My Turkey is a Chicken

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Wingleader, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. Wingleader

    Wingleader Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hey all! I've got a bit of an issue and I was wondering if any more experienced turkey keepers would have any advice for me.

    So here's the deal, I've got a 4.5 month old blue slate tom, named Baldr, as well as 19 chickens (4 roos, 15 hens). I got the turkey about two weeks ago. The hens are indifferent to his presence, but the roosters are not quite the same. Of the four roosters, two (the alpha roo, Dovah, and Butter, the lowest roo) could not care less about the turkey. They plain out ignore him, and really don't treat or view him as a threat and the turkey is likewise comfortable around them. The other two roosters, Ember and Sudoku (who are big burly ameraucanas, and also father and son, respectively) have made it their mission to terrorize the poor guy. If they see him in the run with the other birds they'll zero in on him within seconds and begin to lunge at him, sometimes with spurs out.

    Even young as he is, Baldr has them outmatched as far as speed and agility go (and size, too, but he apparently has no idea he's bigger than them), so he hasn't been injured yet, save for a few plucked back feathers. I keep the turkey in a closed off area of the run, a section we put a door covered in chicken wire on so that we could quarantine and acclimate new birds to our current flock and still let them get used to where their new home is and see and interact with the other birds without being able to get close enough for pecking or aggression. He's got his own food and water and a big perch to sleep on. I won't let him out of the pen unless I'm there with him to mediate or the two troublesome roosters are closed in the coop or closed OUT of the run.

    So my question for you all is, what can I do to get these two jerks to stop picking on him? They won't attack if I'm next to him (they learned quickly that I'll intervene on Baldr's behalf), Baldr won't turn around and give them the what-for. I even tried picking Baldr up and chasing the two roos WITH him. They steered clear of him for about ten minutes, but that was only a temporary solution. I want to be able to let everyone mingle and free-range, but I'm afraid if I leave them unattended, the turkey will get chased off the property and get lost, hit on the road, etc. etc. Ember and Sudoku are generally very well-behaved and friendly birds, and they're also pets, so getting rid of/culling any of them is not a solution I'm keen on.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2013
    This is a potentially very serious future issue. The last thing you want is chickens teaching chickens to kill turkeys and turkeys teaching turkeys to kill chickens, and both breeding more of the same mentality, because this is a likely outcome, and they do learn this behavior and breed it on. And when they learn it, sometimes culling or complete permanent separation is the only 'cure'.

    Quote: I understand your reasoning but I strongly recommend against doing this. What this does it to artificially put a subordinate animal over the top of dominant ones, in a very confrontational manner, despite the sub not having the wherewithal mentally/physically (whatever) to attain and keep dominant status. So he has in effect made an empty challenge, a bluff, which the roosters will now call him on. Such an "upstart" will often receive the most brutal punishment of all. I have seen human intervention in this manner cause the lifelong ostracizing and suffering of an animal, and deaths.

    Now, obviously, Baldr (great name by the way, I lol'd) will get much larger. His hormones will "kick in". He will possibly realize that he can kill the roosters. Quite possibly, he will kill them. Or they him. It will only get more and more serious. Chances are that your roosters will treat all turkeys the same, and your tom will learn to treat all roosters or chickens the same. This is to be avoided at all costs, the trouble can be perpetual.

    An adult turkey can kill with one kick, and once they get aggravated at chickens, they can make it their mission 24/7 to kill those chooks. Or all chooks. You don't want to breed a tom or hen who is in 'kill' mode because they can breed some serious fighting chicks. I've made that mistake a few times and the chicks were vicious little killers from a week or two old and onwards.

    The adult's mentality around conception turns off and turns on certain genes. It makes a noticeable difference to breed calm, happy adults as opposed to those who are stressed or enraged.

    If you get Baldr a girlfriend, he will probably get more aggressive towards the roosters. Being dominant male birds, the roosters may attempt to interfere in any matings they see Baldr attempt. The turkey hen/s are very likely to be the biggest aggressors, especially approaching laying/mating/brooding times, and one of my turkey hens would fight all through laying season, laying eggs that could not be brooded. They looked normal but when you shone a torch through them they had mutliple "star" impact fractures and would break if "set". (I only use natural incubation).

    This suggestion may not be worth while, but who knows... It could make trouble with your lowest rooster moving up the social ladder if he's a clever opportunist. But it might not. But if you don't do something effective you may lose animals. These sorts of issues escalate in most cases, not peter out.

    I would shackle the troublemakers. You get a soft but strong shoelace, rounded preferably rather than flat, and tie it around each shin above the ankle, so it's loose enough to allow full circulation, but tight enough to not slip over knee or ankle. The knots must be reliable, not able to slip in either direction. Leave enough length between the feet for a normal walking stride, but not a running stride. I've done this with very aggressive birds. They maintain status but learn not to attack, because when they try to leap at their intended victim, they fall on their face. They can mate normally, perch, scratch, jump up and down off things, dustbathe, etc, the only thing they can't do is chase their victim.

    It takes a little while for them to learn to walk with shackles on, if they're inclined to charge their victim a lot, and often when the shackle is first put on they hop on one foot with the other out behind them trying to get rid of the shoelace. But soon enough they just get on with life as normal, or almost completely as normal, anyway. Minus bullying. I had to leave my aggro turkey hen in her "shackles" for months when travelling and agisting. She didn't get sores, or hurt, or have any problems doing anything normal EXCEPT chasing and smashing her intended victim. Soon she would merely glower in hatred at the victim who was by then strolling about peacefully, unconcerned, knowing it was safe.

    Personally I would cull troublemaking violent birds as it all too often breeds true, but you want to keep them, so a good bet is to trim the very tip of their spurs to blunt them. If they're using them. Trimming the very point won't hurt them but can stop torn flesh and stab wounds from happening. Often roosters kick without using their spurs so best to know if they're actually using them.

    Best wishes, hope you find a solution.
  3. Wingleader

    Wingleader Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for the response, chooks4life. Yeah, I had my worries about the whole chasing the roos around with the turkey after the fact, but it was a sort of heat-of-the-moment thing. I was getting very frustrated at having to stop what I was doing every ten seconds to rescue my big dumb baby. I do know folks who have kept turkeys with chickens and have had no problems, which is why we decided on getting this tom.

    I'll definitely try shackling the two troublemakers. Like I said, Ember and Sudoku have shown no real aggression like this before, even to the other roos. There's the normal scuffle here and there, which gets sorted out very quickly and no one is hurt. We've had them cooped up for a good bit now because of the cold weather and hawk concerns and all four roosters have been getting along fantastically (which we're very grateful for).

    I'm going to be modifying the coop to add a door onto Baldr's little private area so that he can come and go as he pleases while the other birds are penned up. I highly doubt a hawk will carry him off.

    That said, I've had the tom for about two weeks now and he's been sleeping in the same place every night. A few days after I got him I had him out free-ranging while I did some coop maintenance and he wandered off into an adjacent field (maybe 300 or 400 feet off the property) and had to herd him back toward the coop. I want to be able to let him free range during the day while I'm not home, but I'm concerned he'll disappear or get through the field and trees and onto the road. Do you think he's been in the same place long enough to do this? Or should I let him out only when I can keep an eye on him?
  4. RedIII

    RedIII Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 30, 2011
    Tooele, Utah
    When I've had turkeys (either gender) or roos act aggressively toward the other, I've had to separate them. This meant putting at least one of them in a run so that there was a fence keeping them from killing each other. Otherwise, the turkeys would bully the roosters and hound them, even when the rooster backed down. I would consider separating them until you figure out what else you want to do.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
  5. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2013
    Very sorry for the late reply, this site's hidden some threads from me so I didn't know you'd replied. How's it going?

    I understand about the "heat of the moment", I daresay everyone's been there, lol!

    He has been in the place for long enough to bond to it, but he's got no mate, only enemies, and in my experience it is the female that bonds to a place, and the male bonds to the females. If the girls move, the boys go wherever the girls went. If there were never any girls there, the boys will go find the girls. As a male turkey he will wander until he finds hens; you most likely need hens to keep him "anchored". Keeping the hens bonded to the place, however, is a whole different issue.

    During a drought my turkeys took off on me as a whole flock repeatedly, I had to keep retrieving them from a distant multiple-times-removed neighbor a few neighbor's places away, and once the whole flock came back with blood covering their feet and legs. They were unharmed. I have no idea, to this day, what they killed, but it sure had a lot of blood in it, and they seemed quite satisfied with themselves. The neighbor they kept running off to, every single day I let them out, had green grass during the drought, since he watered his lawn. Turkeys prefer a diet of mainly green fresh fodder. Lack of it can send them wandering unless they're used to being raised in dirt or concrete lots.

    Also, as RedIII mentioned, they can get stuck into hounding a victim. They seem to mentally get stuck in killing mode sometimes, even as babies. It's best to never let your turkey's minds wander into this killing frenzy as they appear totally unable to stop.

    Angry turkeys breed more angry turkeys. I have bred quite a few species of animals in my life and have always been amazed at the differences shown in the progeny of calm, happy animals as compared to the very same animals' offspring conceived under stressed or aggressive mindsets. Recent scientific research on a few species including humans has backed this up, showing the mindset and environment at the time of breeding impacts what genes are "switched on or off" in the offspring, and it has a multigenerational impact that passes on.

    Turkeys are rather emotional birds compared to chickens. My turkey hens were highly fussy about the coops and always wanted to move to a better property. They always took off down the busy road and nested right at the edge of it. Restraining a female in the roosting cage and run to lay her eggs resulted in loud, all-day-every-day "weeping", complete with anxiety and increasing aggression and resentment towards their jailer (me).

    But, as much trouble as they can be, if you want to keep your tom, you're going to need hens.

    Best wishes with that.
  6. Wingleader

    Wingleader Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow, lots of good info there and definitely stuff I'll be keeping in mind. Unfortunately, our tom was getting too rowdy to hang around with our birds. The hens started to grow irritated by him, and began chasing him away when he tried to join in with their daily foraging. He then decided to take a run at me and one of my favorite (and smallest) hens. I found him a good home on a nearby farm with a family that is far more familiar with turkeys than I (and who won't eat him), so I know he'll be nice and happy.

    My husband and I will be waiting a bit to try and add turkeys to our flock again, and next time we'll be doing a far more thorough look into the temperament of any potential additions to our flock. I know there are some farms around here that have been successfully raising very pleasant turkeys that get along with chickens, so that'll be where I start first. No more spontaneous turkey-buying for me!

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