I got this question in email from Mary:
"...I am suddenly in possession of 26 Cornish x AND 5 Naraganset chicks. I think I remember reading that you have raised chicken and turkey chicks together. Have you or did I dream this? Can I feed everyone turkey starter? It will be well nigh impossible for me to raise them separately for several weeks. Thanks for any advice you can offer - Mary "
There are quite a few warnings on the internet about mixing chickens and turkeys; most state that there's a contagion problem -- that diseases that chickens can carry without being harmed are fatal to turkeys, the most common example being "blackhead disease".
This is a concern, but for me it hasn't ever been a problem. I've mixed turkeys and chickens on a free-range system for years. It might be that I'm lucky, or that I run a closed flock, but either way, for me, I'm going to say that I don't worry about it.
There are two places that I've had trouble mixing chickens and turkeys; one is in the brooding phase, when I've got the birds under heat lamps. Chickens are much more oriented sooner than turkeys, and will pick on the turkeys when they're a few days old, and sometimes wound or kill them. Watch for feather picking and wounds, particularly on the turkey wings. Once the chickens start pecking the turkeys you must separate them.
Later, when they're older, the turkeys are a lot bigger and more aggressive than the chickens. This means that they'll attack the chickens to drive them away from feeders or waterers and will pick fights with the roosters (and mostly win those, too. A turkey hen is more than a match for a rooster, and a turkey tom is even bigger)
So what I have to watch for is that the chickens and turkeys both have an area where they can hang out and that they have enough space that they can spread out and not be in each others vision all the time.
In a small coop a pallet set up vertically provides a visual barrier so that the offending birds can get out of sight of the aggressor birds. Chickens and turkeys operate literally on "out of sight, out of mind".
Nutritionally the turkeys REQUIRE a higher protein feed (20-30% protein) than the chickens do. Most chick starter feeds meet this requirement. But what a lot of people do is to put the turkeys on a layer ration at 6 weeks, as they would their chickens. At 6 weeks a chicken is about half grown. A heritage turkey, is about 10% into its growth. I've found to get a good weight bird by end of season that I have to feed a higher protein feed for 2 to 3 months. After that I can switch to a lower protein mix -- game bird grower, for instance. Feeding higher protein rations to chickens for longer doesn't harm the chickens.
What I just said in the paragraph above is for heritage turkeys. Broad breasted turkeys grow faster than heritage birds, and the main problem that people have with giving them all the feed that they want is huge turkeys. a 50lb turkey won't fit in your oven. I solve this by buying my broad-breasted turkeys late in the season -- may or june, and aiming for a 16-20lb bird by thanksgiving. A heritage bird tops out at 16, with an average being 10-11lbs.
Hope that answers your questions.
1 day ago