by Jennifer Sartell of Iron Oak Farm
I have a goal this year. And that goal it to increase our turkey flock. We chose a heritage breed of turkeys because I wanted a breed that could sustain itself year to year after we harvested the birds that we plan to eat.
Turkey poults are expensive to buy outright each year, and raising a heritage breed to table-weight takes longer than a breed you would find in a factory setting. Even at maturity, the heritage breeds are just not that large. We simply don’t get the amount of meat you would with a store bought bird.
But that’s not why we chose this breed. We chose to raise our own turkeys because of flavor, personal ethics both about the scarcity of breed and how our turkeys live and are treated. So it may not be the most cost effective plan, but I feel good doing it.
It amazes me that most factory turkeys, usually the Broad Breasted White, are not able to breed naturally. Most of the time, the birds are butchered before they reach sexual maturity. But even individuals that have been rescued from slaughter and allowed to mature will not mate, brood or rear young. These basic instincts have been bred out of them or they are too large or unhealthy to reproduce. Instead, the birds are artificially inseminated. Many factory turkeys don’t live past the age of 3 if given the chance.
This will be our third year raising turkeys. The first year we started with 9 poults which grew into stunning creatures. It was quite a sight to see the whole flock move across the yard. A striking dark mass shinning with their black feathers in the sun and the red and blue heads of the males popping out against the velvet darkness. I really am a fan of turkeys.
That fall we harvested 5 for the freezer, leaving the largest Tom and three respectable hens for rearing future generations.
The following spring brought us our fist turkey eggs laid by our hens. One hen decided that she would try to sit on a small clutch in the corner of the coop. But her devotion was spotty. She would sit for a few days and then I’d see her free ranging for hours with the rest of the flock. I left her be and deiced to leave her the eggs even if they were dudds to let her work things out. A few more clutches were made in various corners of the turkey coop. She seemed frustrated and immature. I even witnessed our big Tom taking a turn sitting on the eggs, as well as our Silkie hen. Which was a pretty funny story, read it here Mamma Silkie’s At It Again!
But in the end, none of the eggs hatched and our freezer was rather turkey-less this past winter.
But this year I have renewed hope as our hen seems very dilligent. She has been sitting on eggs for a good two weeks, and I often see her plucking feathers from her chest to open up her broody patch. Female poultry will do this to allow a skin to egg contact, thus keeping the eggs warmer. I didn’t notice this behavior last year. So that’s encouraging.
Another thing that’s encouraging is that she is gathering ALL the eggs that ALL the hens are laying and attempting to sit on them. And when I say “attempting” I mean…she’s having a hard time.
I got a peek yesterday and there must be 15 to 20 eggs! They’re rolling out from under her, and she’s in a constant state of tucking them back in. Her body is puffed out as fat as she can make herself and it’s still not big enough for this ambitious clutch.
So comes my dilemma…to move her into a nesting box, or leave her be? My insinct say “leave her be” as it seems like everytime we try to “help” it always seems like it wold have been better if we’d left things alone. It’s the Murphy’s Law of farming. But she’s having a hard time and I’m afraid that she’ll give up like last year and abandon the whole thing. Not to mention that the eggs are getting dirty and dirty eggs don’t hatch as well. The ones that roll a little too far are getting stepped on by the other turkeys and causing a mess of the coop. I also don’t want our flock to get into the egg eating habit, which is terribly hard to break. So we decided that a nest box is in order.
A. Side 1
B. Side 2
C. Roof (This piece can be made from a single piece of ply wood, we had scraps of individual boards so we used those.)
D. Entrance Lip
4×8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood
table saw or hand held circular saw
straight edge or yard stick
nails and a hammer -or- screws and a drill
Measure and cut the pieces from the plywood using saw. Attach the entrance lip across the front.
Then attach the roof. Again, a solid piece of plywood would work well, we were making the most of our scraps from another project.
This simple box design can be reenforced with “L” brackets or a basic frame of 2×2″s to create a more solid, finished product. We were in “GO” mode, as we wanted to provide our hen with a box ASAP. But the dimensions and the main idea work well for a basic turkey nesting box.
Once the box was finished, we gently moved our hen off of her nest, moved her eggs out of the way, sat the box down, filled it with clean straw, and placed the eggs back inside…as quickly as we could. We were encouraged that many of the eggs were still warm. We counted 16!
Here is our Tom inspecting things.
I really didn’t want to place the box in this corner, (under the roost board), but this is the corner our hen originally picked and we wanted to keep her happy. If you’re installing a nest box in your coop, keep it out from under the roost so the turkeys don’t poop on the roof when they perch at night to sleep.
Once our Tom decided the new box wasn’t a threat, the hen was allowed out from behind him to check out her new nesting area. We felt like our presence in the coop was making her nervous so we left her in peace to decide if she liked the new nursery room.
I checked on her a little later and she had settled in quite nicely. She seems very comfortable and didn’t get agitated when I came in to feed, water and freshen some of the bedding. I’m not sure how long it took her to sit back on the eggs, but hopefully they are still viable. We will see in 3 to 4 weeks, depending on when the eggs were laid.
Hello, I’m at a stress moment of 3 female turkeys who appeared at my house, They act domesticated and in my yard since I have a Tom turkey and don’t know where to put them, my turkey sleeps in the same big coop with my ducks(16) and it’s late in the day and not sure what to do with these 3 ladies, need to know what to do, thank you
Awesome information we have two young turkey hens and they free range with our chickens. The nesting box I like and hopefully I will have a Tom next year..my hens are so friendly and I enjoy them
Turkeys are the best! It’s great to hear from a fellow turkey keeper! 🙂
I don’t have turkeys, but have 12 chickens now and would love to see how this could work out for them!
Where have you posted the winner?
Susan Stewart Muckenfuss email@example.com
This looks like a great idea to be able to have 5 gallons of clean water all day without having to refill.
We have a more open watering system and it gets messy and dirty fast. I love this design
Thank you for the nesting box plan for my turkeys. I have also modified it for the chickens, as it works so well. I also love the waterer. I clean out the waterers at least twice a day now and some days more, just to keep all the gunk out.
We have not raised turkeys for a few years due to age and my husbands disability, but I would love to win this for my daughter. She is taking online college classes working and caring for her birds. Chickens, ,turkeys, and Guineas.
I am always having to refill the waterers, they get so gross and they get knocked over all the time. As I am disabled, also, this is a big hassle. This waterer looks like it would eliminate both problems.
This would be of great help to me, since I’m disabled. The less often I have to change the water, the easier it would be for me. Thanks so much for the chance to win!
Patti Howard firstname.lastname@example.org Hello, Wow, what an awesome invention!! We have 25 ladies and one rooster whom I refuse to call a gentleman…LOL. One of the ladies is a special needs hen, Suzy, who has a bad leg and she requires special attention when it is feeding time. This watering system would make our life so much easier and give us more time to enjoy our ladies. And it would be great for Suzy because it would give her access to fresh, clean water at all times. Right now, we have to bring her food and water separately. We’ve been doing that for four years. The problem is that the water becomes dirty quickly and if she ambles over to get a drink in-between feedings, it takes her a long time to hobble over only to find that the water is not so clean. We would truly appreciate this waterer.
My brother wants to start a coop. Anything that will make watering easier would help him, this would be a great help.
email@example.com Katt Lewis
Catherine firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to try out this waterer. It’s neat to see the inventiveness of people on the “how to keep clean water” dilemma. 🙂
We have chickens and ducks in our subdivision backyard. We just bought 8.5 acres and my daughter is excited about adding Guinea Fowl and turkeys to our flock. This water system would help keep the water cleaner and stop it from evaporating quickly or getting shoved over by the ducks! Thanks for the opportunity!
Love the nesting box and am ready to raise turkey’s again – you inspired me! Really liked the watering idea too! What heritage breed did you choose?
Hi there, this is Cathy Cushman at email@example.com
I would love to win the covered watering system for all my birds. Thank you for the opportunity to try to win this prize.
Always looking for good watering options. Clean water is the most valuable resource you need to raise healthy chickens.
I would love a closed water container. firstname.lastname@example.org
This could be like an answer to our prayers. Keeping enough water for our chickens has been a huge problem due it getting dirty and clogged with debris. When we hang it they knock it around til all the water is dumped out. Thanks!
Looks pretty handy. Thanks for the opportunity to enter for a chance to win one. Adoula4you@msn.com
I have the water bucket with the nipples on the bottom and my girls don’t seem to like it that much. This looks like it would really work and keep the gunk out of the water. email@example.com.
Erin at our little homestead: Mélange Métairie. We have organically fed, free range laying hens and their fella. Boy, can they kick up the litter! And into their watering bucket it goes. I’d love to be able to save some time and water by having such a neat watering system for them! I’ve tried the nipple system for them during non-freezing weather, but they don’t care for it much. firstname.lastname@example.org
This is our first year with turkeys! I too am a stickler for Heritage & critically endangered breeds such as my Swedish Flower Hens. I often wish I was better at blogging! Love yours!
I would love to get a new way to water our chickens, we have a hard time keeping it clean. This looks much easier.
Dale Nummi email@example.com we are getting so many birds we just need another water
firstname.lastname@example.org my chickens would love this! We have a mixed flock and the open containers just don’t cut it! I love the horizontal design of this as well, no dripping from the vertical nipples!
I want to get into raising turkey’s, this would sure give me the inspiration to get started!
I would love to have this for my chickens. It would keep their water cleaner.
This would be wonderful for my ducks!! I have been looking at different options and this looks great! Maybe the dogs too. email@example.com
This waterer would prevent the ducks from climbing in to the current container we use for water. Would not have to change the water numerous times per day!
This would be amazing! We’ve had chickens for a while but would love to try our hand at turkeys.
rachelmarietravis at gmail dot com
I would like to get some heritage geese (Pilgrim breed) and a small flock of runner ducks (they are so fun to watch and great layers too!), but not having a pond I was postponing getting them, but it seems this waterer would allow me to get my water fowls after all.
What a great way to keep water clean, less mess, and happy hens!
This type of waterer would make it easier to medicate the birds and worm them, as well as have less algae growth. Jake Martin Rattlerjake@yahoo.com
we have turkeys and chickens and the turkeys tip the waterers over all the time this would be a big help as w are in 60s and 70s nd it is hard to tote water all day long firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve tried raising turkeys and was mostly unsuccessful, mine were Blue Slate. I gave up after the first year. I’m going to try a couple of geese and I’ve had chickens for decades, so a new style waterer would be a nice change from the nipple type (which my chickens also didn’t like and wouldn’t use) or the open types which fill with debris. email@example.com
Thank you Jennifer for the ideas. I have a 3 year old Blue Slate turkey hen who lays her eggs in the strangest places, such as the wood pile and in the duck’s pool. I’m sure she would be most appreciative to have a laying box to call her own. The watering idea would also make life easier for the turkey and the ducks. Now, I just need to get her a few turkey friends and more importantly – a mate. firstname.lastname@example.org
I am raising two hens & a pair of Guineas for the past year. Keeping their water fresh & clean is always a concern, especially when I leave them for an overnight trip. This amazing waterer would take care of all my problems! email@example.com
it would not get as much debris as the other ones do. firstname.lastname@example.org
Solway is always making great innovative waterers. This one would really help our flock keep their water clean – always a challenge. Wolf Edwards email@example.com
This waterer looks amazing right now I am hand watering my small flock of Wild Chickens that we saved from the neighbor’s gun last year. I have 6 chicks I am hand raising in my bathroom and they are just about ready to be added to the existing flock. This watering system would make the task of watering them in the New Mexico weather much nicer and definitely cleaner. To whoever wins, please let us know how this works out. Namaste
Darlene firstname.lastname@example.org I work full time and do the local farmers market, so something that would help me take care of my flock would be awesom…
Cyndy Massei, email@example.com. I would love to try this system with my ducks! I’ve yet to find a system that suits their needs.
I have geese (well, one goose now, thanks to the neighbor’s dogs breaking into the pen and killing the other seven) and I’m getting a couple of Classic Roman babies next week. If the waterer is good for ducks, I wonder how it would work for geese? Lord knows, water birds make a mess as it is. Would love something that keeps things cleaner.
Our water is always a mess! Would love to give this a try!
We just brought home our first batch of chicks a few weeks ago and we don’t have a watering system chosen for their portable coop yet. The Solway one looks like a great way to keep the water clean. Thank-you for the chance to win. Krista krisbudlongathotmaildotcom
Lisa Shoulders firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be perfect for my 1st flock and help to not have them bathe in every container.
Angela Patterson email@example.com
I want one. I have a bunch of new additions that need water!
Five words. Wood chips in the water. I tried the plastic waterers from Tractor Supply and they BOTH leaked out within 3 hours. So, I’m back using bowls and overnight, the bowls are filled with wood flakes which have absorbed all the water and my little guys are thirsty. This would be perfect! It’s my first flock and I want them to thrive!
Hi, my name is Caitlyn Ralston and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love this waterer because I have turkeys and I would love to have a deeper waterer for them. My waterer is constantly filled with straw and shavings so this would help a lot. I worry about them not getting enough to drink now that it’s getting warmer when the waterer gets gunked up. I would also like to buy some more for my ducks and chickens if I like it. Thanks for the opportunity! I will keep my fingers and toes crossed!
I would love a way to offer constantly clean water to my hens. It looks easy to use as well, which I appreciate. Thanks for this opportunity!
How much are your nest box
Kandice email@example.com this would be great for my laying hens that never could figure out the nipple watering system! I hate dirty water!
I would love to win this, because for now we just have chickens, but we’d love to add some turkeys and Muscovy ducks to our homestead! This would be a wonderful waterer for them! Thanks!
My chickens kick dirt into their water. This system looks like it may be a perfect solution.
Hi this is firstname.lastname@example.org i have a marron that has wer neck… hard for her to drink because every time she starts to drink she looses the water or spills her container… this one can be made big enough and heavy enough she wont spill it and it looks like it is shaped to hold the beak in place to hold the water… sure would like to find out… this girl has been fighting this over a year.. and we started with an eye dropper …. thanks
I would love to have one of these, I think it would be great for any type of fowl.
April at email@example.com. Our waterers sit outside since our birds (turkeys, guineas, chickens) free-range during the day — and since we are in Oklahoma, the wind gets the water crazy-dirty, all the time! I think this gadget would have a great wind-block of the reservoir, and maybe eliminate some of the grit and subsequent cleaning!
Thank you for offering this giveaway!!!
My name is Toni
My Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to win because where I live it gets really hot during the summer and my watering options are limited either due to the heat, algae growth or water fouling.
So I keep my chickens waterer in their coop.
Currently it is a 5 gallon water bottle upside down in a 5 gallon water bucket.
This becomes gross in a heartbeat!!!!
I have tried using watering nipples but this puts the bucket too high for me to comfortable carry and I am afraid the chickens will knock it off when it is partially filled and hurt themselves.
Having a maxi-cup on a bucket would be great!
It would solve so many problems!!!!
I can fill the bucket and the rest of the water will not become fouled up!!!!
If I won, I would gladly do a write up on how having it has helped.
My chickens would love this!! right now they are drinking out of old pots that we have to clean out every day.
Joanne Tinder, email@example.com
This would be a great waterer for us as we expand our breeds of poultry. I think having a large amount of water, helps keeps the water temp cooler for the long summers and having a smaller opening will help keep out any drippings from our smaller bantams that can fly up to the top of waterers. Hope to win and give this new system a try! Thanks, Jessica firstname.lastname@example.org
I have the messiest chickens – the Maxi Cup might save their lives…
Hendrica Regez, email@example.com
I don’t have any turkeys but it looks like it would be great for my chickens. They manage to upset the 2 small waterers I have. I had a big one that broke..it was a horror to refill and this looks like a cinch! KarenLane@aol.com
We have 15 hens that free range daily. This waterer would be incredible for them! Thank you for the opportunity to win one! Sheryl Abel dachmom13 (at) hotmail.com
Enjoyed the article! Great ideas!
Tessa Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org – this waterer would be amazing for us! We have 2 waterers because they are constantly getting dirty. This would be great – especially with 10 new chickens entering our flock soon!
I’m a newbie with 6 two month old chicks so this waterer would be great for my new coop!!! Debbie – email@example.com
Helen LaRue, firstname.lastname@example.org I think this would help with the watering and keeping the food from getting mushy and keep the birds from spilling it.
I love the story of your little lady. The waterer is awesome. My hens free range all day and constantly kick a ton of dirt into their regular waterer. So I end up cleaning and filling it more than once a day. Of course I won’t be here to do that once I go back to work so it would be nice to know that they have plenty of clean water while I am working. Thank you for your wonderful offer. Rebeccajeanty@ymail.com
I have 8 laying hens who take GREAT delight in kicking dirt & debris into their waterers; this would limit the amount of water that needs to be poured out daily to clean out the “extras.” Saving water is always a good thing in dry Nevada! 🙂
I think this would even be a perfect deterrent for my young nephews dumping out the water or putting sticks in it. I’m sure the 8 hens, 1 adult turkey & all the new turkey poults will get a lot of use out of this. Sara W. email@example.com
Since we have 5 ducks and 10 hens, it’s really a challenge keeping our waterers clean! I’d love to keep the girls happy and stop wasting so much water cleaning the waterers. Jenna Rose, the280zgirl at hotmail.com
My flock would be in heaven! what a great invention! I would love to be able for them to drink from one fountain instead of the multiples they have now. If I don’t win one, I will have to buy a couple!
I only have chickens now but I must be away from home occasionally for 2-3 days at a time, and while my girls get fresh water daily when I’m home, this would be great for assuring enough water while I’m away. Plus, no goopy poop/dirt-filled container to wash out daily! Yay! firstname.lastname@example.org
This would work great for my daughter’s large flock!
We have a pair of Royal Palm that we’d like to see breed on their own. It has seemed strange to me that, while there is SO much info out there on chickens, there is very little of value on turkeys. I appreciate all the info in this article…not just the box diy! Thank you! (P.S. I’d love to win the waterer, too!)
I just recently inherited a flock and they had the nipple waterer, but it just fell and broke 🙁 This is a great watering system and it would be so easy to install and use. I would love it very much!! My name is Rhonda Lynn and my email is (written out to prevent spam) inspiredfelt (at) gmail.com
Poultry people know…keeping clean water for our birds is a challenge! I have tried different methods and just use a tub and clean it constantly! This would be a wonderful and welcome addition to my barnyard!
I would love to add this so I could then add ducks to my collection! misstatedawg at yahoo dot com Thanks Matt
Would love to add this to our farm – like you I am in love with our heritage turkey’s (I see some little chocolate poults in the pic) this would make the chore of hauling water a lot easier. email@example.com. Thanks for the chance to win – Carrie
My girls would love this waterer! They weren’t too keen on the poultry nipple waterer… and we are constantly cleaning out the 2 regular waterers we have… so this would be a wonderful compromise! and it would hold more water! also thank you for the tips on building a nest box…we need to get ours in soon! hopefully we’ll be getting eggs soon! 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you know I was just looking online for nest boxes and waterers? I think even I can construct one of these nest boxes for my ducks who lay such messy eggs all over their house. And the waterer also sounds like a perfect solution to the issue of the ducks swimming in even the smallest of water bowls I leave out for them and the chickens…
I think this Solway waterer is the cat’s (or turkey’s) pajamas! I’m getting some turkey eggs (heritage also) to incubate in a few weeks and this would work perfectly to get my flock off to a good start.
Love this waterer! The tank could be wrapped in heat tape to avoid freezing in winter, and a piece of PVC leading into it, through the lid, from the outside of the coop would make refilling very easy.
Vickie May 6, 2014 at 9:39 a.m.
I leave for work before sun-up and get home after sun-down. The idea that my birds would have cleaner water is reassuring. email@example.com
Renee firstname.lastname@example.org Seriously, could there be more poo in the water? This system would make my life easier and the flocks a lot happier.
I’ve been thinking of expanding from just chickens to a mixed flock and getting a different waterer would be a great idea.
I have been raising chickens for a while now but, this year I’m trying my hand at turkeys. Having a good waterer in the pin would be great as I have to haul water to the turkey house. A large waterer would help with not having to make so many trips and, it would be much more sanitary than the open water tubs.
sorry forgot the email. email@example.com
That would be just the thing for my ducks. They consume massive amounts of water every day. Open waterers get too dirty. And many of the other options done give enough water at a time or they can’t scoop. This would be perfect. firstname.lastname@example.org
Peggy May 6, 2014 at 8:50
I am just beginning to raise chickens. This watering system looks much more practical than the typical ones at the farm stores. I know chickens &/or turkeys make a mess in their waterers very quickly. some even stand in it allowing anything on their feet to get into the water. So I think this is a great idea. I like clean water & I”M sur chicks do as well. Hope to be using one soon. email@example.com
Looks like this might be the answer to the dirty water problem. Hope to win and give it a try.
firstname.lastname@example.org I have a large mixed flock of ducks and geese and the open spout should keep my water loving fowl from dirtying the water too bad for the rest of the group.
I’ve just set up a gutter collecting system for water. My barrel is outside the pen. With this gizmo, I would be able to redirect the gutter downspout INSIDE THE PEN. I would be able to fill the tank from outside, also which would make watering much easier. At present when I try to right the water containers I end up with poop all over my boots, chickens and turkeys climbing up my legs and a general mess of enthusiastic but clumsy fowl !!!
I have 26 girls, currently and am constantly changing their water containers. I have the store bought style with a bottom base and large holding tank I am searching for an economical and sanitary watering system!! Winning this would be a wonderful change! 🙂
A closed water container is definitely the ticket. I’m using an open container and it gets dirty fast. email@example.com
This waterer is fantastic! I can’t wait to try it out myself soon or to at least try to mimic the design with materials I have here at home.
Crystal Abel firstname.lastname@example.org My mixed flock wouldn’t be able to knock over the water and spill it all over or get huge debris in it with this waterer.
Lisa dage email@example.com. I have a mixed flock and this enclosed watering system would help with my goose needing to bathe in every water container.
Good Luck to all from all of us at Solway Feeders.
Please visit our web sight for other quality items.
Rich Sabonjohn US Solway Rep.
I am confused….can we order items from your site for delivery to the US? is it a huge delivery charge? ( I see it is listed as an option of “the rest of the world”…..pretty funny, actually)