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How Turkeys Get Along With Other Species

A tom turkey looks out into a folliage-filled pasture.
Who’d make a good friend for Walter?

Updated September 21, 2020

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If you’re caring for turkeys with limited space, you may be wondering how they get along with other species of animals. Because individual animals each have their own unique personalities, preferences, and histories of trauma, this resource may not apply universally to all turkeys and the other species they interact with, but it should provide a good starting point in regards to how well a turkey will get along with other animals.

Turkeys And Other Turkeys

Turkeys can typically cohabitate just fine, with some caveats. Turkeys prefer to hang out in groups in most cases, and will immediately establish a pecking order like chickens to decide who rules the flock. Male turkeys will most likely need to live in separate housing from female turkeys, as their mating can injure females too much to keep them safely together, especially large breed females whose thin skin can be easily torn to a dangerous degree due to intensive breeding practices. Non-large breed male turkeys can often safely live with non-large breed female turkeys, but it’s always a good idea to assess each living situation individually. If you’re introducing a new turkey to a group, make sure to follow our new turkey arrival guide.

A Flock For All?

If you’re caring for both non-large breed and large breed turkeys, you will likely need to house them in separate living spaces due to large breed birds’ special health needs.

In the event that you are caring for a non-releasable wild turkey (which may require special licensing or permitting), they may be able to safely cohabitate with domestic turkey residents depending on individual personalities (but may not do well in flocks that also contain chickens). Since they do not require the restricted diet that large breed turkeys require, they would probably be better suited to live with non-large breed domestic turkeys than large breed residents.

Turkeys And Chickens

Female turkeys generally can cohabitate with chickens in free-range environments without issues (assuming they have adequate space), though it’s important to know that chickens can transmit blackhead to turkeys so it’s critical to keep their living spaces clean! Blackhead tends to be much less communicable in turkeys older than 6 months, so wait that long to introduce a young turkey into a mixed flock if necessary!

In general, it is safest not to house male turkeys with female chickens, as they unfortunately have been known to accidentally kill chickens when attempting to mate with them.  In some instances an older, more subdued large breed tom may be able to safely cohabitate with healthy female chickens so long as he shows no interest in mounting the chickens and the living arrangement is closely monitored on an ongoing basis. You should pay close attention to any changes in the tom’s behavior or if he appears more interested in the females, especially in the Spring. You should also pay close attention to the hens- looking for any signs of feather damage, changes in behavior such as hiding, or changes in mobility. You will need to be prepared to alter the living arrangement if the tom shows any interest in mounting the females or if any of the hens develop health or mobility issues, regardless of if they are related to the presence of the tom or not. The tom may realize that a health compromised hen is vulnerable and therefore easier to mount. Even the most mild-mannered, arthritic tom, who you swore would never mount anyone, may take advantage of a hen in a vulnerable state! Non-large breed male turkeys are more likely to mount female chickens and therefore should not be housed with them.

If you are caring for large breed turkeys and non-large breed chickens in the same living space, you must ensure that the turkeys cannot have access to the chickens’ free choice food, and the opposite is true if caring for non-large breed turkeys with large breed chickens.

If you have a lonely large breed male turkey and he isn’t too confrontational, you can house him with a rooster as a companion. Non-large breed male turkeys are more likely to cause dangerous injuries to roosters and should not typically cohabitate with any chickens due to their size and strength.

Turkeys And Ducks Or Geese

Although socially, turkeys and ducks or geese can get along in common living spaces, there are a few things to consider when it comes to keeping them together:

  • Ducklings or goslings and turkey chicks may require different food types- turkey chick growth food sometimes includes medicine that ducklings and goslings can overdose on
  • Ducks and geese require a water source specifically to swim in separate from drinking water- turkeys can drown in these sources
  • If ducks or geese and turkeys get into a spat, it can be quite dangerous for the ducks or geese as turkeys have much sharper beaks! Aggressive geese could also be quite dangerous to turkeys if they got into a tussle due to their strong wings and bite
  • Because they have a penis, ganders who are inclined towards mating should be closely watched or not kept with female turkeys. If ganders try to mate with them, they can cause dangerous prolapse situations
  • Male turkeys could potentially cause serious injury if they attempt to mate with waterfowl

If you’re keeping turkeys and ducks in a common living space, it’s important to give the ducks an area to escape to free of turkeys, perhaps with a duck-sized entryway, and if you are caring for large breed turkeys and waterfowl in the same living space, you must ensure that the turkeys cannot have access to the other birds’ free choice food.

Turkeys And Sanctuary Mammals

Generally, turkeys tend to get along just fine with other mammals who you might typically find in a sanctuary environment, including horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, and llamas. They likely won’t bother each other (especially if the turkey is introduced at a younger age), and the turkeys benefit from having a bit of a guardian presence protecting them from predators. Socially, turkeys don’t tend to mind being around these species as long as they have ample personal space. The main concerns to consider with cohabitation are accidental trampling underfoot (especially if the turkey has a mobility-affecting disability, or if a female turkey is broody) and the dangers of letting turkeys graze with mammalian residents who have been treated with chemical dewormers or medication, which can be dangerous for turkeys to be around or accidentally ingest. Also of importance to note are turkey droppings; animals ingesting turkey poop can get dangerous infections, so if you do have turkeys grazing in common outdoor living spaces with mammals, you need to ensure that the pasture is as clean as possible, especially feeding areas!  If you choose to house turkeys with mammalian residents, you will need to give special consideration to overnight accommodations.  Turkeys must be secured in predator-proof housing overnight, but it may not be advisable for the mammals they are living with to be closed in with them.  You do not want to create a situation where a sleeping turkey is injured by a mammal they cannot get away from.  In general, it is safest to give the turkeys a safe space to sleep away from their mammalian friends.

Turkeys And Donkeys

With turkeys and donkeys, how they do together is entirely dependent on the personalities at play. Some donkeys get along quite well with sanctuary birds like turkeys. Others, especially those rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, may be more territorial and defensive around all species, including turkeys. Some turkeys may be too territorial to live with donkeys in some living spaces. Always closely monitor the pasture and make a careful introduction between donkeys and turkeys, keeping in mind the possibility that they may need to live separately.

Turkeys And Pigs

There have been reports of birds being killed in a sanctuary environment by pigs. These incidents occurred between young turkeys and chickens and younger pigs who were apparently trying to play with the birds, feral pigs sharing space with birds at a sanctuary, as well as (rarely), individual adult domestic pigs with strong territorial impulses. It does not appear that adult domestic pigs are commonly known to intentionally cause bird deaths in sanctuaries, but you should always exercise caution where possible when it comes to protecting resident lives and be mindful of the potential consequences of species cohabitation.

For these reasons, we do not recommend housing birds with pigs, especially feral pigs or piglets.

While non-territorial adult domestic pigs could technically share outdoor space with turkeys, provided that all species have their specific needs taken care of (like providing a dust bath for the turkeys),  you must be aware that harm could very well occur in this cohabitation model, even if the residents seem to get along. If you do keep pigs with turkeys, ensure that there is plenty of space to avoid any situations where a bird (especially a mobility impaired or broody resident) might get caught underfoot from a pig. Both pigs and large breed turkeys are typically very enthusiastic about meals, so you may have to take extra precautions during mealtime to ensure everyone is safe.  Pigs are also (quite reasonably) particular eaters who will try not to eat pasture or food that has been defecated on by another animal, including turkeys, so if you’re going to keep pigs and turkeys together, it would be preferable to find a solution to keeping the pig’s living spaces clean.

Turkeys And Dogs

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to let dogs interact with any animal at a farmed animal sanctuary. As the species in your care are prey animals, there is a high chance that there will be a negative reaction, either from the dog or the resident, and it is never worth risking an animal’s safety when there is any possibility to avoid conflict.

With dogs and turkeys, it depends on the individuals. Whereas properly socialized dogs tend not to bother turkeys, others may be prone to chase or even try to eat turkeys, even if they had an initially positive first few meetings. Conversely, a turkey who feels threatened may attack the dog. Use your judgement, and if a dog must share space with a turkey, do not let them spend time around each other unsupervised. Make sure to prioritize the turkey’s psychological comfort; if a dog puts the turkey on alert, it wouldn’t be compassionate to make them cohabitate with a stressful presence, no matter how friendly they may be.

Turkeys And Cats

Cats and turkeys typically don’t bother each other as turkeys are much larger than cats. One area of concern, though, are turkey chicks and much smaller turkeys, who could be targeted as a meal by certain cats.  Again, with adult turkeys, closely monitor initial reactions to see if they’d be a good fit!

If you’re caring for large breed turkeys around cats, you must ensure that the turkeys have no access to cat litter, which they have been known to ingest, causing Turkeys And Wildlife

Depending on their set-up, turkeys could be coming into contact with wild animals who also call the sanctuary grounds home. While some species may pose no risk to your turkey residents, others could cause serious harm.

Predators Of Turkeys

Certain wild animal species are especially dangerous to turkeys and will eat them if given the chance. This includes stray dogs, coyotes, wolves, foxes, birds of prey, rats, raccoons, weasels, bobcats, skunks, opossums, snakes, and bears. The best defense is a properly secured outdoor living space and predator-proof indoor habitat. This includes predator netting (chicken wire will not keep a predator out, only a turkey in!), fencing that cannot be dug under, predator-secure latches, and vigilance!

Other Wildlife

Though other species of wildlife may not pose the same type of threat as a predator, there are still a few important things to consider. Wild birds and rodents can carry and transmit diseases to sanctuary birds, so it’s important to keep their living space generally secured from them and clean of droppings if at all possible. Additionally, rats can kill or cause mortal injury to a turkey by chewing on them, especially as they sleep, and can cause significant damage to living spaces, especially if they gain access to electrical wire or insulation. Some wildlife could create breaches in an otherwise secured space by chewing holes in structures or digging under fencing, which could give predators easy access to the flock. Be sure to consider the wildlife in your area when constructing living spaces and be sure to check for breaches regularly. For more information on compassionate wildlife strategies, check out our resource here!

SOURCES:

Turkey Care | Farm Sanctuary

Turkeys As Goat Buddies? | Backyard (Non-Compassionate Source)

Protecting Heritage Turkeys From Predators | Livestock Conservancy (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 30, 2021

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