Blackhead, turkeys and cayenne!!!


5 Years
May 3, 2014
**this is my personal experience with an outbreak of blackhead in my turkey flock. If your turkeys are showing signs and not eating, this method may not work for you and prescription medication may be warranted.

Also take care in reading labels and warnings if your turkeys are a meat stock or if you plan to sell the eggs, some medications are banned for human consumption of meat/eggs**

I have been raising large flocks of turkeys for two years. We also have 200+ chickens. Our turkeys got blackhead this spring and we lost two with 6 others very lethargic, yellow frothy poo, wings low to the ground and just plain sick looking. Blackhead does not necessarily turn their heads black. What it can do late in the disease is make breathing difficult which turns their heads a darker color due to lack of oxygen. Blackhead will destroy a turkey's liver, which is why the yellow frothy poo is a good indication of blackhead. We did a necropsy on one of the turkeys that died, we found the liver and our fears were confirmed with the bullseye sores shown on the liver (see pics on google or bing). With such a large flock (50 turkeys) I couldn't afford the medicinal treatments-- we're talking hundreds of dollars! I am a member of the American Pastured Poultry Producers and found multiple articles in the APPPA newsletters and by ATTRA. We needed something that was economical and natural. We don't use antibiotics in our flocks. Although this method has not been studied in documented research, pastured poultry producers have had great success with cayenne and we had to do something and quick. So we started socking the cayenne pepper to them immediately after reading the article. Turkeys and chickens cannot taste the hot of the pepper, so no worries there. Within two days of using the cayenne -- heavily applied to their feed, they all started acting more normal, and their poo started to turn back to brown, with a hint of black from the cayenne. We haven't lost a turkey since. When we butchered 20 of our turkeys two weeks ago, almost all of them had pock marks on their livers. But they were thriving! Most of them were over 20lbs each. What you have to remember is that blackhead stays in your soil for up to three years, treating them with fish zole, flagyl or other medicines will only treat that incident, it will come back. Adding ground cayenne, which we now buy by the 5 pound bucket, will keep your turkeys healthy -- but they may still carry or have the blackhead parasite. We feed the cayenne to the chickens and the turkeys daily. Cayenne will keep your eggs a nice orange color too! A bonus in the winter when snow covers our land for 6+ months and fresh grass and bugs are nonexistent! Cayenne has also been used to ward off cocci and other worms, but there are less articles using this method. All in all, if you want to keep turkeys with chickens, I suggest stocking up on cayenne. It has definitely worked for us and many other pastured poultry producers.

We listen to a live teleconference question and answer session offered monthly to paid members of APPPA and we asked about blackhead and cayenne. One of the producers that has flocks of 1,000 or more uses cayenne regularly. He told us to keep using it and we shouldn't lose anymore, although as stated, they may carry it.

I hope you find this article useful, it was a life (and money) saver for us and flocks.
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BYC Staff
Project Manager
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 24, 2012
The Golden State
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With such a large flock (50 turkeys) I couldn't afford the medicinal treatments-- we're talking hundreds of dollars!

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Metronidazole can be purchased for much less if you know where to look.



5 Years
Jul 5, 2015
I've been using it on my birds since day 1. I've never had problems with them getting sick in any way, so it is a great preventative too.

I also put apple cider vinegar in their water and garlic, ACV, and dried herbs in their fermented feed. You don't need a lot, especially as a preventative, a scant tablespoon per feeding.

Flocks co-existed and survived long before the pharmaceutical industry existed, some people forget that.


5 Years
May 3, 2014
I also use ACV their water. I ferment their feed and add oregano (I'm making my own oregano oil -- uber expensive to purchase! found instructions on pintrest) crushed/minced garlic, cinnamon and the cayenne. I make a 5 gallon bucket everyday and ferment for 3 days. I call it "chicken crack" they love this stuff. I put it out in 8 feeder pans, and one to the turkeys, to make sure everyone gets some.

I have a lot of restrictions because I sell my eggs and meat chickens/turkeys so I have to be really careful when it comes to using an antibiotic, which is why I kept searching the net for blackhead alternatives.

Turkey parents

5 Years
Dec 2, 2015
North New Mexico
My lapper had some of the symptoms of blackhead back in January-February, I treated with cayenne and she recovered, I'm fixing to put our two broad breasted jakes out in the coop and have been using cayenne pepper as a preventive measure I don't know if it is really necessary but figured since we've been getting 1-3 inches of rain a day and blackhead prefers wet soil it couldn't hurt.


7 Years
Jul 19, 2014
We just had a scare with our new Turkeys and went to the vet and got medicine. Each pill costs .60 cents here. But we live on an organic farm and normally treat ourselves and our animals with homeopathy and natural remedies. So I went to investigate more because I didn't feel I had the time (I didn't want the turkeys to suffer) or the knowledge as they were getting sick.

There is a lot of information on parasites in humans. It's all the "rage" in alternative medicine to have parasites. If we use human information for the turkeys and are happy to treat them without pharmasuticals then here are some options.

"Several natural remedies can help eradicate parasitic overgrowth including bentonite clay which works as an absorptive and an adsorptive eliminator. Chek says clay, “Acts like a sponge absorbing things with great power. It also has an electromagnetic property that makes it attractive to heavy metals and other toxins in the body due to covalent bonding, sharing electron rings. It can pull toxins out of the body. It can absorb them. It can act like mud in the intestinal tract and pick up ameoba parasites.”

Chek adds, “Hot spices kill bugs.” Oreganol p73 is one of the easiest and least expensive methods. Chek say, “It’s very hot. Hot sauces kill parasites on contact like liquid fire.” Oreganol works the same way but supports the immune system simultaneously. Oil of Oregano is hotter, frequently causing extreme discomfort.

Cayenne peppers and honey mixed together are powerful killers. The honey attracts the parasites, luring them in, while the cayenne pepper kills them. Ranked as one of The Top Books Worth Reading, Cayenne Pepper, by Sharon Daniels explains how this versatile spice kills parasites at the same time it regulates your system helping flush out the offenders. “If you master only one herb in your life, master cayenne pepper. It is more powerful than any other,” says Dr. Richard Schulze, Medical Herbalist from"

To support the liver and help with liver health (re-growth) I searched the internet to find out if turkeys can Regenerate their livers like humans. "Sidorova (1962) observed liver regeneration via hypertrophy in roosters." This the only study I found.

" Use herbs that nourish the liver. Simple remedies such as dandelion, yellow dock, chicory, milk thistle, and nettle aid the liver and are safe to use. The liver is not an inert object like a car or a rug that needs to be cleansed. It is not a filter that gets clogged. It is a living organ that constantly replaces itself. The liver is so important that every cell in it is rebuilt every thirty days. Just think! You have a brand new liver every month. There is no need to cleanse it! Love it and nourish it and your liver will be well.
Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion, yellow dock and burdock are often called liver cleansers.They are really liver nourishers. Regular use can protect the liver against damage, as well as improve the rate at which the liver removes toxins, and help the liver rebuild itself in optimum health." Susan Weed has over 30 years of history as being one the most respected herbalist in the US.

Possibly making nettle tea once a week? I am currently making Dandelion Root Tincture to put in their water.

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