Thinking about a mixed flock...

GingerAle87

Chirping
Sep 13, 2019
20
56
59
SC Alaska
I need some advice about a mixed flock in South Central Alaska. I've had chickens for a few years now, currently 7 layers living with 2 pet rabbits. They have a 18sqft coop with 300sqft run (though they hang out in the greenhouse all day during the winter). We are planning on building a larger coop this spring, about 8ftx12ft, with a few feet sectioned off in the front for storage.
We just ordered heritage breed turkeys and I intend to keep 2-3 over the winter, potentially for breeding. Not sure which breeds I'll end up with. A friend and I went in on a mix of Bourbon Reds, Blue Slates, Royal Palms, Narragansetts, and Black Spanish... so I'll probably end up with a random mix.
Anywho, I'm working on calling the extension to find out if Histomoniasis is a thing up here and I know that I will have to extend my run also. My question is more about wanting to get opinions on having a mixed flock and if you guys have found success. Also, we have legit winters, generally in the 10s, though this month has been mostly negative. I haven't been able to find any information an true winter housing requirements as I understand they are pretty hardy and tend to roost outside. Does anyone have any experience with this? Thanks in advance!
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,174
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Natrona County, Wyoming
I need some advice about a mixed flock in South Central Alaska. I've had chickens for a few years now, currently 7 layers living with 2 pet rabbits. They have a 18sqft coop with 300sqft run (though they hang out in the greenhouse all day during the winter). We are planning on building a larger coop this spring, about 8ftx12ft, with a few feet sectioned off in the front for storage.
We just ordered heritage breed turkeys and I intend to keep 2-3 over the winter, potentially for breeding. Not sure which breeds I'll end up with. A friend and I went in on a mix of Bourbon Reds, Blue Slates, Royal Palms, Narragansetts, and Black Spanish... so I'll probably end up with a random mix.
Anywho, I'm working on calling the extension to find out if Histomoniasis is a thing up here and I know that I will have to extend my run also. My question is more about wanting to get opinions on having a mixed flock and if you guys have found success. Also, we have legit winters, generally in the 10s, though this month has been mostly negative. I haven't been able to find any information an true winter housing requirements as I understand they are pretty hardy and tend to roost outside. Does anyone have any experience with this? Thanks in advance!
I do not recommend keeping two or even three as a breeding flock. I try to keep a minimum of at least 4 or 5 hens for one tom. Keeping a pair can be very hard on the hen especially if the tom is a rough breeder.

If you don't have a problem with blackhead, turkeys can be kept with chickens but... If you try to keep turkeys in the small confined spaces that most people keep chickens in, the turkeys will probably be hazardous to the health of the chickens. Turkeys can be very single minded in that once they get an idea, it can be very difficult to convince them to stop what they are doing. If a turkey takes issue with a chicken and there is insufficient space, obstacles or hiding places it can end very badly for the chicken.

My turkeys have access to the chicken coop during the day but spend their nights on their roosts outside that are in a spot protected from the prevailing wind. The temperatures here normally reach -30°F during the winter and has not phased any of the varieties of turkeys that I have raised. All domestic turkeys are the breed Turkey. All of the varieties are closely related. Narragansetts differ from Bronze because they have the color gene Narragansett (nn or n-) while Bronze turkeys don't have that gene. Sweetgrass differ from Royal Palms because of that same color gene. The Royal Palms have the Narragansett color gene but the Sweetgrass don't have it.

The Bourbon Reds, Royal Palms, Narragansetts and Blacks will breed true but the Blue Slates will not breed true.

If you want to keep turkeys with chickens, make sure that you give them lots of room. My run is 50' x 100' allowing approximately 500 to 600 sq. ft. per adult turkey. In addition they get to free range daily in an approximately 2 acres enclosed area.
 

GingerAle87

Chirping
Sep 13, 2019
20
56
59
SC Alaska
I do not recommend keeping two or even three as a breeding flock. I try to keep a minimum of at least 4 or 5 hens for one tom. Keeping a pair can be very hard on the hen especially if the tom is a rough breeder.

If you don't have a problem with blackhead, turkeys can be kept with chickens but... If you try to keep turkeys in the small confined spaces that most people keep chickens in, the turkeys will probably be hazardous to the health of the chickens. Turkeys can be very single minded in that once they get an idea, it can be very difficult to convince them to stop what they are doing. If a turkey takes issue with a chicken and there is insufficient space, obstacles or hiding places it can end very badly for the chicken.

My turkeys have access to the chicken coop during the day but spend their nights on their roosts outside that are in a spot protected from the prevailing wind. The temperatures here normally reach -30°F during the winter and has not phased any of the varieties of turkeys that I have raised. All domestic turkeys are the breed Turkey. All of the varieties are closely related. Narragansetts differ from Bronze because they have the color gene Narragansett (nn or n-) while Bronze turkeys don't have that gene. Sweetgrass differ from Royal Palms because of that same color gene. The Royal Palms have the Narragansett color gene but the Sweetgrass don't have it.

The Bourbon Reds, Royal Palms, Narragansetts and Blacks will breed true but the Blue Slates will not breed true.

If you want to keep turkeys with chickens, make sure that you give them lots of room. My run is 50' x 100' allowing approximately 500 to 600 sq. ft. per adult turkey. In addition they get to free range daily in an approximately 2 acres enclosed area.
Wow, that sounds like a great set up! Based on your experience, it appears that turkeys will do well without a true "coop" in the winter. Now I'm thinking maybe I'll build a lean to with some roost bars/nest boxes for them off the side of the new coop. That will give them some protection from the wind and snow without having to worry about them in a small space with chickens.
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,174
38,790
1,141
Natrona County, Wyoming
Wow, that sounds like a great set up! Based on your experience, it appears that turkeys will do well without a true "coop" in the winter. Now I'm thinking maybe I'll build a lean to with some roost bars/nest boxes for them off the side of the new coop. That will give them some protection from the wind and snow without having to worry about them in a small space with chickens.
The taller your shed, the better. The roosts need to be positioned so that they are far enough away from the back wall and roof that the turkeys can freely move around on them.

It will definitely be much better than cramming them in a small coop with chickens.

Turkeys do need a place where they can get out of the wind and also where they can have shade from the sun. I have a small shelter in their run that has a south wall and a roof. On a sunny day, the turkeys can be found in the shade of that roof even when the temperature is -20°F. With their winter plumage, the sun can over heat them easily.
 

GingerAle87

Chirping
Sep 13, 2019
20
56
59
SC Alaska
The taller your shed, the better. The roosts need to be positioned so that they are far enough away from the back wall and roof that the turkeys can freely move around on them.

It will definitely be much better than cramming them in a small coop with chickens.

Turkeys do need a place where they can get out of the wind and also where they can have shade from the sun. I have a small shelter in their run that has a south wall and a roof. On a sunny day, the turkeys can be found in the shade of that roof even when the temperature is -20°F. With their winter plumage, the sun can over heat them easily.
I think that would work well here, too. I was thinking open south side to get the few winter hours of sun and block the wind, which hits from the east for us. But then in the long summer days, they would need some relief. From your post earlier, it appears like you let your turkeys and chickens be in the same area during the day. Is that right, or do you keep them separated anyway, since yours have the 2 acres to run in?
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,174
38,790
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Natrona County, Wyoming
I think that would work well here, too. I was thinking open south side to get the few winter hours of sun and block the wind, which hits from the east for us. But then in the long summer days, they would need some relief. From your post earlier, it appears like you let your turkeys and chickens be in the same area during the day. Is that right, or do you keep them separated anyway, since yours have the 2 acres to run in?
My chickens and turkeys are only physically separated at night. There are squabbles at times but there are lots of obstacles, hiding places and space that prevent the turkeys from doing physical damage to the chickens. It can be really helpful to not raise the poults and chicks together. Turkeys may be one of the easiest to imprint when they are young. If they get imprinted by chickens when they are young, they grow up without being able to understand that there is a difference between them and chickens. The inability to be able to understand that there is a difference can be harmful to the chickens.
 

GingerAle87

Chirping
Sep 13, 2019
20
56
59
SC Alaska
Luckily, we are not getting any chicks this year, if I add anymore layers they will be pullets later in the summer. It seems like it may just be easier to keep them separate for a while anyway. I do worry about the turkeys with my 2 rabbits. They can be pretty quick but these two specifically are a little to used to the chickens to probably recognize danger. Unfortunately, they share everything. Though that was kind of nice when it was -20 and the hens snuggled up with the rabbits in the greenhouse.

I have another question you may be able to help me with. I'm seeing information saying turkey roosts shouldn't be too far off the ground (to prevent injuries jumping down) but then see many experienced owners saying that turkey prefer to roost higher. Is the low roost recommendation specifically geared towards the heavier turkeys, like the BB? Do your heritage tend to roost higher if able?
 

R2elk

Free Ranger
Premium member
7 Years
Feb 24, 2013
12,174
38,790
1,141
Natrona County, Wyoming
I have another question you may be able to help me with. I'm seeing information saying turkey roosts shouldn't be too far off the ground (to prevent injuries jumping down) but then see many experienced owners saying that turkey prefer to roost higher. Is the low roost recommendation specifically geared towards the heavier turkeys, like the BB? Do your heritage tend to roost higher if able?
The low roost thing is for the broad breasted turkeys. For them a bale of hay or straw can be a suitable roost.

I have roosts starting at 3' and going on up to 6' high for my heritage turkeys. If given the opportunity, they will roost much higher than that. I have had one heritage tom that hurt his hip when he landed wrong getting down from a 6' high roost. The ground was frozen solid when he landed. I have had many heritage turkeys over the years and he is the only one that hurt himself getting down from that high. None of the ones that landed from higher places ever hurt themselves.
 

GingerAle87

Chirping
Sep 13, 2019
20
56
59
SC Alaska
Very cool, thank you for letting me pick your brain. As always, I want to do it right the first time (as best I can anyways, always room to improve).
 
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