Wild Turkey Brood Habitat
After the poults hatch, they require good brood habitat for survival and growth. Brood habitat generally consists of grasses and forbes that will encourage the insects that the poults need as a food supply for growth. The ground cover needs to be dense enough to encourage insects, but not so dense as to inhibit the poults' movement. Brood habitat needs to be near or adjacent to brushy and wooded areas that provide escape cover and roosting trees. Orchards or groves of trees spaced widely enough to allow sunlight penetration and allow room for mowing provide ideal brood habitat when the grassy areas are mowed once or twice a year. The trees provide overhead cover making the hens feel more secure.
The following are some suggestions for managing specific habitats for brood habitat. Remember that these are suggestions only, there are no hard and fast rules and you can decide what methods you wish to employ on your land. Assistance with soil testing or fertilizer and liming recommendations is available through your local Cooperative Extension Office.
Log landings & roads: Lime & seed to grasses, sedges (nut grasses) and clovers at the end of the logging operation. These areas generally need annual mowing to control weedy invasion and re-application of fertilizer and lime and over-seeding every few years. These treatments are known as "top-dressing". Clover mixes should not be mowed lower than six inches.
Power lines and other right-of-ways: Encourage regular maintenance by the power company to maintain grasses and forbes. Mid to late summer mowing is best. Some companies have vegetation management policies that allow establishment of low-growing shrubs and trees on their right-of-ways.
Hay fields: Delay mowing as long as possible (at least until mid-July). Use taller less dense grasses like timothy, orchard grass, perennial rye and white clover or use warm season grasses like switch grasses or blue stem that mature later and can be cut for hay in late July.
Pastures & old fields: Leave some trees (apple, black locust, crab apple, black haw, wild raisin, ash, oaks, cherry, etc.) to create a savannah type habitat. In pastures grazing will maintain a short grass cover. In old fields encourage grasses and forbes by periodic mowing or spot herbicide application to discourage woody brush. If dense grasses exist, annual mowing may be necessary.
Perennial food plots and openings: Test soil, lime and fertilize as necessary prior to planting. Plant to clovers, native grasses, and lower lespedeza varieties. When necessary, mow very late fall or early spring. Reseed only as necessary every 5+ years. Occasional top-dressing with lime and fertilizer will help to maintain grasses and legumes. If you notice invasion by weeds, test the soil and add lime and fertilizer.
Annual food plots: Test soil, lime and fertilize as necessary. Plant oats, buckwheat, sorghum, and lower lespedeza varieties mixed with clovers, seed lightly and disc in the late fall. Allow to reseed naturally and reseed as needed every few years. Occasionally lime &/or fertilize.