If you’re thinking of adding some turkeys to your chicken coop, you’re not alone. More and more people are interested in keeping turkeys as backyard poultry. But is it a good idea to keep turkeys with chickens? Let’s take a look at the most important things you should consider when deciding if it’s right for you.
Can You Raise Turkeys and Chickens Together?
Veterinarians recommend you do not keep chickens and turkeys together due to the risk of spreading the blackhead disease. The high-protein needs of turkey poults compared to young chickens can also be a challenge.
If you are comfortable with the risks and can provide the necessary extra care and nutrition, it’s possible to raise turkeys and chickens together – In fact, the two species are surprisingly compatible. Just remember that turkeys are larger and require more space than chickens, so you’ll need to make sure your coop is big enough for both.
Blackhead: A disease that turkey farmers need to be aware of
The arguably biggest risk of keeping turkeys and chickens together is the threat of histomoniasis – better known as blackhead disease.
What is Blackhead?
Blackhead is a serious disease that affects turkeys and other poultry. The disease is caused by the parasite Histomonas meleagridis, which typically causes death in 80% to 100% of infected turkeys. Blackhead is spread through worms, contaminated feathers, food, water, equipment, or direct contact with infected birds.
The parasite that causes blackhead disease can survive in the environment for long periods of time. This means that even if a turkey flock does not come into direct contact with infected chickens or turkeys, they can still become infected if they come into contact with contaminated materials.
Chicken can also be affected by blackhead, but are less likely to show symptoms. They can, however, be carriers of the disease and pass it on to your turkeys, which are very vulnerable to the effects of blackhead.
Biosecurity Measures to Prevent Blackhead
A well-run biosecurity program is the foundation of a healthy flock. Biosecurity is the practice of taking measures to protect a flock from disease-causing agents. Here are some essential biosecurity measures for turkey farmers to help protect your flock from disease.
- Purchasing birds from reputable breeders and quarantining new animals before introductions are essential to preventing the spread of disease.
- When returning home from other farms or poultry shows, it is vital to clean and disinfect all equipment, boots, and clothing to prevent the tracking of contaminants into the flock.
- Inspecting birds daily and regularly cleaning their living quarters will help keep them healthy and reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.
- Do not share equipment between flocks.
- Worming your chickens often can help reduce the risk of getting infected with worms carrying the parasite.
- If a bird in your flock appears unwell, take them out of the flock and consult a vet immediately.
Treatment for blackhead disease is difficult and often unsuccessful. Therefore prevention is the best way to control blackhead outbreaks. This is why veterinarians recommend not mixing chickens and turkeys.
However, we all make our own risk assessments, and many farmers successfully raise turkeys with chickens. Just know the risks and make sure to follow the biosecurity tips above.
Social Interactions Between Chickens and Turkeys
In most cases, turkeys and chickens can actually live quite harmoniously together. Here is what you need to know before you bring turkeys and chickens together to ensure that the two species coexist safely.
Will turkeys and chickens fight?
Turkeys and chickens are social animals that enjoy being part of a flock. While turkeys may look intimidating, they are rarely aggressive toward chickens and can peacefully coexist in the same area.
In fact, the only squabbles that occur between chickens and turkeys involve turkey hens or young turkeys – adult male turkeys only ever fight with other male turkeys, as they are the only ones that pose a threat to their dominance.
Roosters and Turkeys
One common concern when keeping turkeys and chickens together is that roosters can be aggressive toward turkeys. However, this is usually not an issue because roosters tend to view turkeys as being above them in the pecking order. As a result, roosters will generally leave turkeys alone unless they feel threatened in some way.
That said, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some roosters are more aggressive than others. If this becomes a problem, the best thing to do is remove the rooster from the flock or keep him segregated from the turkeys.
Introducing a Turkey to Chickens
It’s quite easy to introduce a turkey to a flock of chickens. The best way to do this is by first putting the turkeys in a separate run adjacent to the chicken coop. This will allow the two groups to get used to the presence of each other without being directly exposed to them.
After a few days, you can open a door between the two enclosures and allow the turkeys access to the coop. The chickens will be curious initially, but they will quickly lose interest and go about their business. The two groups may not be best friends, but they can certainly coexist peacefully.
Will a turkey protect chickens from hawks and other predators?
If you are planning on raising chickens, you might wonder if turkeys can help protect them from predators. The answer is, sadly, no.
Turkeys are not known to be particularly good guard animals, and they will not chase away hawks or other birds of prey to save a chicken. Similarly, they are not likely to deter mammalian predators such as foxes or coyotes.
In fact, turkeys can sometimes even be a liability, as their loud calls can attract attention to a chicken coop. If you’re looking for protection against potential predators, your best bet is to get a guard dog or put up a strong fence.
How Hens Treat Turkeys
One final thing worth mentioning is how chicken hens treat turkeys. When raising baby chicks, hens are very protective of their offspring and quite fearless. However, once those chicks grow up, their mothers return to their typical behavior.
In general, chicken hens do not pay much attention to adult turkeys. So, if you’re considering adding some turkeys to your chicken coop, go for it. Just be sure to take things slow when introducing them to each other so everyone can adjust smoothly.
Housing Chickens and Turkeys Together
While chickens and turkeys can easily live together, there is also the matter of whether or not it is possible for them to share a coop. It is possible for turkeys and chickens to live together in the same coop, but there are a few things you need to consider.
While their housing needs are similar, they have very different space requirements. Turkeys are larger than chickens, so they need more space to roam. If you’re keeping turkeys in a chicken coop, you’ll need to make sure the coop is big enough for them to stretch their wings without being cramped.
In fact, you should provide at least 6 to 10 square feet of indoor space per turkey and 25 feet of outdoor space compared to 1.8 and 4 square feet, respectively, for each chicken.
Turkeys also require more perching space than chickens, and they like to roost in trees. So if you’re keeping them in an enclosed run, make sure to provide them with plenty of high perches.
How to Accommodate Both Species
If you’re determined to keep both turkeys and chickens in the same coop, here are three things you can do to ensure everyone is comfortable.
- First, ensure the coop is big enough for both groups of birds (remember that turkeys need more space than chickens).
- Secondly, provide plenty of high perches for the turkeys.
- And finally, be sure to provide different-sized nesting boxes for both kinds of birds. Average-sized chickens prefer 12″ x 12″ x 12″ boxes, while turkeys need larger boxes that measure about 18″ x 18″ x 18″.
Do turkeys eat the same food as chickens?
Another thing you need to know is that if you raise meat turkeys, they will eat a lot. Meat turkeys are bred to grow large quickly, and they need a lot of protein-rich feed to reach this size. 26% protein content is an ideal feed for meat turkeys, which is much higher than what even meat chickens need.
While adult chickens can handle (although not require) a high-protein diet, raising young birds together is another matter. Young chickens will grow too quickly if they eat a diet meant for turkeys, which will lead to health problems. So, it’s best that turkeys and chickens are raised separately until they are fully grown.
However, if you keep turkeys for other purposes, such as slow-growing meat, breeding, eggs, pets, or ornamental purposes, they can eat the same feed as chickens. Just beware that your turkeys will not grow as big or as fast if they eat a diet meant for chickens.
Hatching and Raising Turkeys with Chickens
When you think of a hen sitting on a nest of eggs, you probably picture her incubating chicken eggs. But did you know that a broody chicken can actually hatch turkey eggs? That’s because chicken and turkey eggs need to be incubated at the same temperature: between 99.5 and 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turkey eggs hatch in about 28 days, while chicken eggs take 21 days. So if you have a broody hen laying on turkey eggs, she will need to remain in the nesting box for an extra 6-7 days. However, once the poults (turkey chicks) start hatching, the hen will take care of them just as she would chicks.
While less common, chicken eggs can also be hatched under a broody turkey. Turkeys generally make great mothers, but the large breeds can sometimes be too clumsy and accidentally hurt the chicks.
Can turkeys and chicks be raised together?
While both turkey poults chickens can be hatched by the same broody hen or incubator, it’s not recommended that they be raised together as turkeys need more protein in their diet than chickens. As mentioned above, turkey poults should be fed a diet with 26% protein, while growing chicks need one that’s 16 to 18% protein.
Keeping turkeys with chickens can be done, but you need to consider a few things first.
Blackhead is a higher risk when raising turkeys with chickens, so make sure to practice good biosecurity. Growing meat turkeys will also need more protein than chicken feed provides, so it is recommended to feed them separately in their own run or house.
Other than that, chickens and turkeys can generally live together peacefully as long as you provide them with enough space. If you do decide to keep both species together, make sure the coop is large enough, provide different-sized nesting boxes, and give the turkeys a few extra high perches.