Turkeys (yes, even heritage breeds!) are more susceptible to disease and parasites than either the chicken or duck. These large, foraging-type-of-birds were never meant to be cooped up in a dirty little pen. It goes against everything in their make, and while chickens can wallow in the dirt of a coop for ages, your turkeys may hit some issues. This is why I believe in free-ranging them if possible!
Again, I find myself comparing the poultry varieties to mammals:
“Chickens are like hogs and can put up with a great deal of ‘nastiness’ before it affects ’em. Turkeys are like horses who don’t do well in a tight area, walking over the same ole’ dirt again and again!”
Worms & Chickens
Let’s talk real talk! Animals do carry parasite! The issue isn’t so much that they have ’em, but to make certain the creature’s health is kept in tip-top condition so it can do the fighting on its own.
And sometimes, animals don’t mix well with one another due to the “bugs” they carry. Like chickens and turkeys. Or turkeys and about any other kind of bird. They don’t mix. The chicken carries something that in the turkey world is called “black-headed disease.” It’s type of worm. And if turkeys get it, they die. Sad reality!
While some areas have this “worm,” others do not. Regardless of location, most bird keepers recommend you don’t mix turkeys with other poultry. That said, the birds I grew up with were always mixed: ducks, chickens and turkeys! They all free-ranged all over those 180 acres! Before mixing a flock, always check into your area and see if the blackhead is prevalent in your location. If you think it’s’ worth the risk, it’s yours to take.
Issue of Mites
Mites are tiny little red bugs that attack birds in the warmer months. Should a bird have no option for “dusting” themselves, mites have been known to actually take lives. Your birds need access to good ole’ powdery dirt! Dust clogs the skin of the little red, blood-sucking vermin and kills ’em. While most birds have a few, they should not be obvious!
To help your birds with mite control avoid the use of straw (go with wood shavings) and don’t leave dead grasses or small sticks in the pen in large amounts. Mites do hide on things, particularly inside straw and such. If birds have it badly, remove all straw and bedding from their house and pressure wash the inside. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the floor and replace bedding with wood shavings. Do a light dusting with DE every week or so until you are certain things are under control.
Dust Bath Formula
If one bird is particularly bad, mix 1 part with fresh dust (not the stuff they’ve been wallowing in) with 2 parts diatomaceous earth and gently push the dust under the wings, up into their breast feathers, down the back, etc. Let it go and watch it fluff it’s feathers!
Deworming Your Birds
Deworming is usually a spring and fall ritual. I usually put the goods in the bird’s water. It’s easiest that way! This method is what we call “preventative.” If your flock comes down hardcore with a parasite, check with a veterinarian.
The recipe below is tailored to 1 gallon of water. It can be double, quadrupled or whatever you need!
De-Wormer with 4 Natural Ingredients
- 1 Tbs vinegar
- 1 tsp wormwood tincture or 1 Tbs wormwood tea
- 1 tsp black walnut tincture
- 1 pressed garlic clove (medium size)
Directions: Pour liquids into a glass jar. Peel garlic clove and send through a garlic press or finely mince. Add to liquids. Shake. Pour into 1 gallon of water.
Store in glass only. Take with as you go to water your birds. Due to vinegar and vodka’s preserving qualities, a batch may be made and kept near the watering system.