Let’s Talk About Raising Turkeys With Chickens, for Something New and Different
Raising turkeys with chickens can pose some problems. I cared for a mixed flock which left me believing it wasn’t a good idea. There was one turkey in this group of laying hens. The owner mentioned noticing a serious decline in the number of eggs. I did what I usually do when faced with a problem I want to solve. I just took some time to study the situation, and spent about an hour in the coop.
As I looked around I spotted an egg in a nest and picked it up. I looked here and there, hoping to notice a place where predators were getting in, signs of broken egg shells or some sort of clue as to the egg problem. The birds seemed happy and there was plenty of food and water.
Suddenly the turkey was right next to me pecking hard on the egg in my hand. I haven’t liked the idea of raising turkeys with chickens since. I suppose it’s unfair to judge all turkeys based on this one’s behavior, but ever since, I consider turkeys egg-eaters and inappropriate members of a chicken flock.
I’ve kept my own chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, doves, quail and many exotic birds. One thing I’ve noticed across bird species is that they are opportunistic and highly aware of difference in species. When we see young turkeys at the feed store they look a lot like baby chickens and it might seem natural to raise them together. With day-old chicks there would be few problems in the first week.
With each passing day poultry develops quickly. Once they master walking, eating and drinking, and keeping warm under a lamp they have a lot of time on their hands, or feet or wings. When you raise young turkeys with chickens, they will soon surpass the chicks in size. The brooder will become the turkey’s territory. Young birds are very intelligent. They study their environment and the other creatures in it and test boundaries.
In the bird world, size usually means dominance. Chickens forced to live with a larger species may have trouble establishing a natural pecking order as a flock and will have to submit to the power and authority of the large. Possibly in the flock I cared for, the hens didn’t bother to protect their eggs from the turkey knowing he could and would do whatever he wanted. I suggested to the owners that they invite their turkey to Thanksgiving dinner.
When you raise turkeys with chickens, they may get along just fine, but I doubt it.
POULTRY OF DIFFERENT SIZES:
I’ve raised Bantam and large chickens over the years. I’ve learned not to mix different ages and sizes of chicks. Chicks go through developmental stages as they mature to adulthood. Learning dominance and submission is all part of flock life and chicks practice on each other. The smaller are at a huge disadvantage and may be injured by larger chicks that will bully them.
POULTRY OF DIFFERENT SPECIES:
Turkeys raised with chickens, chicks raised with ducklings, none of these combinations seemed to work well for me. Ducklings need much more water and like to practice swimming, chicks can’t swim so might drown in pans of water just right for ducklings. I believe it’s best for each species to develop on their own being provided separate brooders and brooding pens with species and size specific features.
Each species may have better immunity against some diseases. A disease that lays dormant in one species may be shed and spread to other species less able to fight off the effects of a disease. Purchasing young poultry from certified sources is important. Eliminating stress, such as competition for food and territory, plus hygiene, will keep poultry healthier. Raising the most similar groups of size, age and species can prevent problems as young poultry grow at a rapid rate. Turkeys raised with chickens may work as I said. I have heard of successful mixed flocks, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Sometimes color makes a difference to young poultry of the same species. I’ve heard of a number of cases where one chick
was much darker or lighter than the rest and it was picked on mercilessly. I’ve also heard of one large chick in a group
being picked on by the rest.
We can’t change the natural instincts of creatures, so it’s best to understand them and do our best to create environments
that meet their needs and help them develop peacefully.
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