If you currently keep, or plan to keep both turkeys and chickens, you may have some questions about their diets. More specifically, you may be wondering whether turkeys can eat chicken feed and vice versa. Of course this would be more practical and economical but is it healthy for either bird? With these questions in mind, I delve into the research. I will be sharing my findings with you here today.
So, can turkeys eat chicken feed? Turkeys cannot eat chicken feed, or at least they shouldn’t. Turkeys are larger birds than chickens and therefore require more protein in their diet. Equally, chicken feed is usually insufficient to nourish and provide all the nutrients a turkey requires for optimal health. Therefore, if you plan on keeping turkeys and chickens, you will need to provide them with separate feed.
Turkeys, like chickens, also enjoy an omnivorous diet. They will eat a variety of foods that are provided; and this includes scraps like grains and vegetables.
By nature they are foraging birds, and foraging allows them to eat different things that are available off the land. Depending on your location and local environment, this can range from nuts, seeds, berries, insects, bugs, plant foliage and even small reptiles and rodents. The list of food sources for these birds appears endless!
When kept in captivity, turkeys should be fed a commercial feed. This ensures they meet all their nutritional needs. Many turkey farmers will also supplement their bird’s main feed with grain, corn, and other foods. This is something you can consider.
While feeding chicken feed to turkeys will not cause an immediate harm or risk, over time, they will not grow and thrive to their full potential.
So, when keeping turkeys and chickens together, you will need to feed them all game bird feed or turkey feed. Both feeds are healthy for the chickens, and the turkeys receive all the nutrition they need.
Keep in mind that young turkeys require feeds that contain about 28% protein to maintain their natural growth rate. Over time they won’t require as much protein, although their vitamin needs remain unchanged. Therefore turkeys will need to be fed in accordance with their age, just as chickens would.
Let us now take a closer look at the dietary needs and requirements of both turkeys and chickens. This way we can get a better understanding of the kinds of foods we should be feeding each bird.
At the end we will be discussing what turkeys should be eating, along with baby turkeys too, so be sure to keep on reading to get all the information on the subject you need!
Turkeys Dietary Requirements
Wild turkeys will forage for their food and they know what food is right for them. Foraging enables these birds to find exciting sources and nutritious foods like:
- Walnuts, acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts.
- Grain and seeds include corn, wheat, and spilled birdseed.
- Berries, crabapples, wild grapes, and other small fruits.
- Grass, plant foliage, and tender shoots or leaves. Fleshy parts of plants that include roots, buds, succulents, bulbs, and cacti.
- Large insects that include spiders, grasshoppers, and caterpillars.
- Small reptiles that include small lizards and even small snakes.
Turkeys in captivity still require a similar diet and it should closely match that of their wild counterparts. However, due to the complexities (both in terms of economical and also availability), providing all of those foods referenced above is a challenge.
Thus, when turkeys are kept in captivity, they receive much of their nutrition from a specially formulated turkey feed.
These commercial feeds contain a mixture of ingredients that imitate their highly varied diets. Turkey farmers will take it one step further, and supplement their bird’s diet with grain, corn, and other foods like table scraps. This is something that you can do from time to time.
Its important to note that some domestic turkeys are given a diet designed to encourage faster growth and to end up being larger birds; this is to increase their commercial profit. Whether or not this is appropriate depends largely on what you are keeping turkeys for and your main desires, interests and preferences.
Other farmers opt for a more natural diet, allowing them to forage through their land freely. These turkeys often consume as much as fifty percent of their intake from range grass or pasture, with the tips of grass being mostly preferable by these birds.
Nevertheless, turkeys require a high protein diet, especially when they are young.
They need a complete feed that offers about 28% of protein until they are eight weeks of age.
From eight weeks, their protein needs lower to 20%, so their feed will have less protein but more calories to maintain growth and body size.
If you are raising turkey hens for their eggs, you must consider their calcium needs; from the time hens are 30 weeks, they need a special layer feed for that extra calcium boost.
Chickens Dietary Requirements
Chickens have different dietary requirements to turkeys; due in part to being a smaller bird. They have a lower requirement for proteins, and calories/energy in general.
Chickens need a balance of about 38 unique nutrients; from day one through to week 18, they require a starter gro feed and one complete layer feed for lying birds.
A complete feed must make up about 90 % of a chicken’s diet, and 10% can comprise healthy treats.
You may wonder what the 90/10 rule looks like in real terms; laying hens consume approximately .25 pounds of complete feed a day.
Treats must never exceed two tablespoons a day.
For spring-born chicks, continue feeding a complete starter feed until they 18 weeks old. After each bird has laid her first egg, you may begin introducing treats into their diet to support healthy development.
Chickens may well be omnivores, but there are certain foods to steer well clear of, including:
- Green potato peels,
- Raw peanuts,
- Tomato and
- All nightshade plants.
It’s the right thing to be mindful of the foods you shouldn’t offer to chickens as it gives you a much better view as to what you may want to provide your flock as a treat.
Aside from food, make sure that your chickens have access to clean water every day. These birds need to be well-hydrated.
An adult laying hen will drink a pint of water each day. The size of the bird, the outdoor temperature, and the season will determine how much water your birds need; however, never restrict their access to water, allow them to drink as much as they need.
Water is as essential as food for healthy growth and productive egg-laying.
What Should I Feed My Turkeys?
If you own some turkeys, then you will need to think about what you regularly provide and offer them.
Adult turkeys need a regular turkey feed or gamebird feed. And as adults, they don’t need as much protein from their feed as when they are still young.
Adult turkeys require a feed that provides them with about 16 to 20% protein. This formulated feed will be the mainstay of your turkey’s diet for their entire life.
If you decide to feed you turkeys a more natural diet, make sure that they have access to an open pasture where they can forage freely through the grass.
Foraging turkeys, much like chickens, use their feet to scratch up seeds, snails, and worms to the surface. In their natural environments, turkeys enjoy a varied diet of insects, nuts, small vertebrates, plants, seeds, berries, fruits, etc. And its beneficial for them to do so.
Raising a flock of turkeys in your backyard can be challenging to provide complete nutrition, but you can undoubtedly supplement your turkey’s feed with everyday foodstuffs. You can sprinkle some vegetable scraps around the yard; you can throw some mealworms in the dirt to stimulate your turkey’s foraging instinct.
Many fruits, nuts, berries, vegetables, and grains make ideal treats for turkeys. Turkeys need a diet that is naturally higher in protein than it is in sugar.
Most fruits are high in sugar, so they should only be fed in moderation as a treat and never a staple of their diet, like chickens.
Turkeys enjoy garden or kitchen scraps and eat things like tomatoes, lettuce, squash, sweetcorn, peas, etc.
While turkeys can try a range of foods, there are those a turkey must never eat.
Foods Not To Feed Your Turkeys
Keeping a list of unsafe foods can help you decide what to feed you turkey as a treat, as most foods are safe.
However, you should never provide any of the following to your turkey:
- Avocado – as it contains person a highly toxic compound which can be deadly for birds,
- Potato peels, leaves, and sprouts – Green areas of potatoes are unsafe to humans and birds,
- Raw peanuts – may have a fungus aflatoxin
- Tomato leaves
- Rhubarb – contain a poison called oxalic acid
- Nightshade plants
As you can see, these are the same foods that are not safe for chickens and referenced earlier in this article. The truth is while they do require a different diet, they still share a few interesting dietary similarities; like the foods they must avoid.
Make sure that your turkeys have access to drinking water daily. You can use a one-gallon chick waterer for baby poults.
Always avoid using open pans of water as poults can fall into them and drown.
As the poults grow, you can use a five-gallon waterer or a nipple water drinking system.
Turkeys are very strong, so you will need a sturdy waterer.
What Do You Feed Baby Turkeys?
In the wild, young turkeys will also forage for their food; they learn how to do so quickly as their mothers lead them to the best food sources available.
In the first month that they hatch, these young birds consume a higher percentage of bugs, insects, reptiles, and mollusks, to get the protein they need for healthy development.
As they grow, young birds will eat a wide variety of foods depending on whatever is available in their given location.
Domestic Baby turkeys require a turkey or gamebird starter crumbles or mash – this feed is formulated for healthy growth and development.
Young turkeys need a feed that provides no more than 28% protein as more than that causes growth problems.
Poults until eight weeks of age need a 28% starter feed; after that, their feed must contain no more than 20 % protein.
Never feed layer feed pellets to baby turkeys as the levels of calcium are too high for these growing birds.
When these chicks are three weeks old, you can sprinkle chic grit on their feed. Avoid giving these birds scratch until they are around the eight-week mark; then, it can be offered only as a treat.
If you feed chicken feed to a turkey, it’s not going to cause immediate harm, but it is not recommended, especially in the long term.
Turkeys are much larger than chickens and require more protein in their diet than chickens.
Both poultry birds need a complete, nutritionally diet, and they get much of the nutrition they need from a feed designed for each bird.
If you happen to keep turkeys and chickens together, it’s best to feed game feed or turkey feed to both flocks, as the chickens get as well-fed as the turkeys and the turkeys are not lacking in nutrition.
Treats are acceptable but only to supplement their complete diet; it’s essential to keep a note of what not to feed your poultry birds to have a better idea of what you can feed them.
Turkeys grow to slaughter size at six months. A tom should eat approximately 100 pounds of feed, whereas a hen typically eats 60 pounds.
At the end of the day, keeping both turkeys and chickens is a rewarding experience and it can be done. You just need to plan a little more ahead, and consider some of those more intricate details such as their dietary needs and requirements.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.