This Turkey Tuesday is about later hatched poults, which many of us see in late summer. These pictures show poults that are nearly the size of adults, along with poults that are clearly much younger. Note the much younger poult on the far left in the first picture – the size difference is also obvious in the 2nd picture. While seeing any poults is a good sign, seeing young poults in late summer is not what turkey managers and landowners actually want to see. First, research has shown that earlier hatched nests contribute the most to production at a population level – the early bird gets the worm analogy. Second, turkey poults survive better when they’re hatched into optimal conditions – that is, when insects are abundant and vegetation is most succulent. These conditions occur during spring and early summer, whereas later hatched poults must deal with insect abundance that is declining while vegetation becomes more rank with the onslaught of heat in summer. Third, brood flocks composed of older poults will actually out-compete and displace flocks containing young poults. In other words, older poults are socially dominant over younger poults and this dominance remains in place as juvenile birds transition into fall and winter flocks. The take home is, the earlier a poult can be hatched the better because later hatched poults face steeper odds not only because of environmental conditions, but also social constraints within flocks.
Pictures © Tes Randle Jolly