Many backyard chicken flock owners start wondering about expanding their flocks to include other types of poultry – namely turkey, geese, and ducks. One of the easiest birds to integrate into a chicken flock is for some, the turkey.
Raising Turkey Poults with Chicks
It’s easy to raise baby turkey with young chicks especially. In fact, in some times it is actually beneficial for the turkeys to be raised with chickens because the chicks will help teach newly hatched turkey babies where to find the food and water. In some less-thrifty breeds of turkey the babies don’t easily or readily begin eating and drinking on their own.
When raising turkeys with chickens it is helpful to start with chicks that are older. Try adding newly hatched turkey poults into a brooder with chicks that are at least a couple weeks old. This technique helps negate the size difference and makes it less likely the chicks will get picked on.
Can you continue to raise turkeys and chickens together?
Once the turkeys get older many poultry manuals would have you believe that they would keel over dead from blackhead disease. Blackhead is a disease that chickens can carry but may never express, but can be fatal to turkey. This is always a potential problem if you keep turkeys around infected chickens. But there are steps you can take to minimize your risks.
Preventing Blackhead to Raise Chickens and Turkeys
Copper supplements are a natural way to treat for blackhead in chickens. The disease is carried by internal parasites in the chickens. Of course, starting with disease free stock is also important.
In my experience, and having talked to many in my area who successfully raise chickens and turkeys together, the key is to allow free-range, give quality food, and start with healthy birds. You may even have your birds tested when beginning your flock if you want to mix turkeys with chickens in the same area. That also means you should carefully quarantine any extra stock coming in when buying older chickens to add to your flock.
Choosing Turkey Breeds for Raising Mixed-Poultry Flocks
If you are raising turkeys in a small backyard farming or backyard homestead situation, you want to choose your breed carefully. The heritage breeds, capable of breeding and raising brood naturally will be hardier and have fewer health problems.
The bottom line is that this is another area where commercial practices of poultry keeping don’t translate well to backyard, organic, and personalized methods. When you are providing extra space, extra attention, and avoiding weakening the immune system of your birds with overcrowding and stressful living conditions, you can successfully raise turkey and chickens together!
Some people have had bad experiences while most people I know personally have done it for decades without any problems.
Have you had experience raising chickens with other types of poultry?