Stocking Eastern Turkey Poults with Surrogate Rio Grande Hens

Within 12 hours posthatching, poults from captive-reared wild eastern turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) were placed under broody domestic bronze turkey hens to imprint the poults (Gore and Synatske 1978). As many as 15 eastern poults were placed under each broody hen at night without disturbing the hens. After 1 week, surviving poults were removed and replaced with newly hatched poults. The week-old eastern poults were then placed with wild-trapped Rio Grande turkey hens (M g. intermedia). Broodiness was induced in the wild hens by oral administration of 50% ethyl alcohol (1 ml/0.45 kg body weight), followed by an intravenous injection of 5 mg prolactin (NIH-P-S-12 Ovine) in 2 ml buffered saline (Cain et al. 1978). Following about 1 hour of quiet restraint, each hen was moved carefully into a closed cardboard box and the imprinted poults were placed under her. The next morning the hen and poults were permitted to move from the box into secluded holding pens. About 90% of the hens so treated exhibited broody behavior and successfully cared for the poults. Hen-poult family units were released after 3 .. 5 weeks adjustment period. Observations at release sites and subsequent observations resulting from telemetry studies indicated that each surrogate hen with poults behaved as a family unit. During June, July and August from 1977 - 1979, 19 individual hens were released with a total of 156 poults. Survival rates of poults to adulthood (1:1.92) compared favorably to production and survival in established wild turkey populations in Southeast Texas.

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