Turkeys tormenting hens

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by PatS, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. PatS

    PatS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 28, 2009
    Northern Califonia
    My seven turkeys are about 20 weeks old, as are my "teenage chickens." My (chicken) hens are about 15 months old. They all eat and drink in the chicken house and completely fenced chicken yard, the door to the chicken yard is left open except at night or if we go out of town for an all-day trip. The seven turkeys, seven hens, and twelve adolescent chickens (both male and female) free range on 2 acres. They have "been together" for about three months.

    Until very recently, the hens ruled the roost. All the birds would defer to the hens, even the turkeys who are several times their size. In the last few days, there have been changes. There is an adolescent rooster who has begun mating the hens. (I haven't seen him mate the younger females, but the hens have been longing for male companionship since the flock's rooster was sent to freezer heaven for meanness. That was just before the turkeys were introduced to the flock.)

    About the same time, the turkeys (4 male, 3 female) have started harassing the hens, and chasing them. The turkeys work as a group. Twice that I know of they have brought a chicken down and pecked on her, en masse. One of the chickens has a mysterious leg or hip injury that may have been caused by this behavior. The turkeys seem to get quite disturbed when a chicken squats. The girls seem as bad about chasing the hens as the boys.

    I am very concerned. The turkeys have been banished from sleeping in the coop or run. (Fine with them, they'd rather sleep outside.) I won't pen the chickens during the day. We were planning to cull the extra roosters, but maybe I should start with the turkeys. I am more than a little depressed about this problem, as I am very fond of the turkeys and hoped to keep a couple of breeding pairs for next spring. Now I'm wondering if I should ever have gotten them in the first place.

    Those of you who raise them all together, what is your secret? Please tell.
     
  2. kuntrygirl

    kuntrygirl Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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    Feb 20, 2008
    Opelousas, Louisiana
    Sounds like my barnyard. My turkeys bully both hens AND the roosters. I have no idea what the secret is. What breed do you have? I have Bourbon Reds.

    At 2 months old one of my turkeys had a stand off with a crow that had been stealing my chicken eggs and the turkey won. My turkey was not backing off for anything. My turkey spread her feathers and made this loud noise over and over and did a karate kid kick at the crow. The crow finally gave in and flew off.

    So far they have not injured any hens or roosters. I think they are more bark than bite. They are just show offs but I don't think they will injure any animals.
     
  3. Pampered Hen

    Pampered Hen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have witnessed a similar behavior in my mixed fowl run (10 hens and a pair of bourbon red turkeys). At some point, it seems they decided to dislike a certain hen and chased her all around until she was panting and exhausted. That went on for a few mornings in a row and got me very worried in deed. The behavior stopped and every now and again the two team up to harass a hen, but as far as I can tell they give up the chase quickly and go on as if nothing ever happened - and so does the hen that was persued only minutes ago.
    Although the turkeys are much bigger than the hens, they are by no means the top dogs. It appears they have been integrated into the pecking order right along with the hens. They have hen friends and foes just like the other birds. And if they dare to eat from the hopper while the dominant hens are feeding, they get a whack on their bold heads and have to wait in line for their turn.
    I can see how you might be worried with a much bigger number of big turkeys harassing your hens. I would say there is a definite potential of harm to the hen. My suggestion would be to observe them closely and separate when needed. But with any luck this might just be a short lived occurrence and things will calm down again.
    Good luck and do keep us posted.
     
  4. PatS

    PatS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Northern Califonia
    Thank you. I hope it IS short lived. The turkeys in question are Midget Whites and Bourbon Reds. The hens are Buff Orps.

    They cornered the submissive chicken again this morning. I pushed them away, hard, and scolded them. (Would you believe it if I said one hung her head like she was ashamed? She did not like being scolded.) After the "hen incident" they picked on each other for a while, pulling on each other's wattles and snoods. One of the girls even took on a male, and it looked like she was winning.

    It seems like they are very feisty in the morning, once the day wore on they were fine. I do hope they get over this behavior.

    Thanks for your comments.
     
  5. AlbionWood

    AlbionWood Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 24, 2010
    Albion, California
    We have our turkeys fenced off from the hens. Tried letting them run together, but the turkeys immediately went to wolfing down the chicken food, and then started bullying the hens just as you describe. So now they are fenced off again! I'd love to have them running together, especially if the turkeys could help with defence. But it's all temporary anyway as these turkeys will be heading for the oven when they get big enough.

    p.s. Where did you get the Midget Whites? We're thinking about trying some of those next year. How are they compared to the BR?
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2010
  6. Lotsapaints

    Lotsapaints Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2010
    Paso Robles, CA
    I ordered mine from Welp they came from Texas they are really starting to plump up I'm saving some to breed my own I really like mine they always talk to me probably wanting more bread..they love bread
     
  7. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    Young turkeys are often like a mob of juvenile delinquents, especially when their is no older turkey to keep them in check. Mine typically will boss some chickens that try and eat first, or a rooster that picks a fight with another..... sometimes just for fun. They seem to settle down after awhile though as they get older. My one BS hen however is very sweet, but if a rooster confronts me she comes tearing across the yard and attacks him, then comes back to mom, lays down and does that turkey cooing. I also have one roo that will keep turkey, geese and even the emu in check at times..... [​IMG]
     
  8. PatS

    PatS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Northern Califonia
    They are like JDs! But I don't sense malice behind their actions -- they just seem to be being rambunctious and have no clue as to their own strength. They wail on each other all the time with no real injuries. And that one poor hen is so scared that she is overly submissive to them. Some of the other hens give the turkeys what for -- they get left alone. I think if the turkey's numbers were fewer, it might be a good thing. So maybe we'll have turkey a couple of times before Thanksgiving.

    We are doing a LOT of work in the yard, work the turks interfere with. ("Can I help you hammer that nail, can I, can I, huh?") SO they are penned up for a few hours while all the hens run free. ((For some reason the hens don't feel the need to be in between us and the work we are doing.) When the turkeys come out to play I put the two shy chickens in a large "infirmary" pen. They seem more than content to be out of reach of the big galoots. The other chickens are fine.

    The MW and BRs all came from Privett, through my feed store.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Folks!
     
  9. kuntrygirl

    kuntrygirl Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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    Feb 20, 2008
    Opelousas, Louisiana
    PatS, how is it going with those turkeys tormenting the hens?

    I posted that my turkeys were more bark than bite, well that was NOT TRUE...........they are biting now with no bark. [​IMG]

    I had an incident where one of my broiler hens (3 years old now) had been sitting in the corner or was spending her entire day inside the chicken coop in a corner for the last 2 weeks and I had no idea why. At first I thought that she was sick because she was a broiler (and they are not supposed to live more than 8 weeks) and that this was her time to go to broiler heaven in the sky. Well lo and behold and much to my surprise, I looked around this weekend and saw that one of my turkeys was abusing her. The turkey cornered her and was attacking and pecking her head NON STOP!!! I immediately ran over and picked up my broiler girl and kicked the turkey out of the broiler's chicken pen. All of the birds free range and I'm sure that they turkey(s) have been abusing her during the day and I was not there to protect her. This is why she was so scared and hid in the chicken house all day. She only came out of the chicken house when I came home and went in there to tell her hi (like I do every day). The broiler is now in her own area and cannot be abused by anyone. Now I have to come up with a solution for these Gangster Turkeys. I am so upset with them, I don't know what to do. I have a pack of 4 female turkeys that seem to be starting trouble and looking for a fight with anyone who will take them on. One will pick a fight and call for the other 3 females and the other 3 will come flying over to the designated fighting ring area. I'm tempted to have them for Thanksgiving.

    So please be careful and watch those turkeys. I would have never imagined they would have turned out to be fighters and abusers.


    ETA: This is a pic of one of the gangsters. This hen is about 5 months old. Can you tell that she is looking for a fight? When they fly in the trees, I know that they have their binoculars and are looking for a fight.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  10. PatS

    PatS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 28, 2009
    Northern Califonia
    They are still up to no good, I'm afraid. I have the traumatized chicken in the big infirmary pen. She is such a sweetie, yesterday she jumped up on the dog carrier in there and over the fence to go into the chicken house to lay her egg. (Such a people-pleaser!) I found her there and kept an eye on her and put her back when she was done. The hen with the injured leg is out and about. She still has a bit of a limp, but is an excellent hider and so she spends some of her day free ranging. When I come across her, I put her in with traumatized hen to keep her company.

    YES, my girls do the same thing. One is especially jealous of any attention I give any of the chickens and will chase them if I don't intercede. And once the chicken takes off running, ALL the turkeys give chase and try to corner it. Once cornered they give the chicken the head-pecking you describe. The girls seem to instigate it, more often than not.

    I think we're going to have to have several early Thanksgivings. [​IMG]
     

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