One by land and five by air!?

In the world of a free range mixed flock of chickens and turkeys you get to observe allot of interesting behavior. An example of this is how do chickens and turkeys differ when watching for predators. The behavior is interesting to saw the least.

In the chicken mixed flock world the rooster is charged to watch out for his hens. On the turkey side it is both the hens and the toms that have observation duties. Now this is were it gets interesting. What I have noticed is that the roosters are primarily concerned with air threats and the turkeys are scanning for ground threats. It is in my observations that I have seen this division of duty in threat scanning. The turkeys being larger are not concerned about air threats so they give more of their time to scanning the terrain. In the rooster world the day threats primarily come from the sky unless of course you have a vixen with kits then it is game on for chicken slaughter. It only takes one hawk or falcon to get a hen and every rooster in the flock is looking to the sky from that point forward.


Rooster escorting turkey pullets.

When a threat or potential threat, meaning anything that is a certain size, flight speed, or flight pattern that the roosters do not like then the blood curdling scream from the roosters goes out. The scream/call takes some getting used to and it is different according to each rooster but, when it does go out every chicken scatters and the turkeys look up. If there is a hen with chicks she is in the brush with the little ones with her body covering the babies.

Baby turkeys

Maverick Mamma and her chicks.

In the case that the turkeys see a threat there is a very distinctive ‘peck’ sound that goes out. At that point the chickens move quickly and with order back into the chicken run while the turkeys will line up and confront the threat. These are all heirloom turkeys so flight is very much an option for escape.

With the introduction of our livestock guard dog, Bear, they terrestrial predator losses has stopped. However, the turkeys are always scanning and will demonstrate this behavior with deer or with Merlin the six month old 13 lb kitten that thinks he is a tiger. Yes, he does like to chase the turkeys. There will be more on Merlin and his antics in the future.

So what is the proper ratio of roosters, hens, and turkeys? Currently the flock is 41 hens, 5 roosters, 3 toms, 6 hens, 11 turkey chicks. In the last year I only lost two chicken hens to hawks. When they free range they are in continuous flux going from one rooster led forage group to another. The toms move were the hens go. You never see the toms eat since they are in continuous stud muffin mode.

stud muffin mode

Thanksgiving in stud muffin mode.

In conclusion, I am a big fan of the mixed flock. There are some out there that would advise against putting turkeys and chickens together. Myself, I have been doing it for going on four years and have not had any problems. Like anything the flock will become part of the surroundings and adapt to what ever signals the ecosystem is giving off.

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