Why To Not Mix Species In A Brooder

by Meghan H

Published March 30, 2020

Spring will be here before we know it, and what goes great with spring? Baby poultry! If you are like me, you want to take home all of the cute little ducklings, turkey poults, and baby chicks! Before you do though, make sure you have separate brooding space to meet all of their individual needs, you do not want to mix species in a brooder.

First, you should have space and an organized plan for brooding. A brooder consists of a container, such as a water trough or large Rubbermaid container, with a heat source that can keep the chicks, ducklings, and poults at the correct temperatures. Comfortable bedding such as pine shavings, as well as room for food and water. It is important to brood each species and age group separately because all babies have different needs while they grow.

Multiple Poultry Species in a brooder ducklings, poults, and chicks Meyer Hatchery


Chicks can be brooded together with up to a two week age difference. If you are introducing new chicks into the group, keep them separated at first. You should be able to introduce them in just a few days. Separate chicks if they are more than 2 weeks apart in different brooders. Chicks tend to be very territorial. Chicks may harm ducklings and poults to establish a pecking order. Chicks should be fed 18-20% chick starter, which is different from the other poultry.


Ducklings and goslings live in a very wet environment. This can be dangerous because the soggy bedding could cause bacteria and coccidia to grow, which is not good for chicks or poults. Their feathers are also designed differently and they are meant to get wet. Even though waterfowl grows faster than chicks and turkeys, they are probably the most gentle because of their rounded bills. With that being said, they can still hurt a chick if they throw their weight around enough. Ducklings and goslings can have a high protein (20-22%), non-medicated, chick starter. You can add a niacin powder to make sure they get enough to meet their needs for proper growth – they require much more than chicks. Brewers yeast is a great additive, about 1.5 tablespoons to every 1 cup of chick starter. Water is a big deal for ducklings. You do not have to give them something to swim in all the time, however, they do need to have a waterer that has an opening big enough to get their bills into. They need to be able to get their bill all the way into the water to clear the debris out of their nostrils so they do not suffocate.

Ducklings in a brooder with feed and water Meyer Hatchery


Turkey poults can be fragile for the first couple of weeks. They move slower than chicks and ducklings and are not aggressive. When the turkey poults get older, they may prefer roosting outdoors, but they do need a much larger space indoors when the weather calls for it. Be sure to double-check your coop space and requirements, they will need some different materials, like lower nesting boxes and heavy-duty roosting areas.  Poults do have different food requirements than ducks and chicks. They do the best on game bird feed or turkey starter with protein around 27%. 

Turkey Poult in Brooder drinking water Meyer Hatchery

Blackhead Disease

Blackhead disease is a disease that can affect both chickens and turkeys. For chickens, they usually show only mild symptoms and can lead normal, healthy lives while carrying the disease. Blackhead in turkeys, however, can be deadly, especially to young poults. It’s important to know where your birds came from and brood them separately. Turkeys are frail birds, especially when they are young.  

This disease is caused by Histomonas meleagridis, which is a protozoan that resides in a parasitic cecal worm egg. This worm is passed through the infected bird via fecal matter and then eaten by another bird directly from the feces or through other means, such as an earthworm that has eaten the worm egg. It is a vicious cycle that is very difficult to put a stop to once it has started. This protozoan can survive in the ground for approximately three years when the conditions are right. The only way to get rid of the disease is to remove the poultry and wait 3 years before bringing in any new birds. 

Some symptoms of blackhead in chickens is a drop in egg production and weight loss, in rare cases, they may pass away. Symptoms for poults are weight loss, drooping wings, lethargy, and they often do not survive. 

All of this may sound a little daunting, but not mixing species in a brooder is a safe practice that will become second nature! 

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