Brooding Different Poultry Types Together

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?”

No

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

Reason #1 Immune Systems

Young poultry has immature and sometimes fragile immune systems. This is part of being just hatched.  It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with one group or another, but if the hens that laid the eggs were not raised in the same environment, the hatchlings may have immunity to different things. When hatchlings from different sources are mixed together at a very young age it adds additional exposures to the already fragile immune system. This may overwhelm the immature immune system and lead to losses.  As the chicks age, it becomes easier for the more mature immune system to take on additional exposures. 

Brooding Mixed Species - Meyer Hatchery blog
Reason #2 Feed Requirements

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 might be best for one species, we suggest it for chicks, but not recommended for another. 

Reason #3 Growth Rates

Some species grow much faster than others.  If one were to put, for example, goslings or ducklings in with chicks, it is likely the chicks would get hurt due to an increasing size difference each day. The larger birds might prevent the smaller from easy access to food and water.  

While these are the same species, we do not suggest brooding broilers with layer chicks because the broiler chicks will grow much faster and may keep the layer chicks from getting to food and water. Broiler chicks may also injure layer chicks as they grow due to their quickly increasing size difference.  

Reason #4 Brooder Environment

Ducks and geese are messy from day one. Waterfowl also tend to cause constant 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 the groups even of the same species. Differing age groups will be different sizes and have different temperature requirements  The older hatchlings may be too warm or the younger too cold.  If one group is older and larger than the other that may lead to the smaller and younger group getting picked on. So, 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.

Reason #4 Diseases

There are diseases that may be carried by one species without affecting it but allowing it to transmit the disease to another species.  For this reason, we do not recommend keeping turkeys with chickens or where chickens have been recently raised. Chickens are more likely to carry than contract this disease and can pass it on to turkeys.

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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