Raising Chickens, Turkeys, and Ducks (Oh My)

Raising any kind of poultry is an experience of itself, but raising several different species is a whole different world. I have raised chickens, ducks, and turkeys, each being a different challenge.

Chickens are the easiest to raise in my opinion. They are hardy, independent, and small. After around 13 weeks I am able to start free ranging my chicks, and by six months they have reached sexual maturity. Chickens have a herd mentality, so if you train some to come back home at a specific time or sleep somewhere specific, the majority will follow suit. Chickens are also very easy to breed and are amazing egg layers (depending on the breed or individual chicken). Some breeds of chickens can be large, but for the most part it is easy to hold and handle any kind of chicken. Chickens also put themselves to bed at night, which makes life so much easier. With that being said, they do like to explore their options. Every night at around 8:00 p.m. for the past few months I have been having to stick a long fish net up a tree for the same three chickens to hop onto and lower them down to the ground in order for them to go to the barn like they are supposed to. Every predator in existence also loves to eat chicken, so it is always good to note that if you get chickens and they are free ranged, expect to have some disappear. With introducing younger chickens into an already established flock, it takes a long time for the other chickens to accept the younger ones. I still have hens who bully young roosters even though the roosters are twice their size just because the hens are much older.

Turkeys were entirely different to raise than chickens. As young chicks, they are very vulnerable to being sick. They also grow very slowly compared to chicken’s maturity wise, but grow very quickly size wise. It can take half a year for a turkey to become fully grown. They are also seasonal layers, so they mostly lay eggs in the spring. The turkeys I owned were of a meat variety, so they grew very fast and were not very healthy after they reached maturity. One hen would constantly bruise yourself because she was so large and another hen was always sick so matter what I tried. Turkeys also do not like to sleep in the same spot every night. Whenever I free ranged my turkeys, they enjoyed exploring and would end up sleeping in odd places. I had to stop free ranging them entirely because they got brave and started crossing the road. This would not be an issue if I was not afraid of them causing damage to someone’s vehicle or causing someone to swerve off of the road because these turkeys were so massive. Turkeys also seem to inhale any food they come in contact with. I had to rotate their cage every other day because they would eat the entire patch of grass they sat on leaving nothing behind. It is very expensive to keep caged turkeys fed and happy.

Raising ducks are a newer thing I was able to experience. Ducks grow incredibly fast, and I did not expect to see my ducks double in size every other day. They can become fully grown by the time they are two to three months old. Because they are waterfowl, they enjoy playing in water. This can get messy fast. When they were ducklings, I had to clean their cage every day or so because they would play in their drinking water and poop in it. When they were old enough to be trusted with swimming water, it would instantly turn brown because of poop. Ducks are the most disgusting bird I have ever raised, but they make up for it by being the cutest. Ducks are also easier to catch. They have a higher herd mentally than chickens do, and whenever I had to catch one duck the others would follow instinctively. They do not, however, put themselves up at night like chickens do.