Question: I noticed that you are raising chickens and turkeys. Do you do anything to protect from blackhead or have you never had any problems with it? Do you keep your flocks seperated...? I was thinking about adding turkeys to the mix but everything I have read says you can't keep them with chickens... but it seems like you should be able to.
|Chickens, turkeys, and llamas check out|
the overgrown and over-ripe squash that we gave them.
The short answer is that yes, our turkeys and chickens live together, and no, we don't have any trouble with blackhead. Yes, I know that all the books tell you that your turkeys will contract blackhead from your chickens and die. I knew that before we decided to let them cohabitate, and yeah, I did it anyway -- just like I decided to raise the turkeys without drugs in their food and water, even though all the books also said they'd die without it.
All the books and antibiotics were not around a couple hundred years ago, and turkeys did not become extinct, so my theory is that we've lost some important knowledge about raising chickens and turkeys. When I was a little girl, I visited my grandparent's farm, and their chickens and turkeys ran around together.
Even though chickens can have blackhead, that does not mean that they do have blackhead. I only buy day-old poults from hatcheries that are certified free of all the common poultry diseases. I do not take in rescue chickens, unwanted roosters from backyard flocks, or any other adult chickens for any reason. I have no idea how common blackhead is among chickens, but I don't want to take any chances, because it's one of those diseases that chickens can carry without being sick themselves.
Another reason I feel comfortable with our chickens and turkeys living together is because they are not kept inside. They are free to roam across several acres, so instead of saying that each bird has one square foot of space, which is what those books tell you they need, our chickens and turkeys have hundreds of square feet of space per bird. So, if you want to keep your chickens and turkeys locked up in modern poultry housing, then it's probably not a good idea to have chickens and turkeys together, and you should probably be putting drugs in their water or giving them medicated feed. But, if you want to let them free range, then that changes things.
Another little fact you should know about heritage turkeys being given access to the outdoors is that they will often take full advantage of it and give in to their natural impulses -- which means roosting in trees. For years, we would rush out there near dusk to shoo the turkeys inside, so that they would not roost in trees. But after a few dozens times when we didn't get all of them inside, we realized that we were just giving ourselves an unnecessary job. It's never been a problem, even in the dead of winter when we have snow and ice, so I don't sweat it any longer.
There is no fool-proof method of raising chickens, turkeys, or any livestock. There will be drawbacks to every method chosen. Modern ag doesn't free-range poultry because it's too labor intensive, takes up too much real estate, and would include losses to predators, which would all reduce their bottom line. But my bottom line isn't about dollars and cents; it's about good food and getting a good night's sleep, knowing that my animals are healthy and happy, running, flying, eating bugs, and doing all the things that birds have done since the beginning of time.