Can Turkeys and Chickens Live Together: Cassandra Explains-It-All

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! This week, we are talking about raising turkeys and chickens. Our guest writer, Cassandra is here to answer the question: Can turkeys and chickens live together? Let’s find out!

So you’re a chicken tender, and you’re considering branching out in the poultry world with the acquisition of a turkey or two…or
three.

Or, maybe you’re like me, and you have a friend looking to rehome a bird, and you’re starting to wonder if you can have turkey and chickens living harmoniously in your run.

Time to Google!

A beautiful turkey displaying its plumage

No matter what the reason, you are in good company. In the world of backyard chicken keeping, the idea of raising turkeys and chickens together sparks curiosity and interest.

Pssst … if you didn’t know it yet but are starting to suspect, chicken math doesn’t only apply to chickens. Chickens are the gateway animal to a thriving homestead, even on a small property.

We’re talking quail, ducks, geese (did you know that geese sleep with one eye open and make fantastic guard animals … but that is a discussion for a different day) and, of course, our topic of interest today, TURKEYS.

Can you do it? Should you?

One of the more common “next steps” in poultry acquisition is the turkey.

Let’s dive into the benefits, challenges, health considerations, and practical tips for successfully raising turkeys and chickens side by side.

But first, let’s unravel a surprising factor: the common misconception about keeping turkeys and chickens together.

Background Information

Chickens and turkeys living together

Turkeys and chickens, despite their differences, share some common habits and behaviors. Understanding their natural habitat and personality is essential for creating a harmonious living environment.

With the growing trend of backyard chicken farming, more people are venturing into raising turkeys and chickens for various reasons, including sustainable egg production, pest control, and meat.

But, will diversifying your flock not only in breed but in species, save you money, time, and space, or is it just a new recipe for
disaster?

Raising chickens and turkeys together has been discouraged for decades, and yet, many backyard homesteaders are getting back into the mixed flocks. While there are some excellent benefits, raising two-thirds of your tur-duck-en in one run can raise some serious bird health concerns.

Benefits of Raising Turkeys and Chickens Together

Raising turkeys and chickens together in a mixed flock can offer several advantages, both for small-scale backyard farmers and larger poultry operations.

Disease and Pest Control

Because turkeys and chickens often have different foraging habits, raising them together can create a more diverse and efficient pest control system.

Chickens are known for scratching the soil and eating insects, while turkeys excel at controlling larger pests like grasshoppers, locusts, and even wasps.

Space Efficiency

One of the biggest advantages of housing birds of a feather together is the idea of saving space; this is especially true on a small-scale homestead.

Combining turkeys and chickens in the same living space can be space-efficient if you consider the two species’ needs.

Chickens and turkeys are both roosting birds and prefer to be up and off the ground at night (this is easier said than done for some of the broad-breasted birds … our Tom couldn’t roost if his life depended on it), having adequate roosting space is your primary concern when housing chickens and turkeys together.

Turkey and Chicken on a roosting bar

Social Dynamics

Turkeys and chickens have distinct social structures, and their interactions can be interesting and beneficial, not to mention downright comical.

Turkeys are known to be more curious and may act as sentinels for the flock, alerting chickens to potential dangers.

This is especially important when considering the risks and benefits of free-ranging your flock, or in instances where you opt not to have a rooster.

This mixed social dynamic can contribute to the overall well-being of the flock, along with your personal entertainment because – honestly – what’s more fun than a few chickens on the front lawn, A MASSIVE TOM strutting his stuff with the hens!

It’s important to note that successful integration requires careful consideration of factors such as space, diet, and health management for both birds, not just “Hey, wouldn’t turkeys be fun!”

Because turkeys are so much larger than even a giant breed chicken, having access to a large chicken run or a free-range opportunity is the best bet for keeping these poultry pals together.

So, they can live together, but should they?

Challenges and Considerations

While the benefits are enticing, there are potential challenges to address when keeping turkeys and chickens together.

While both poultry share a lot of the same health risks; chickens can actually share a specific disease that may spell disaster for Thanksgiving dinner.

Let’s explore some of the lesser-known challenges of raising to birds, not quite of a feather.

Health and Safety Considerations

While there are several health risks and challenges for chickens and turkeys, there is one specific concern that stirs debate in the chicken tender world.

  • Blackhead (Histomoniasis)

Blackhead is a protozoan infection primarily affecting turkeys but can be transmitted by “carrier” chickens, meaning the chickens don’t “suffer” from it, but they can spread it, unknowingly, to your turkeys, which could prove fatal.

Blackhead causes lesions in the liver and ceca. The telltale sign that your flock has histomoniasis is a blackening of the turkeys head, hence the name “blackhead”.

Blackhead is caused by a microscopic parasite found in worms. While there is no foolproof way to stop the spread of the disease, the easiest thing to do is to maintain separate spaces for your flocks.

  • Dietary Needs and Feeding
Chickens and turkeys eating together

Let’s talk about food!

When raising chickens and turkeys together, providing a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for overall health and well-being of both birds. While they may appear to thrive on the same foods, there are minor differences that should be considered when housing these tiny raptors.

While there are differences in the nutritional requirements of chickens and turkeys, a well-managed mixed-flock diet can be designed to meet the needs of both.

Here is the most common consideration for feeding chickens and turkeys together.

      1. Protein Content

Appropriate protein content is by far, and in large, the most common concern when raising chickens and turkeys together. Turkeys generally require a higher protein content in their diet compared to chickens, especially during the early stages of growth.

To accommodate both species, it’s best to choose a feed with a protein content that falls within the recommended range for turkeys (approximately 24-28% for poults) while still meeting the needs of chickens (about 16-20%).

A standard egg layer mix is usually sufficient for both birds. We supplement our flock with table scraps, which usually makes up for the difference in protein content and adds
variety to their diet.

      2. Avoiding Medicated Feed

While there is much debate in the chicken world about the benefits of medicated food if you are choosing to house your poults and chicks together, it is recommended that you skip
serving medicated foods to your flock
.

Medications commonly added to chicken feeds may not be suitable for turkeys.

Did you know it is actually BENEFICIAL to have your chicks and poults exposed to dirt and natural bacteria to help prevent an overgrowth of cocci in their tiny digestive systems?

Early exposure has been known to be as helpful as medicated feeds and is commonly suggested for broiler birds to reduce early losses. Well, now you know!

That’s Great, but what about Real Life

Hi, I’m Cassandra, and we have been chicken tenders for almost 5 years on our one-acre property.

We’ve done meat birds, a variety of layers, raised them from chicks, bought ready-to-lay hens, have had a summer of ducks, and did the “let’s raise Thanksgiving dinner” thing and wound up
with two pet turkeys.

Chicken math is real on our little property and has been a plenty of learning experiences. One of the best things we did was say yes to my friend’s turkey when they were leaving the province.

Turkeys are smart (though sometimes you wouldn’t know it) and they can be fiercely loyal companions. Their trills and chirps are not only entertaining but also good little alarms for when things are amiss.

The one thing I will say is this: while they are entertaining and loveable, turkeys ROAM a lot further than their chicken friends and when they take to going broody in some remote part of the field, they are hard to break of their brood.

So, you may find yourself searching for your well-camouflaged, dimwitted bird as the sun sets. And all because you’ve fallen in love with the bald, wrinkly feather
head.

Turkey Friends

Conclusion

Despite decades of debate, likely, you’re still itching to add a big old turkey to your flock and now that you know that it’s relatively straightforward, you might as well go ahead.

Always keep in mind biosecurity when considering adding any animal to your flock, one sick bird can spell disaster for your backyard.

With slight tweaks in feeding needs, a little upgrade or rejigging of the coop to house a few larger layers (yes, turkeys lay delicious eggs … just not many of them) you’re well on your way to a perfect poultry pairing with your turkeys and chickens living together.

Now, I have to know how you came by your turkey addition? Were you “gifted” one, or did you fall in love with those awkward poults in the pages of your local hatchery flyer?

Drop me a comment and let me know if you have a turkey, want one, or love reading about these big, beautiful birds! Until next time, thank you for reading!

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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