Turkey Eggs: A Beginner’s Guide to Turkey Egg Production
People love eggs, and they are among the most nutritious foods available. On average, Americans eat 250 eggs annually. Though people primarily ate chicken eggs in the past, they have started diversifying to quail, emu, and duck eggs. This has informed the popularity of these birds among poultry keepers. But have you thought of adding turkeys to your flock for egg production?
Most people only know about the prized turkey meat. Though turkey eggs seem elusive to humans, they can lay a maximum of 100 eggs yearly. The hens lay their eggs on ground-based nests in the spring. They scratch the ground, looking for the safest place to lay eggs and brood over them.
Hens will lay about three eggs weekly but will start sitting on them when they are about ten eggs. This means some eggs will wait a week or two before the hen starts sitting on them.
Read on to learn more about egg-laying in turkeys.
The Egg-Laying Process in Turkeys
The breeding season for turkeys is spring. The increasing daylight during this period indicates the beginning of their mating rituals. The male bird, called the tom, might gobble at this time to start mating, but this is not always the case. The gobbling indicates to the hens where to find the males for mating. The male turkeys also strut for the hens to increase their visual appeal.
When the tom mates with a hen, its sperm will be stored in the latter’s oviduct. The hen can continue laying fertilized eggs for as long as four weeks after mating. As such, one mating session usually fertilizes an entire clutch though a hen can mate over and over again. Hens lay eggs in early spring and continue doing so daily until their clutch has 8-16 eggs. Most clutches have a dozen eggs.
Hens will nest on the ground in thick cover to protect their eggs and themselves from predators like snakes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and weasels. These nests are often near water or food sources, so the newly hatched birds get enough to eat. Hens start sitting on eggs after laying all of them. Incubation takes 25-30 days.
How Many Eggs Can a Turkey Lay?
Turkeys start laying eggs at about seven months old. During the breeding season, a turkey will lay about a dozen for its clutch, but a younger hen might have fewer eggs. A few farmers keep turkeys for their eggs, so they will not have a chance to mate and fertilize their eggs.
These turkeys generally lay about 100 eggs yearly, approximately two or three weekly, in a coop or a nest resembling that of a wild turkey. You should remove the eggs as soon as your hen lays them. This way, the hen will not stop laying when she has a big clutch.
Turkey Eggs vs Chicken Eggs
Turkey and chicken are both fit for human consumption but have stark differences. Here are tidbits on these differences.
|Factor||Turkey Eggs||Chicken Eggs|
|Color||Cream or white with brown speckles||White, cream, brown, and blue|
|Nutrition (per egg)||Higher in protein, cholesterol, and calories||Lower in protein, cholesterol, and calories|
|Annual Egg Production||50-100||250-300|
|Price||$2-$4 per egg||$5 and $8 per dozen eggs|
Even the largest chicken eggs cannot compare to a turkey’s egg. While a chicken egg has an average length of two inches and a diameter of 1.5 inches, a turkey’s egg is 1.7 inches in diameter and 2.55 inches in length.
While a turkey’s egg weighs 3.1 ounces on average, a chicken’s egg is about 1.7 ounces. Moreover, turkey eggs have an average thickness of 0.44 mm, while chicken eggs are approximately 0.30 mm thick.
Chicken eggs come in several colors, including white, cream, brown, and even blue. On the other hand, turkey egg colors are not as diverse. They are often cream or white with brown speckles.
Chicken eggs have 6g of proteins, 373 mg of cholesterol, and 72 calories. Conversely, turkey eggs contain 10.8g of protein, 933 mg of cholesterol, and 135 calories. This means chicken eggs are less nutritious than turkey eggs.
Number Of Eggs Laid Annually
Turkeys lay fewer eggs than chickens. Most chicken breeds lay about 300 eggs annually, while turkeys lay about 100 eggs within the same period. As such, most farmers think chickens are the better investment choice when keeping poultry to sell eggs, but turkey eggs fetch higher prices. Unfortunately, caring for turkeys to maximize their egg production is relatively high.
Can Turkeys Lay Eggs Without a Male?
Yes, turkeys do not need a male to lay eggs. Nonetheless, these unfertilized eggs will not produce any offspring and are typically sold. This is often the case among poultry farmers keeping turkeys for eggs to sell or eat rather than aiming to increase their flocks.
Sometimes, unfertilized eggs spontaneously develop into embryos and hatch baby turkeys, which are almost always males. This process is known as parthenogenesis. However, since they are sickly, most embryos produced this way rarely survive to become adult turkeys.
Can Turkey Eggs Be Used for Eating?
Yes, you can eat turkey eggs. There is no significant difference in taste between chicken and turkey eggs. In fact, most people cannot tell the difference between them. However, turkey eggs are somewhat creamier than chicken eggs owing to their higher fat content. Most people assume that the high-fat content makes eggs caloric-dense foods and thus unhealthy.
However, turkey eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs. The higher protein content of turkey eggs means more essential amino acids for your body, which you need to survive. Turkey eggs also have a lot of B vitamins, specifically B9 and B12.
The B vitamins, iron, and vitamin A make them among the healthiest components of your breakfast. You will also get your daily portion of zinc, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium from turkey eggs.
How To Collect Turkey Eggs
Chickens are naturally good mothers willing to brood their eggs until they hatch. Though turkeys are not good brooders, they can successfully hatch their eggs. Letting your turkeys sit on their eggs means being left with unproductive hens whose weights decrease. Moreover, getting many turkey chicks using a natural incubation process is almost impossible. As such, artificial incubation is your best choice for turkey eggs.
You should collect fertilized turkey eggs as soon as possible because turkeys can leave them to get cold or hit them and reduce their quality. Visit the turkey nest frequently to collect the eggs. Though they often lay eggs during the day, a few hens lay eggs at night, so these should be collected very early in the morning. Store the eggs at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit and 70-85% humidity for about 5-7 days before setting them to incubate.
Problems With Turkey Egg Production
If turkeys lay eggs that taste almost the same as chicken eggs and have nutritional values, you might wonder why people do not eat as many turkey eggs as chicken eggs. One of the reasons is that egg production in turkeys takes a longer time than producing chicken eggs and is generally more tasking.
A turkey’s egg is larger than a chicken’s, so it also needs more space when hatching in an incubator. Since they mature slowly, turkeys start laying eggs about three months later than chickens.
Moreover, owing to the large size of a turkey, it will eat more than a chicken and need more coop space. These aspects increase a turkey’s care expenses and make its eggs expensive. In most places, one turkey egg will cost $3, while a dozen chicken eggs sell for the same price. The high cost of turkey eggs due to high production costs makes them quite rare.
Improve Egg Production in Turkeys
You can improve the egg production of your turkeys by paying attention to lighting schedules. Give turkey chicks 20-22 hours of light on their first day. This enables them to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and look for water and food.
Ten hours of darkness and 14 hours of daylight are recommended for chicks up to 17 weeks old since this mimics natural sunlight and allows the birds to look for water and food.
At 17-30 weeks, called the conditioning phase, you reduce daylight to six hours to condition them for egg production. At 29-30 weeks, lengthen daylight hours by adding extra light in the morning to initiate egg production. Besides light management, ensure your turkeys are well-nourished and have enough water. Moreover, have enough nests, avoid high gas levels and institute proper animal handling applicable to your flock density.
You might not have initially thought of turkeys when thinking of eggs. However, these are also ideal alternatives for egg production. They start laying eggs at about seven months and will lay about 100 eggs annually.
Hens can lay eggs even without a male, but these eggs will be unfertilized and are thus often for the table. Turkey eggs are more nutritious, thicker, and bigger than chicken eggs. They are also white or cream speckled with brown, unlike chicken eggs that come in varied colors.
You might not have come across as many turkey eggs as chicken eggs. This is primarily because their cost of production is high and prohibitive for most poultry farmers. When keeping turkeys for their eggs, collect them as soon as possible. Turkeys might hit the eggs when left for too long or get too cold. To maximize egg production, increase daylight hours for your turkeys, ensure they are nourished well, and build enough nests.