I thought with the new chick season among us, some of you might be considering adding a few turkeys to the backyard flock. Our local feed store usually gets in a variety of fowl in addition to chickens; including ducks, guineas, turkeys and last year they even had quail and geese.
One of the most common questions I get over at the Iron Oak Farm blog is “Can I raise chickens and turkeys together?”
In reality, there is more than one answer to this question and a few factors to consider. The short answer is yes, you can raise turkeys and chickens together. We have for years. We also keep geese, ducks, and guineas with our chickens in the same coop and run. But before you head off to the feed store to buy a variety of poultry, there’s a few more things you should know.
For anyone who’s ever done a Google search of the following phrase “Can I raise chickens and turkeys together?” Has surely encountered the word “blackhead”
Blackhead is a disease that can affect both chickens and turkeys. For chickens they usually show no symptoms and can lead normal, healthy lives while carrying the disease. Blackhead in turkeys, however can be deadly, especially to young poults.
What to do?
Blackhead is a regional disease. It’s not exclusive, but usually if you contact your local county extension or a local poultry vet, they should be able to tell you if blackhead is in your area.
When purchasing fowl, you should have an understanding of where the birds came from. What area of the country. Talk to the breeder or contact the hatchery and discuss your concerns before purchasing.
In my opinion, turkeys and chicks should be brooded separately, and for a few different reasons.
1. While you can get a good idea if blackhead is not a problem for you and your flock, you can never be 100%. If there is an issue with blackhead, most young turkeys don’t survive. Adult turkeys have a much better chance of surviving blackhead and some do just fine with an infected flock, but poults should be quarantined.
2. Turkey poults are frail. They’re gentle and slow moving. Chicks can be hyper and dominant, they boss turkey poults around causing injury.
3. Chicks and Poults should be raised on different feeds. Turkey poults require more protein to develop properly. Angel wing and other problems can occur if turkeys aren’t provided enough protein in their diet. 24-30% protein is an appropriate amount. We feed Purina Game Bird Startena. It has a 30% protein content and gives our poults a great head start.
Chicks, on the other hand, should be fed around 18-20% protein.
If you’re raising your turkeys for meat, then the feed ratios will continue to be a separated issue. You’ll want to keep the turkeys on a high protein feed so they are large enough for table in the Fall.
Laying chickens should be on a layer formula which has less protein and more minerals like calcium to promote laying and healthy egg shells.
Meat chickens should be on a formula somewhere in-between, usually a grower feed. If Cornish cross are fed game feed, they will grow WAY too fast and it will be detrimental to their skeletal structure and internal organs like the lungs and heart.
Keeping a Mixed Flock
The turkeys we keep right now, are our breeding turkeys. They’ve become pets so we simply want to maintain a healthy weight and encourage the hens to lay. Now that they are adults, they enjoy the same layer formula that we feed our chickens and they do fine. Tom, our Black Spanish is 6 years old and is in great health. If we have a particularly cold winter, we sometimes switch to, or mix in a higher protein feed, which seems to keep all our poultry happy and on the plump side.
If you’ve done your research about blackhead, and have raised your chicks and poults to adulthood, then you should be able to keep an integrated flock.
As far as personalities, our turkeys and chickens get along fine. The turkeys keep to themselves, and because they are slower and less frantic, they let the chickens eat first, then move in and take care of their needs.
There’s little problems with nest boxes and territorial issues. Our turkey box is on the floor of our coop, and the chickens prefer to lay in the elevated boxes.
They sort of exist as though the other weren’t there.
(Keep in mind there are always exceptions to the rule, so always monitor new introductions between any birds, until you are comfortable that the relationship is safe.)
We’ve had great success with our mixes flock and with a bit of research, you can decide if turkeys are a good addition to your flock this spring.
Do you keep turkeys and chickens together? Tell us what works or doesn’t work for you by leaving a comment below or visit the Community Chickens Facebook Page.