protection from elements

Door to adjoining pens

Plants inside pen for sense of refuge

Heat lamp on indoor pen (for early spring babies)

Predator behavior

Sun and rain protection -in central Florida, it sometimes rains every day in the hot summer months.


Coop location:

We selected the location of the pens to be adjacent to the maple tree where the mature birds roost and where the brooding hens could see the other bird fly into the tree at sundown and fly out of the tree at dawn. Turkeys have a compulsion to be with the flock and the pen location near the roost was an attempt at mollifying their need.

We learned after the fact that we were lucky in our choice of location "It was dry": If the ground is in a wet area, & the poults are forced to walk through/live in mud, they will perish.


Screen door latch: GET THIS for going in and out of your coop or pen. Not for a nighttime lock, but this gadget makes you daily visits so much easier!


Update: Last night I moved two hens and brood outside for their first night spent in the outdoor pen. To my exasperation, the hens both settled on top of the box (stage 2) leaving their poults squeaking on the ground (still at the "Stage 1) level.

The poults were still too young to grasp the idea they could wing-walk up the branch to the box.

So I had to catch each poult and place on top of the box with the two mothers. Sort of comical as I was wing-flogged at least twice by a worried hen.

After all were placed on top, the hens and poults settled down to a very relaxing sleep.


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