Turkeys can eat chicken feed, however, turkeys are classified as game birds together with other birds the likes of quails and guinea fowls, although they are anatomically similar to chickens, they have different nutrient requirements. This classification is a bit confusing as turkeys are domesticated fowl like chickens and have been around for a long time in the Americas. The difference in classification is mainly due to the fact that there are still wild populations of turkeys across the world, unlike chickens which have all been domesticated. Turkeys are much bigger birds than chickens hence they have higher nutrient requirements and can only eat chicken feed for maintenance. Certain additives in chicken feed can be toxic to turkeys hence care should be taken out when feeding chicken feed to turkeys to avoid poisoning.
Similarities Between Digestion in Turkeys and Chickens
Turkeys and chickens have similar digestive systems comprised of a beak, crop, gizzard, small intestines, and large intestines. Basically, both poultry species can be termed monogastric, with a limited ability to digest complex fibers. The gizzard in both animals acts almost like the teeth in most monogastric animals grinding the feed, using ingested grit, and creating a larger surface area for digestive enzymes to act on the food. It has also been observed that the rate of food passage in the gut of both chickens and turkeys is the same meaning that they require the same amounts of time to digest feed. In all there are no differences in the digestive systems and processes of chickens and turkeys apart from the size hence can be fed on the same types of feed.
Nutrient Requirements for Turkeys
Most people complain that turkey poults or chicks are quite weak and die easily but most of this early mortality can be attributed to malnutrition. Most turkeys are fed chicken diets with lack the necessary protein to sustain the requirements of growing turkey poults. Turkeys are anatomically digger birds than chickens and for comparison, we are going to look at meat turkey and broiler chicken requirements. The most important nutrient for growing turkeys is protein and just looking at this parameter paints a picture of how deficit chicken diets are for raising turkeys. The protein requirements for a standard turkey stater ration ranges from 30% to 28% crude protein., while a classic broiler starter ration is 23 to 21% crude protein. This is the same scenario with all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, turkeys have higher requirements than broiler chickens. There is an inverse relationship when it comes to protein as the requirements for turkeys are lower than those of broilers, this is not abnormal as nutritionally this gives a better diet to support muscle growth than fat. To support normal bone development at this early stage of growth, turkey diets also have a higher calcium content averaging 0.5% higher than that of growing broiler chickens.
When feeding a diet that is not originally designed for the animal species that you are feeding it is critical to look at all constituents of that diet. This is true for feeding chicken feed to turkeys as most chicken feed will come with a warning not to feed to turkeys or ducks. This is because some anticoccidials or chemicals added to the chicken feed are poisonous to turkeys. Sodium Salinomycin which is an anticoccidial is poisonous to turkeys, hence diets containing sodium Salinomycin should not be fed to turkeys. Symptoms can include feed refusal, weakness, and high mortality in turkeys fed diets with anticoccidials that are poisonous to them. Residues of the anticoccidials have also been detected in the eggs of turkeys after feeding. Chicken breeder diets and/or other diets that do not contain anticoccidials are considered safe for feeding to turkeys for maintenance.
Benefits of feeding Chicken Feed to Turkeys
Chicken and turkeys have the same anatomical features which mean that they can basically feed on the same feed resources. Because chicken feed has a lower nutrient profile than that turkey feeds it is relatively cheaper than turkey feed, hence feeding chicken feed can be profitable to a turkey farmer, especially where these two poultry species are raised together. Non-medicated chicken feed can be fed safely to turkeys without any effect on their performance on their health but only for maintenance. Because turkeys and chickens can feed on the same feed ingredients, feeding chicken diets to turkeys can save the farmer time, money, and equipment by feeding both species the same feed.
Constraints of Feeding Chicken Feed to Turkeys
Turkeys have a higher nutritional requirement than that of chickens which means that when they are fed conventional chicken diets nutritional deficiencies can occur. Although some diets can be matched with some success t does take some time and proper knowledge of the nutritional requirements of turkeys and the corresponding chicken diet for one to make a match. Chicken feed also contains anticoccidial chemicals that can be poisonous to turkeys, most chicken feed will come with a feeding warning not to feed to turkeys because of this. However, it is not all anticoccidials that are poisonous to turkeys so the choice of which chicken feed to feed to turkeys can be tricky.
Turkeys can eat chicken feed but one has to carefully look at the constituents of the chicken feed before feeding. Chickens and turkeys have different nutrient requirements with turkeys having higher requirements than chickens, which means that a starter feed for chickens could only be ideal for growing turkeys and deficient for starters. This applies to most chicken diets leading to deficiencies that can affect chick survival, egg hatchability, and growth performance of turkeys. Some anticoccidials that are used for chicken feed are poisonous to turkeys such as sodium Salinomycin hence the need to check carefully all constituents of the chicken feed before feeding to turkeys. So, in conclusion, turkeys can eat chicken feed as they have the feeds have the same ingredients and both turkeys and chickens have similar digestive systems, taking note of any additives that could be in the chicken feed for their effect on turkey health and well-being.