Keeping A Mixed Flock: Can You Keep Chickens & Turkeys Together?

turkeys and hens s

Chickens, turkey hens, and ducks all waiting for a snack.

You might be interested in reading my post “How to Raise Turkeys.”

Can You Keep A Mixed Flock With Chickens & Turkeys?

When I first started keeping chickens I knew I eventually wanted to raise heritage turkeys and ducks too (and maybe some Guinea fowl…and geese). Keeping breeding stock of heritage turkeys was high on my to do list, because buying poults each year isn’t very self sufficient. Since I have limited space in my barn/garage, all birds would need to be housed together for at least part of their lives. However, I had read cautionary articles on the transmission of diseases between species and I was concerned.

This page contains affiliate links. You will not pay any extra if  you purchase products through these links, but I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting The Self Sufficient HomeAcre!


 

My young tom turkeys are strutting their stuff!

The normal color of a turkey’s head will change with ‘mood,’ but won’t turn very dark, as with Blackhead disease.

 

Blackhead Disease

One serious problem is Blackhead disease in turkeys and everything I read suggested that you shouldn’t keep turkeys and chickens together. Histomoniasis, or Blackhead disease , is caused by a parasite (a protazoan carried by cecal worms) that may infect poultry. Turkeys are especially suceptible to the disease and may display symptoms such as:

  • decreased appetite
  • increased thirst
  • dark discoloration of the head (may not affect all sick turkeys)
  • wet, yellowish stools
  • weakness
  • drowsiness
  • ruffled feathers

Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry instructs their readers that turkeys may be kept on the same property as other fowl, but to always keep them in separate pens and coops and to separate birds by age to reduce, but not eliminate, risks.

Something I found interesting, as I researched the subject, is that turkeys can be infected by consuming earthworms, even if there are no chickens in their pen. So, unless you are keeping your turkeys in an earthworm-free environment, they can still contract the disease. It does sound like the odds are increased when they are kept with other poultry, however.


Our new turkey is still a little unsure of his place in the flock. He's hanging with the new chickens and seems a little afraid of his new surroundings. Poor guy. I'm sure he'll be happy soon enough.

My Experience With Turkeys and Chickens Kept Together

Although I was cautious about keeping different species of birds together, I read a comment on a homesteading forum from a woman who does just this. She claimed that putting acidified cooper sulfate in their drinking water will worm the whole flock, preventing the parasites that cause Blackhead disease. Even better, she said that you can eat the eggs from your flock during this treatment. I was intrigued.

Although I didn’t find any more information about this treatment and it’s effectiveness at that time, I decided to keep turkeys and chickens together. Call me adventurous. I’ve been using acidified copper sulfate to worm my flock on a regular basis (several times a year and if any signs of worm infestations occur). I’ve had no issues with Blackhead disease in my turkeys. However, I don’t think that my two (non-consecutive) years of experience is conclusive evidence that this works.

Update: I kept turkeys in the same pen as my chickens on and off over 4 years with no sign of blackhead disease. As I write this in April of 2018, I do not have any poultry. I have am planning to order chickens and turkeys to arrive this month and will try this again.

Supporting Evidence?

I recently found more information when I read the following description for Acidified Cooper Sulfate in a large Hatchery’s catalog… (this description can no longer be found on their website. I don’t know if it was removed for liability reasons, or if there is new evidence suggesting that this treatment is not effective enough for them to keep the information on their site.)

Blackhead disease can be a problem in turkeys, chukar, grouse, quail, partridge, pheasants, and peafowl but rarely in chickens. Chickens are often the carriers, thus the benefits of segregating birds by species as well as age. Caused by a protozoan, the symptoms include: increase thirst, decrease appetite, drowsiness, weakness, yellowish-brown, watery, or foamy droppings and the birds may become very thin. Pale yellow droppings in turkeys is almost always a sign of blackhead. Birds contact the disease by eating earthworms which contain the cecal worm or by ingesting droppings from infected birds. Dosage 1/4 tsp per gallon of water. Poultry should be over 3 weeks of age. This medication must be administered in glass or plastic waterer.
(OK to eat eggs during treatment with these antibiotics.)

They do still have the medication available for purchase.

(I purchased my acidified copper sulfate from Efowl.com. Not an affiliate link.)

One of the baby turkeys and some young chickens in my brooder room.

One of the baby turkeys and some young chickens in my brooder room.

Separating By Age and Species

I have a main chicken coop with a room off one side that allows me to keep young birds separate from my adult flock. This is great! But I often have several hatches during the spring, making it necessary to keep various ages and species of young birds together in the brooder room or move some out into the main coop when they are 2 or 3 months old. I’d like to have the facilities to keep birds separate until they are adults. This summer we are hoping to build some ‘tractors’ to raise the youngsters outside. It’s all a work in progress.

So far I’ve had pretty good results raising my mixed breed/mixed age flock together. The tom turkey will peck the other birds and cause a commotion at times, but for the most part they all get along quite well.

Note: Before you put chickens and turkeys together in the same pen, check to see if Blackhead disease is prevalent in your area. If it is, I would not recommend keeping chickens and turkeys in the same pen. Also, if you decide to keep a mixed species flock, you do so at your own risk. I am sharing my experience keeping chickens, turkeys, and ducks in the same flock. You may have a very different experience.

Do you keep a flock of mixed species and ages? Have you ever had issues with disease? I really enjoy learning from my readers, so please leave a comment!


This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You will not pay any extra for these products and I’ll earn a small commission to help support this blog.

35 comments on “Keeping A Mixed Flock: Can You Keep Chickens & Turkeys Together?

  1. Laurie

    Laurie
    I have enjoyed all comments on raising Turkeys and chickens together.
    I have to male Turkeys. Had to put My Rooster and larger hen in Turkeys pen.
    Rooster was pecking at my Reds. Just hope it’s okay to keep Turkeys and chickens together.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lombardo

      Laurie,
      I would give them all a worming if possible. If the ground is frozen, it should be fine. I am no longer keeping turkeys, but I never had a problem with blackhead disease while keeping chickens and turkeys together for several years. However, I cannot be sure that you don’t have the parasite that causes blackhead disease in your area. So please worm them to be on the safe side.

      Reply
  2. Kelsi

    Hi! I am thinking of raising a couple of turkeys this year to butcher next fall. I’d like to put them in with my chickens… will I need to feed them differently than laying hens?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn

      Hi Kelsi,
      Yes, turkeys require a higher protein feed than laying hens. Your hens need around 16 or 17% protein feed. Young turkeys need around 26 to 30% protein at first…this can be reduced as they grow.

      Heritage turkeys kept for breeding don’t need as much protein as the young Broad Breasted turkeys raised for meat. Here is a site that has a good chart showing the amount of protein that growing turkeys need.

      https://www.nap.edu/read/2114/chapter/5#36

      I have kept meat turkeys in with my flock of chickens. I started them out for the first 6 weeks in a separate room off the chicken’s coop and fed them wild game starter for about 2 weeks, then switched to meat producer feed…22% protein. Then, at about 6 weeks, I introduced them to my chicken flock (when they were large enough that the hens didn’t pick on them). I put a pan of meat feed out for the turkeys every day. The hens did eat some of it and it wasn’t ideal, but it all worked out ok. I still put layer feed out too and put table scraps in with it, so the chickens did eat their own feed too.

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  3. charlotte hewett

    i have 31 chickens and 2 turckeys together for almost a year now and has had no problin until now .one of my turckey hen wants to kiss my chicken rooster in the peak. i have never seen this befor .does anyone knoe why .has this happened to anyone els/

    Reply
  4. Dan Rupp

    I’ve had a mixed flock of 16 birds for 4 years, down to 6 birds none lost to predation. I am going to mix 4 turkeys with 16 new hens starting at a day old from hatchery. I’ve read the thread above about blackheads disease. It would help if posters would tell what state they from to know if it’s in soil, I live in SW Ohio. And is ACV same treatment for worms and blackhead disease copper sulfate just for blackheads? Also maybe shine some light on predation, when setting up run from coop dig 6 inch wide trench around perimeter fold 6inches of 4×2 inch fence and bury in trench then staple up 4x4s. Cover trench and buried folded fence with dirt then number 2 limestone rock. Coyote and coon cannot dig under it. A man can hardly shovel the stones. I’ve caught many coyote and coons. For those in the country you can’t go wrong with 3/32 aircraft cable snares making a 10-12 loop 10 or 12 inches off ground on brushy trails they frequent. Be careful if you have dogs! For those of you that free range good luck we can’t do it here to many predators. Lost 6 ducks 1st time i let them out to pond.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn

      Hi Dan,
      Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you more quickly…I’m recovering from surgery.

      Most of the people who have posted comments did so quite some time ago and are unlikely to read your comment. I used the copper sulfate for preventing worms and blackhead disease. I cannot say for sure that it would prevent either problem for your flock. To find out more about blackhead disease in your area, I suggest calling your local extension office. I think this would be the proper link…

      Thank you for sharing your predator proofing fencing solutions! Great ideas!

      Reply
  5. Cat Cat

    I have 3 hens, 2 Americana chickens, 1 white turkey and a goat. The birds are all kept in the same pen now and I let them all roam the backyard freely most days. I’ve had no issues with blackhead disease or any other issues with them all being together.
    P.S. You should get a goat! I suggest this to everyone I know. If you haven’t done any research on it you should. I have a Norwegian dwarf goat whom I do not milk at this time but their milk has a high butterfat content good for milk, butter, soap, even cheese. If youre already doing the farming thing that may be something to look into. I have no issues keeping my goat in the same field as the chickens and turkey.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn

      Hi Cat Cat…thanks for sharing! I used to have goats. I didn’t really have things set up to make it easy and I didn’t want to invest in the barn/pasture remodel to make it easier. Maybe if we move to a property that is more conducive to goats I may try again.

      The only problem that I know of, would be if you have cocci parasites in the soil that might affect the animals. But that can happen whether or not you keep the goats and birds together.

      Reply
    2. Jeanne

      One goat is never a good idea. We raise dairy goats. They are a herd animal and they should have a companion. It doesn’t have to be a goat but it needs to be a herd mammal. My neighbor has a goat, a pony, and an alpaca that are best buddies. We won’t sell goats to people who just want 1.

      Reply
    1. Holly

      Can anyone tell me about introducing adult female turkeys to a chicken flock? Should I be prepared for a fight? I have looked for everywhere for this information and have found nothing! I know they can live together, but I am worried about the introduction. I have 2 adult female turkeys separate from my flock of 13 chickens and 1 sweet rooster. They can visualize each other. The turkeys do not seem aggressive but pace back and forth in front of the chickens like they want to go into their run. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
      Thank you!
      Holly

      Reply
      1. Lisa Lynn

        Hi Holly,
        Before attempting to introduce the turkeys to your chicken flock, I would recommend worming your chickens to be sure that they do not have the parasites that carry blackhead disease.
        Once that is taken care of, I suggest putting the turkeys into the chicken coop at night, while the chickens are roosting. They will be more likely to accept the turkeys without a fight. It may be more likely that the turkey hens will pick on the chickens. Stay with the flock all day to watch for signs of serious fighting and injury and remove the turkeys if it looks likely that any birds will be injured.

        I hope that this helps. Best wishes!

        Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Ashley,
      I use a non-medicated meat bird feed or non-medicated game bird feed for chicks and turkeys raised together. The heritage turkeys seem to well with the meat bird feed, which has a protein content of around 23%…the broad breasted turkeys are supposed to have the higher protein content of the game bird feed, which I believe is closer to 26% protein. But I have managed to raise them both on the regular meat bird feed. And the higher protein doesn’t hurt the chicks.

      Reply
  6. Anni

    I have had one turkey in with my 19 chickens and 2 guinea fowl for a year. Well the turkey was finally dinner, but we had no problems with health. I use ACV about every three waterer changes. I think the biggest problem was when the turkey tried to mate with one of my younger hens! The guinea male doesn’t even do that. lol. I see where blackhead could become a concern, but a healthy flock is less susceptible. Just keep your eyes open and be on guard for any strangeness in the flock as always. Like my grandma told me, we had one barn. Animals go in the barn. Period. Hehehehe.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Anni,
      I think you’re right…you just need to keep an eye on your flock. And using the ACV is great…I think mine are about ready for some. 🙂 Your Gram was a wise woman! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      Reply
  7. Philenese

    When I first started raising poultry, I was young and dumb and kept everyone together at night. Everyone included chickens, guineas, turkeys, ducks and geese plus a “house covey” of wild quail. I may have been lucky never having a problem with diseases however my problems were a weasel, coyotes and my German Shepard. Here my problems are neighbors’ cats, hawks and an occasional eagle.

    I do however add cider vinegar to the water from hatch to freezer and only add chicks from reputable hatcheries or from school. Am not self sufficient with my flock because my customer base are really anti fertile eggs … seems very silly to me but there is a much larger market than I can supply for rooster free eggs. However the requests for range free, vegetarian eggs just make me ask myself “really?”

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Philenese,
      That’s wonderful that you’ve never had any problems with disease! I too add apple cider vinegar to my chickens water, but usually only if they are showing signs of stress from the heat or cold, or there is an illness affecting them. I should consider making it a regular thing.

      It’s great that you have such a good customer base. Better. perhaps, to just supply what they want, even if it doesn’t make much sense! I think that people just aren’t as informed as they’d like to think, sometimes. 😉 Thanks for sharing, as always!

      Reply
    2. James

      Fertile eggs often have obvious beginnings of embryos and blood spots in them. I’m not a vegetarian, I breed chickens to eat, but I keep my laying hens separate to avoid having to remove bits before I eat them. Who wants to eat an embryo? They’ve already started developing by the time they’re laid!

      Reply
      1. Lisa Lynn Post author

        Hi James,
        The blood spots may be found in non-fertile eggs too. I always gather the eggs each day and have never found any embryos that are developed enough to notice. You can see the spot on the yolk, but I don’t take that out. To each his own! Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply
      2. Jack Carter

        I thought the rooster fertilized the eggs after they are laid. If so, the embryo wouldn’t develop until the egg was laid and probably wouldn’t be noticeable for at least a couple of days after fertilization/.

        I also suspect that eggs removed daily, washed and refrigerated would show little/no sign of fertilization.

        HOWEVER – these are just my thoughts; I am not certain.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Jack,
          The rooster actually mates with the hen and the sperm has to travel to the undeveloped egg. But the embryo won’t develop unless it is warm enough. I gather my eggs daily so that the hens don’t lay on them to incubate them, so the little spot you see on the egg doesn’t grow into an embryo. You can tell if an egg is fertile or not by looking at that little white spot…if it looks like a little ‘bullseye’ it is fertile, if it is a plain white dot, it is unfertilized. Pretty cool, if you ask me! 😉

  8. Kathy Nestell

    We have had turkeys ducks and chickens together for over 6 years on our farm. We have never had a disease issue of any kind until I was given a young adult trio of Newhampshire red chickens that had been exposed to fowlpoxs. The whole flock of chickens came down with the pox but it appeared to be a mild outbreak, as we had no fatalities. I will look in to the copper treatment, as I wonder if I am more suseptable to blackhead now that I have had mixed poultry for so many years. thanks for the post!

    Reply
    1. Monique Brown

      Hi Kathy, I was offered some laying hens a while ago and I politely said ‘no, thanks’. If you have a healthy flock I think the worst thing you can probably do is introducing strangers, unless you are absolutely sure they’re as healthy as yours. I think the fact that your flock obviously has healthy immune systems probably accounts for the fact that the pox outbreak was so mild.

      Reply
    2. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Kathy,
      It certainly can’t hurt to worm them with this treatment. I’ve used it effectively agains round worms. If you don’t rotate pasture each year, then it is a good idea to worm them regularly. I have also brought home diseases with chickens purchased on Craigslist. At first I was so upset. But over the years I have been breeding and hatching eggs from my own flock and saving only the healthiest poultry for the next generation. It is a tough call sometimes because I’ll have a really pretty rooster, but he starts sneezing…so I have to make rooster soup. Sigh. But I have some really healthy youngsters in the coop to carry on the most disease resistant genetics.

      Eventually we plan to move back to NY where we grew up and I’ll start over. At that point, I will only bring in poultry from reputable hatcheries to prevent diseases. Best wishes with your flock!

      Reply
  9. Lisa Lynn Post author

    Hi Monique,
    Very good point. I was concerned when I first started using it and I didn’t eat the eggs laid during treatment, since the advice I received was anecdotal. But having read that you can eat the eggs from the description in Murray McMurray put my mind at ease. I have also read that a Bordeux spray of copper sulfate was one of the first organic methods of treating fungal diseases on plants which helped to make me feel better about it…although that treatment was used long ago. Now there are places where that spray is no longer allowed because it can run off and accumulate in bodies of water and kill the animals by changing the acidity. So you’re right that it needs to be used infreqeuntly and with caution.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Reply
  10. Monique Brown

    That is very informative Lisa, as I have been thinking about adding turkeys (I already have chickens). I had also read that you shouldn’t keep them together because of blackhead disease but hadn’t come across any reference to acidified copper sulfate as a treatment. My concern is that this is not an organic method, so I did a quick search and found that copper sulfate is classed as a ‘synthetic’ by the National Organics Program. However, it is allowed for use as a pesticide in crops provided soil is tested to prevent accumulation, so it can’t be THAT bad. I have found no NOP guidelines for use as a wormer in animals but I imagine that the use you describe, just a few times a year, should be fine.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.