Overlooked Component of Quality Brood Habitat

This Turkey Tuesday is about an often-overlooked component of quality brood habitat – bare ground. We often think only about vegetation when it comes to brood habitat, but poults in particular require bare ground – areas where you can see the soil. One, poults lack the ability to move through vegetation the way adults do, so having patches of bare ground allows poults to move easily which burns less energy. Burning less energy allows poults, who feed almost constantly, to grow faster and faster growth equates to higher survival. Two, in many situations bare ground is created by soil disturbance, and soil disturbance is often associated with quality vegetation that’s succulent and attracts insects on which poults feed. Three, bare ground allows poults and adults to dust, like the poult in this picture. All turkeys dust, which they do to rid themselves of parasites and counter discomfort associated with molting. Poults are rapidly growing and molting feathers right now, and that puts a premium on places to dust where they can see danger approaching. As an aside, poults start dusting when they’re only a few days old – they will start displaying many adult behaviors as soon as they leave the nest and are imprinted to the hen, including dusting. The take home is, when you’re thinking about brood habitat this time of year, don’t overlook the need for access to bare soil – and recognize that creating bare ground often requires soil disturbances such as fire, disking, mulching, brush removal, chopping, and other tools in the habitat management toolbox.

Photo by Eric Orlando.

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