If you own both backyard chickens and turkeys, it can be hard to find a feed that accommodates both birds’ varying nutritional needs. I mean, at the end of the day they are both poultry and indulge in the same type of food right?
Well, although turkey feed and chicken feed are quite often made from the same ingredients–mixed grains, seeds, and minerals– they do differ in their nutritional quantities in order to best suit the bird.
Here we go through if chickens can eat turkey feed, what the nutritional differences are, and what to be aware of when feeding your chickens and turkeys.
Can Chickens Eat Turkey Feed?
If you own both chickens and turkeys in your backyard farm then I know how hard it can be to keep them to their own feed.
Luckily, chickens can eat turkey feed safely, as in essence, it’s the same food just with different prioritizations on different nutrients. But, just because chickens can eat turkey feed, doesn’t mean that’s all they should eat — as turkeys and chickens require a different diet to suit their needs.
Turkeys, being game birds, require much more protein than chickens. For this reason, turkey feed or other game bird feed contains up to 25% protein to match the requirements of the bird. On the other hand, chickens require much less protein, only around 16%. So their feeds will match this requirement whether it’s layer pellets or a seed mix.
Turkey feed also contains much less calcium, which is essential for regular egg production in hens. For this reason, you shouldn’t actively feed your chickens turkey feed as their sole source of food, but letting them have some throughout the day won’t cause any harm.
Feeding Chickens Turkey Feed
If your chickens do have access to turkey feed, or you choose to supplement some of their meals with turkey feed, then you should be aware of the differences and the effects it can have on your backyard chickens.
If fed in moderation, the extra 10% protein difference between the bird feeds won’t necessarily cause any harm to your chicken. Unlike humans, their bodies can’t “store” excess protein. It’s instead excreted as waste, thereby increasing water consumption due to thirst. This will lead to wetter litters, loose bowels, and blistered feet if they remain dehydrated.
However, if your chickens are consistently eating too much protein then it can lead to increased ammonia production in their feces. If this is left in the coop or bedding too long it can result in a variety of respiratory issues. This is why it’s vital to use absorbent bedding like pine needles, straw, or hay.
Alongside these protein differences and compounding effects, turkey feed contains about half the amount of calcium. Calcium is the critical component chickens need when they form eggshells. A lack of calcium can reduce egg production in hens, or risk the eggshells being thinner and therefore not as durable.
Lastly, if you are feeding your chicken’s turkey feed solely, you’re going to have to pay a bit more! In general, turkey feed is much more expensive than chicken feed, as proteins tend to be a more expensive ingredient than other seeds and grains. The same can be said for other feeds like all stock feed, or goat feed too.
Overall, it’s essential that you make your best efforts to feed your chickens their dedicated chicken feed, whether it’s through layer pellets or a layer seed mix. This should account for 90% of your chicken’s regular diet for their overall health and wellbeing. The other 10% can be made up with other feeds, foraging, and healthy table scraps.
Chicken Feed Vs. Turkey Feed: Nutritional Benefits
In moderate amounts, turkey feed can be quite beneficial to chickens. Although chickens can’t exactly process extra protein, the turkey feed will at least ensure they are getting their adequate intake. This is important for your chickens through the winter months, or if they are regularly laying eggs.
Similarly, when chickens go through their molting phase they require more protein to grow their feathers back, and will often stop laying eggs at this point to prioritize regrowing their feathers first.
Chicken feed is mainly made up of a combination of Alfalfa meal, corn, field peas, wheat, seeds, oats, barley, etc.
Turkey feed is primarily made up of Maize, wheat, soya bean meal, groundnut, bone meal, limestone, salt, and other minerals.
So, although the ingredients are very similar and are safe for both chickens and turkeys to consume, the ratio of protein and other minerals is the main difference.
How to Feed Chickens & Turkeys Separately
When you’re raising a mixed flock of chickens and turkeys, and even ducks, you want to be sure each bird is getting the right food to fill its dietary requirements.
Turkeys are much slower, relaxed, and less frantic than chickens, so you’ll find your chickens will usually get the first go at any food that comes out. A well-balanced approach to feeding both chickens and turkeys separately is to provide them with a separate full meal in the morning and allow them a communal feed throughout the day.
Of course, it’s a priority to get each bird to eat their own specific feed for their main meal, but as far as foraging and snacking throughout the day, it’s fine if your birds get to feed from the same feeder, and you could even choose a backyard poultry feed that’s an in-between of both birds requirements.
Chickens can eat turkey feed in any normal amount, but it shouldn’t be used as a complete substitute for their normal chicken feed! When your chicken requires extra protein, through winter or through molting stages then turkey feed can provide a much-needed protein boost for your chickens.
But, if your chickens regularly feed on turkey feed then they will be consuming too much protein, which can eventually lead to other issues, and they’ll not be receiving enough calcium in their diets to keep up with their busy schedule.
If you raise turkeys and chickens together, you’ll want to work out a system to ensure each bird gets 90% of their intake from their dedicated food.