View Full Version : Turkey poults dead in eggs...

20th November 2010, 09:02 PM
:confused: Eggs were due to hatch Tue/Wed, but DD wasn't entirely sure she'd written the correct hatch date, so we left the eggs a few more days under the clucky hen. She's a reliable hen, and been in a locked hutch anyway, and no place to go. Plus, these insane RIR hens have been stuck like glue this season - clucky till their eggs hatch. So, when we decided to break open an egg today, we found a dead and starting to smell poult, about 1-2 days from hatching (completely formed, with a bit of yolk yet to be absorbed). Cracked open another, same thing. All 10 eggs are like this. Why would this be? We've had another hen hatch 2 turkey eggs (all we had early on) just fine....

20th November 2010, 09:35 PM
What a shame, Andrea. My first thought would be a disturbance so that she left the nest at night and matybe by morning she was back on her eggs but too late. Is it possible that a hedgehog got in?

20th November 2010, 09:48 PM
In the hutch she's in, there's no way for anything larger than a mouse to get in. After hedgie problems a couple of years ago, we switched to those big wooden airline shipping crates for dogs. Thick plywood and 2 layers of heavy mesh on all the openings, as well as 2 latches and a lock (if we wanted, but don't bother). The one she's in has a small hole chewed by mice at one corner of the door, but that's all. That's all we could come up with too, but her nest and feed dishes have been quite undisturbed.

20th November 2010, 10:23 PM
Hmm. Have you checked that the chicks were in the correct position for hatching? I've had a whole series of chicks this season who didn't hatch and they had their head in the wrong end of the egg so couldn't pierce the air cell and probably suffocated.

Bacterial contamination is another possibility as you wrote that they started to smell. I've once had a hen who must have carried some kind of bacteria because none of her sittings ever hatched. The eggs were a smelly mess after 3 weeks.

Mice can irritate a sitting chook but I don't know whether they can disturb the chook enough to make her go off the nest.

21st November 2010, 05:35 AM
Will have to check. They're all in a bucket waiting to be buried this AM. What kind of bacteria could a hen carry that could cause this to happen? She's hatched eggs for us last year, but this is her first batch this year.

21st November 2010, 06:53 AM
Hi Andrea, I've no experience hatching turkeys but some of the basic principles are the same as chickens. Obviously the incubation period is longer and the shells maybe a bit thicker.

I've just checked some of the possible causes of your failure and I think the possible causes tend towards one or two more possible causes of poults dying late in the period being low humidity or low temperature as being the most likely as far as I can see. I know most of the lists refer to artificial incubation but the low humidity under a hen, kept shut inside on a very dry nest can always be a problem.

Making the nest base out of a square of turf can help raise humidity a bit, instead of very dry straw or whatever is used, or ensuring she gets her feathers damp if she comes out to eat! I know Simkin says she has never worried about this ([;)]) but I do think a thicker shelled and tougher membranes of a turkey egg would benefit!

Because the poults got right to the last 2 or 3 days before they died indicates that they just couldn't get out. The yolk still partly unabsorbed indicates they didn't get quite to pipping into the air cell? Did you notice if they were positioned correctly. There is a slight difference in causes between dying before getting iinto the air cell and taking the first breath, and actually breaking the air cell but not actually pipping the shell, and then those which start to pip the shell and die trying.

No doubt the smell resulted from the poults having been dead for a number of days before you actually opened them and normal decomposition rather than bacterial rot starting. If the eggs had been contaminated with bacteria through the shell they would either be very rotten and died much earlier, or overpoweringly rotten smell on opening.

I'm wondering whether 10 turkey eggs was a few too many for her to keep warm enough all at the same time, and they were just not quite vigorous enough to make the final effort to pip.

Shortage of vitamin E in the breeders diet can produce weak chicks which fail to hatch but I'm doubting this in your case, as you had eariler ones hatch OK.

This table appears in many of the links I have followed. You can ignore the causes which are directly linked to artificial incubation!

<TABLE border=2 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%"><TBODY><TR><TD width="24%">Symptoms

</TD><TD width="31%">Probable Cause

</TD><TD width="45%">Corrective Measures

</TD></TR><TR><TD>Chicks fully formed, but dead without pipping

</TD><TD>Low average humidity

</TD><TD>Maintain recommended humidity for species of bird incubated.

</TD></TR><TR><TD rowSpan=5>

</TD><TD>Improper incubation temperature

</TD><TD>Check thermometer accuracy and incubator functions. Follow recommended temperature settings.

</TD></TR><TR><TD>Improper ventilation in incubator

</TD><TD>Adjust ventilation to provide optimum moisture-loss rate from egg during incubation.

</TD></TR><TR><TD>Improper turning of eggs

</TD><TD>Turn eggs at least three times daily until 3 days prior to hatching.

</TD></TR><TR><TD>Chilling of eggs

</TD><TD>Gather eggs frequently and store under proper conditions.

</TD></TR><TR><TD>Diseased or poorly conditioned breeder flock

</TD><TD>Conduct a good disease control and breeder management program. Use a well-balanced nutritional diet.

21st November 2010, 10:33 AM
Hi Andrea,

I just read what Sue posted. I often keep unhatched eggs at room tremperature for up to a week, feeding them to the cat one a day and they hardly ever smell. It takes about a week for them to start smelling if everything else has been ok.

I have had one hen who laid eggs that were contaminated with bacteria at time of laying. When I broke the egg I was often able to see some marbling on the yolk - probably the beginning of decomposition.

I've had another couple of hens who contaminated the eggs they were sitting on. After no chciks hatched I did notice a not-so-nice smell when I took a sniff of the hen's tummy.

It is very unusual that yours died all at the same point of incubation so a disturbance is the most likely cause I'd say.

Sue - if there are too many eggs under a hen they all die at different stages of incubation. I've had that a few times, especially when I didn't find a hen's nest and she did her own thing and walked out with 1 chick.

21st November 2010, 01:44 PM
Sue - if there are too many eggs under a hen they all die at different stages of incubation. I've had that a few times, especially when I didn't find a hen's nest and she did her own thing and walked out with 1 chick.<!-- / message -->

Not necessarily Simkin!
If she has managed to rotate the eggs so that different ones are on the cooler outsides, then they are all going to develop but more slowly, and not necessarily die until the stress of actually hatching causes them to not have enough strength to break the membranes. Disturbance is less likely to affect embryos towards the end as has been proved by the people who rescue nests of eggs in the last week and still manage to hatch them under light bulbs in fish tanks etc, even though they have got cold.
As the hen was locked on the nest she could not go far and let the eggs go cold-and as Andrea has said they were pretty well undisturbed in the morning, food unspilt, nest not scattered and eggs broken, I doubt that she has been off the nest.

Unless it was an earthquake-or thunder??!!

Marbling on the yolk is not a sign of decomposition. It can be a sign that the vitelline membrane between the yolk and the white has broken down and moisture as leaked in a round the yolk-physical weakness not bacterial. Actually mottled yolks are pretty usual in normal unfertile eggs as well! A bacterial breakdown early on is more usually all over custard like sulphurous appearance of the contents.

Bacterial contamination is caused either by bacteria such as E.Coli, Samlonella or Staph type bacteria getting in through the pores of the shell as it cools straight after laying or from eggs being washed or sitting in a damp poo filled nest.
Bacterial rots turn the contents grey, green or black.- and very explosive! If these eggs were meant to hatch Tuesday and had died with the yolk still outside the poult, which would have been 3 days before due date-they would already be 7 days old when broken out. Dead things definetley smell after 7 days!

21st November 2010, 05:04 PM
Had a look at the eggs with the dead babies in, and they were all in the correct position for hatching. The hen who was on them is quite large, and has done as many as 16 IGB and RIR eggs at a time last year. Only thing I can think of is some kind of disturbance, really... that we missed because it happened in the night. We continue to have earthquakes that we feel, but her hutch is also directly on the other side of the barn wall from the milking machine, so she's well used to hearing lots of racket and staying put... will be forever a mystery, I suppose.

22nd November 2010, 06:17 PM
Is there anything I can do to stop chicks dying while hatching? I've lost two on this clutch that had pipped and then died before fully hatching?
Have a good broody hen sitting well, but would like a better success rate than the last if possible. Or just pick a better hen next time lol?

22nd November 2010, 07:54 PM
Another possibility is disease. I've had Turkey chicks and ducklings die just before hatching or soon after. This season I've only had one gosling successfully hatched. A number of years ago, I had a similar year of bad hatching with some Muscovy eggs and finally took the dead, newly hutched duckling to the vet. They found that it died of a bacterial infection, which was already in the egg when laid. As the incubation progressed, so did the bacteria and by hatching the duckling was either dead or very weak. I gave the adult birds the antibiotics that the vet proscribed and then collected eggs to incubate again. The result was a much better hatch. The water that they had was contaminated, which was the cause of the problem. Adult birds can cope with it, but not developing chicks and ducklings.

I've had better luck with the Turkey eggs this year, because of the new incubator, but even so, many of them go bad or die before hatching. Turkeys need the same temperature and humidity as hen eggs. So I have mine in the incubator at the same time.

To improve the hatch rate of our ducklings, I contain the adults in a pen and change their water every day, while I'm collecting eggs for the incubator. Once I've got enough, the duck can free range in the afternoons again.

If there is a residual bacteria in the environment of the Turkeys, you may be having the same problem as I've had with ducks at various times.

22nd November 2010, 10:10 PM
This is very interesting, Inger. Do you remember which kind of bacteria it was? E coli ? Salmonella ? or something else?