When we started out with our first flock of chicks, we really didn’t have any plans on adding any other type of fowl to our flock. But then one day, when we stopped into the feed store to get some more chick feed, we saw that they had baby turkeys for sale. And well, one thing led to another and we ended up bring a few of them home. Assuming they’d do just fine living with the chickens, we put them in the coop with the chicks. They got along fine and we just figured they’d all coexist happily.
A few days later, I started doing a little research on raising turkeys. I know, I should have done that before we got them, but it didn’t happen. Lesson learned. So I came across an article that said that turkeys and chickens shouldn’t be raised together. I started doing more research on it and found the same info all over the internet. In fact, I found very little on raising them together successfully.
The biggest problem with raising them together is Histomoniasis, or Blackhead disease, which is a disease that causes serious problems and even death for turkeys. Blackhead disease is caused by a protozoan parasite that’s carried by cecal worms. Chickens and other fowl can also become infected by it. Usually it doesn’t cause serious harm to them, but they can become carriers of it. Because of that, it’s not recommended to raise turkeys and chickens together. Turkeys can also get blackhead disease from eating earthworms so even if there isn’t any other birds living on the property, they have a possibility of becoming infected, but the chances are a lot higher if they are around other fowl.
So once I found that out, we decided we better build another pen to keep the turkeys in. Since they had to be kept separately from the chickens, that meant we couldn’t allow them to free range. They grew huge, and towards the last several months before butchering, the three of them were going through a fifty pound bag of feed in a week. Let’s just say we had some awfully expensive Thanksgiving and Christmas meals that year…
The following year we decided not to raise any turkeys because we didn’t like not being able to free range them. When we went into the feed store to get some chicks, the clerk asked us if we were getting turkeys. We told her we weren’t because they shouldn’t be raised along with chickens. She told us that several of her customers have raised them together and never had any problems so we decided to give it another shot. We got two and started them out with a small group of chicks. It worked out great and we never had any problems with them getting sick. And not only that, our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were a heck of a lot cheaper that year. We did the same the following year, which was last year, with no problems.
This year we planned on doing the same again. For some reason the feed stores didn’t order any in so they were hard to come by. We almost decided against getting any but thought we’d miss raising them if we didn’t. So we ordered five, which was the minimum order, from a hatchery online. This time we got our chicks a couple months earlier than we got the turkeys, so because the chicks were almost grown, we had to start the turkeys out by themselves. Just with in the last couple weeks, the turkeys have gotten big enough to free range…
Since they weren’t raised with the chicks from the beginning, they stick together in their own little group. They do share a coop with the chickens, but they don’t really run with them. I don’t know if it’s because there are more of them, or that they run alongside but not with the chickens, but these guys seem to love to free range. In fact, they head out of the coop first thing in the morning and spend all day free ranging, hardly ever coming back to the coop to eat feed. I’m guessing that these five will cost way less than the three we first raised, which is a good thing.
One thing I’ve learned is it actually makes it convenient to start turkeys out with chicks from the beginning. Chickens automatically go up in their coop at night, so if the turkeys are running with them, they will follow them. At least that’s how it worked for us the last two years. This year, for some reason, these five have decided that the rail of our deck is their roosting spot for the night. So that means each night we have to go out and carry them to the coop. It’s fine for now but once they get bigger, I don’t know what we’ll do. We have no idea how to train them to go to the coop. Any ideas?
Just from our short experience, I’d say turkeys and chickens can be raised together with out problems. I’ve read that Blackhead is worse in some areas than others, so it could be that we live in an area where it’s not as bad. If you decide to try it, I’d suggest talking with others in your area to see if anyone has had problems with Blackhead and go from there.