Brooding Different Poultry Types Together

by Linda F

Published January 23, 2023

The time for feathered babies: chicks, ducklings, turkey poults, guinea keets, and all the other fun, fluffy, feathered friends is coming. As I wait through a cold, snowy, icy winter, I begin thinking of all the possibilities of breeds and species I can raise when it’s warmer again and a little easier to keep the brooders warm and cozy for the littles. I place orders, but sometimes I can’t get all the breeds or species I want from one place.  It’s tempting to think, “Well, if I order them all to arrive at about the same time, I should be able to brood them together to make the best use of my limited brooder space, right?”


It really isn’t a good idea to brood poultry coming from separate locations together for a variety of reasons. 

A mixed group of poultry in a brooder. Ducklings and chicks of various ages
Young poultry have immature and sometimes fragile immune systems. This is a normal part of being just hatched. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with one group or another, but If the hens that laid the eggs were raised in different environments, the hatchlings may have immunity to different things. Mixing hatchlings from different sources at a very young age adds additional exposures to their fragile immune systems. This may overwhelm them and lead to losses. As the chicks age, their more mature immune systems can handle additional exposures more easily.
It is best to not mix species when brooding because each has its own dietary needs. Some require different amounts of protein than others. The medicated starter, which we suggest for chicks, might not be recommended for another species.
Some species grow much faster than others. For example, goslings or ducklings with chicks may hurt the chicks due to the increasing size difference. Larger birds might also prevent smaller ones from accessing food and water. Even within the same species, we do not suggest brooding broilers with layer chicks. Broiler chicks grow much faster and may keep layer chicks from getting to food and water, and could injure them as they grow.
Ducks and geese are messy from day one. Waterfowl tend to cause constantly moist bedding in their brooder, no matter how often you change it. This can lead to death for chicks due to cold, wet bedding and a possible coccidiosis outbreak. There may be an age difference between groups, even of the same species. Different age groups will be different sizes and have different temperature requirements. The older hatchlings may be too warm, or the younger ones too cold. If one group is older and larger, the smaller, younger group may get picked on. It may be tempting to place orders from different places and brood them together, but for the health of the hatchlings, please don’t do it.
There are diseases that one species can carry without being affected but can transmit to another species. For this reason, we do not recommend keeping turkeys with chickens or where chickens have recently been raised. Chickens are more likely to carry than contract this disease and can pass it to turkeys.<br />
Although it’s convenient to put all types of poultry together in a single brooder, for the best health and growth of your new feathered friends, please reconsider and set up separate spaces to brood each of them. You’ll have a stronger flock and a more rewarding outcome in the long run.

Although it’s really convenient to be able to put all the different types of poultry together into a single brooder when they arrive, for the best health and growth of all of your new feathered friends, please reconsider and set up separate spaces to brood each of them. You’ll have a stronger flock and a more rewarding outcome in the long run.

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