The benefit of homesteading is that you have the opportunity to raise meat for yourself in a way that you deem suitable. Homesteaders usually “diversify” their production by growing various crops and keeping multiple animal species to meet different needs. So can you keep chickens and turkeys together?
It’s definitely possible for both hens and turkeys to live together, yet, knowing exactly how to make sure that both birds are happy is essential when trying to maintain a happy and healthy flock. As there are many similarities in raising both birds, it makes sense to keep hens and turkeys.
In all honesty, we were considering that exact thing a few years back and were probably wondering some of the same questions you are having right now. For that reason, we’ve decided to write this article in the hope of clearing up some myths whilst providing useful information for someone who’s looking to keep turkeys and chickens together and doesn’t exactly know what it will entail.
Below we’ll look at the pros and cons of keeping them together and how to accomplish it.
Can you raise chickens with turkeys? A Guide To Keeping Chickens And Turkeys Together
In all honesty, there are many reasons why you want to keep one or both birds. On one hand, you have chickens that are more commonly used for their egg production and then there are turkeys that are primarily raised for meat consumption but can also make awesome pets.
Chickens and turkeys have some similarities. They are mostly flightless birds (domesticated turkeys) usually raised as livestock and called poultry. Farmers raise chickens and turkeys for meat, and although turkey eggs are not as popular as chicken eggs, they are delicious and nutritious.
Although keeping chickens with turkeys is possible, many advise against the practice. Below we’ll investigate the factors contributing to this mixed response.
Are you Allowed To Keep Turkeys On Your Property?
The most important thing to remember is that you must be contractually allowed to keep turkeys as they are considered livestock. This basically means checking with the council if you’ll be allowed to do so. To be on the safe side you’ll probably also want to check with your immediate neighbors, this just means you won’t have to worry about complaints or any other hassle. In fact, even when keeping chickens this is definitely something worth doing.
Although you could keep chickens with turkeys, does that mean you should? There are reasons for keeping them together, numerous reasons against it, and several important factors influencing the decision to keep chickens with turkeys.
The principal reasons to not keep chickens and turkeys together are:
- Disease control and prevention.
- Young chickens tend to bully young turkeys.
- Adult turkeys attack adult chickens.
Although these issues are “setbacks,” they are not always deal breakers. By careful management, you could keep chickens with turkeys.
Specifics on these issues and some mitigating techniques include:
can you keep turkeys with chickens? Chickens And Turkeys Can Pass Diseases To One Another
Chickens often carry pathogens and diseases without showing signs and symptoms and lead healthy lives. Unfortunately, they often pass these diseases on to other animals sharing their coop, who don’t fare as well.
Blackhead disease (histomoniasis) is an example of a chicken-borne disease where the chicken might be (for all intents and purposes) healthy but infected with the protozoan Histomonas meleagridis which spreads through a roundworm (Heterakis gallinarum) vector.
Blackhead disease affects chickens, turkeys, and game birds. Chickens are principal carriers of the disease due to the harboring of roundworms. However, turkeys are the worst affected, with a flock death rate of 70 to 100%.
The protozoa multiply in the bird’s cecum and then move upwards into the gastrointestinal tract. Once in the intestine, the protozoa encounter roundworms who ingest the microbes.
After entering the roundworm, the protozoa move to the roundworm’s eggs that are excreted by the bird when it defecates (poops).
Once excreted, eggs might mix with food (depending on where the poop lands) or be eaten by earthworms (and other invertebrates). Healthy birds become infected by eating from these sources.
Symptoms of Blackhead disease include:
- Inflammation of the cecum and liver, with ulcers
- A bedraggled look. Birds look sickly, with tatty feathers
- Birds become listless and lack energy
- They often have wings that droop/hang at their sides
- Yellow feces
A few days after the symptoms commence, this disease proves fatal in young birds. Older birds usually become emaciated and die over a longer period. However, older birds are more resistant to contracting the disease.
Although this disease results in fewer fatalities in chickens, it usually results in poor egg production and compromised health.
According to the FDA, currently, there is no treatment for Blackhead. The best control is prevention. Ensure that your coops and runs are sanitary and hygienic, reducing the risk of disease.
Chickens And Turkeys Require Separate Nesting Areas
Although birds often select locations away from threats when egg laying, in some coop and run situations, that is not always feasible. We suggest providing separate sleeping arrangements for your chickens and turkeys to mitigate issues.
When some birds lay eggs, they become protective over their clutch, particularly against anything they deem a threat.
Once chicks and turkey poults hatch, the baby chickens develop quicker than the turkeys and might become aggressive toward the poults, which often results in injury or death.
Aside from direct aggression, if there are diseases (like Blackhead) in your mixed-flock, separating the vulnerable turkey poults is wise to give them a better chance of survival.
can you keep chickens and turkeys together: Chickens And Turkeys Have Different Nutritional Requirements
The purpose behind raising the chickens and turkeys determines their dietary requirements. Birds bred and kept for laying have different dietary requirements than those raised for meat.
Meat-producing chickens require a balanced pellet-based feed:
- A starter feed of 22 to 24% protein for up to four weeks.
- A finisher feed of 18 to 19% protein until slaughtering age.
Egg-laying chickens are a bit more flexible in their feeding requirements:
- A pre-made pelleted mix balanced with vitamins, minerals, and proteins. The mix should have crushed oyster shells for protein.
- You can feed a variety of kitchen scraps to egg-laying chickens.
Free-range chickens are omnivores and eat seeds, grass shoots, and invertebrates (and smaller mammals when they catch them).
- A balanced pellet feed (crumbled and mashed food works too, but becomes messy/wasteful).
- The recommended starter feed for the first 8 weeks should contain around 28% protein.
- After 8 weeks, turkeys receive a grower feed with around 20% protein added to oats, corn, and other grains.
- Turkeys do well on pasture, obtaining about half of their dietary requirements, provided it is free of pesticides and no other poultry was on it for at least 6 months to 1 year.
- Turkeys also enjoy certain kitchen scraps (particularly vegetable greens).
All chickens and turkeys need access to ample water throughout the day. Turkeys require higher protein concentrations than chickens, so you’ll need to feed them separately to prevent under or overfeeding protein to turkeys and chickens.
Turkeys are larger than chickens and require larger enclosures and housing. Turkeys require roughly 25 square feet of space per adult bird (twelve-day-old poults only need around 10 square feet). Chickens (being smaller) require roughly 10 square feet per bird.
Many recommend that you keep turkeys on a fenced pasture/range with shelter from the elements. Depending on your space requirements, you could have up to 12 turkeys in roughly 75 square feet. The additional space provides turkeys with enough “exercise” to stay healthy.
The area housing your poultry needs to be big enough to have space to move away from one another. As they grow, turkeys may become aggressive, chasing and injuring chickens.
Turkeys and chickens require a shelter that is sufficiently sized to accommodate all of the birds (separately ideally). Chickens and turkeys like to roost, so they’ll need platforms and space inside their respective shelters.
Your shelter does not need to be complicated. A roosting pole under a roof is sufficient (and a side or two. For adult birds). Chickens need roughly 3 square feet of coop space per bird, while a 5 by 8-foot coop accommodates 20 turkeys.
Your enclosure should also be predator-proof, as turkeys and chickens make easy meals for numerous predators like foxes and birds of prey, and are around 4 feet high to prevent birds from “flying out.”
Chickens and turkeys benefit from and use dust bathing facilities. Allowing your birds to dust bath is a superb way to help protect them from parasites.
The best method of keeping chickens and turkeys is in a pasture/free-range environment. You’ll meet the bird’s nutritional and exercise needs while mitigating conflict and disease risk in a pasture/free-range setting.
We do not recommend trying to keep chickens and turkeys in a small caged area/single coop as this promotes conflict, disease, and stress.
Chickens and turkeys enjoy the company of their species. It would be best if you aimed to keep between 3 and 6 chickens (for a smallholding/backyard flock). If you’re breeding for meat and fertilized eggs, you’ll need 1 rooster per 10 hens.
You’ll need at least 2 turkeys.
Although social, turkeys might also intentionally pick fights with roosters, so you may need to separate certain animals.
The type of enclosure you erect for your chickens and turkeys significantly determines how well they synergize. I.e., you could opt for a shared run/pasture area that they use during the day, provided there is enough space for each to move away.
You could then erect separate housing areas specific to the needs of the birds adjacent to the outdoor area. This setup allows the chickens and turkeys interaction/socialization, but if things become too “excited,” they have the freedom to move away.
You’ll need to keep the poults and chicks separated to prevent chicks from dominating the poults, and if you have a rooster that fights with the turkeys, keeping him separate is wise.
Although many advise against it, there are situations where you would keep chickens and turkeys, including:
- You have free-range flocks that have sufficient space. If you pasture raise your birds and they have “vast” tracts to wander, then disease and conflict are less of an issue. Provided you have separate sleeping quarters. This method is ideal for keeping chickens and turkeys together.
- Your yard/smallholding has limited space, and there is no room for additional cages. Often backyard farmers would like to cram as many critters as possible onto their property in unique and specific habitats, but unfortunately, space is often an issue.
One large enclosure that you subdivide (as needed) might work, especially if you only have 4 or 5 birds.
- You don’t have the finances to construct additional cages. Money is an important criterion. If you don’t have enough to build two dedicated enclosures, then ensuring you make one fantastic and suitable enclosure is paramount.
- Keeping them together is easier to manage if your birds are pets and do not need to produce meat or eggs to fill a specific quota.
- Once your chicks and poults reach adulthood, they don’t appear to have blackhead disease (or other diseases). Older birds are less susceptible to certain diseases, but it would be best to keep younger birds separated.
As with most ventures, there are pros and cons to an undertaking. Below we’ll investigate the good and bad of keeping chickens and turkeys together.
- Chickens and turkeys produce useful manure, so keeping them together means you collect from one area. You’ll need to frequently muck out the living and sleeping areas.
- When they’re together in a sufficiently sized area, their social interactions are “favorable.”
- When keeping chickens and turkeys together, you could erect shared water feeders, so cleaning and refilling are easier.
- Overall management is easier regarding cleaning and feeding (you don’t need to walk to multiple cages).
- Chickens and turkeys benefit from a pasture-raised lifestyle, and some of their needs synergize.
- Keeping turkeys and chickens together saves you money and space.
The Cons Of Keeping Chickens And Turkeys Together
- Chickens and turkeys require different types of food, depending on why you’re keeping them (breeders, eggs, meat, or pets).
- Chickens spread Blackhead and other dangerous diseases to turkeys, who often die.
- Chickens and turkeys may fight if the area is not suitable/sufficiently sized.
- You’ll need to keep baby chicks and poults separate to prevent disease and injuries, which means you’ll need additional enclosures.
- You’ll need separate coops/hutches for your turkeys and chickens to sleep in.
how to keep turkeys and chickens together
Although many people who keep chickens “accidentally” end up with a turkey joining the flock, this is not the best integration method. Before creating a mixed-flock, you should decide if you have the time, energy, knowledge, and willingness to learn how to keep chickens with turkeys.
It is not an easy venture, but it can be worthwhile (when done correctly). Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to go down this path, you’ll need to:
can you put turkeys and chickens together? Determine The Purpose Of Your Poultry
Why do you want chickens and turkeys? For meat? Eggs? Pets?
Once you’ve decided what you desire from your mixed flock, you can begin to plan around their needs. If you only want them as pets, their requirements will look different to someone breeding and raising meat birds (the need for additional enclosures, food, etc.).
Once you’ve determined your needs, you can decide how many of each bird you need, factoring in space, cost, and maintenance.
Subsequently, you’ll need to decide how much space you can provide your birds. Will they be on free-range pasture? Will they have several runs connected to their coops? How many enclosures do you need?
Ideally, you’ll need two separate sleeping quarters; however, you could manage with one shared shed, provided there are only a few birds. Turkeys usually prefer lower perches, while chickens like to climb higher.
The concern is that chickens defecate (poop) throughout the night, and your turkeys may be in the “firing line.”
You could have two sheds/coops that connect into a shared run. That way, you keep their feeding, breeding, and sleeping separate while they share a foraging space. You could connect the run to a safe pasture or free-range space.
If you’re planning on breeding, you’ll need additional chick and poultry rearing areas. These should preferably be under shelter.
Most essential is that you monitor their health and well-being. If you notice that your birds begin deteriorating, fighting, don’t eat, or acting strangely, separate the flocks.
When introducing new birds, do so gradually and monitor them for disease and attitude problems (aggression).
Additionally, don’t try and force the situation, sometimes it’s not meant to be, and that’s okay. It’s better to have separate flocks than a discontented mixed flock that results in stress, sickness, and death.
So I hope I answered your question can turkeys and chickens live together. Although many authorities on the topic discourage mixing chickens and turkeys, it is possible to keep them together. Provided that you supply sufficient resources to mitigate conflict situations and take every measure to promote good health.
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.