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7 Differences Between Chickens And Turkeys 


Raising chickens adds a sustainable resource of eggs, meat and fertilizer for you and your family, but what about trying out a different variety of poultry like turkey? Whether you’re just wanting to add a few turkeys to your farm or you’re interested in converting to raising them instead of chickens, you’ll want to brush up on the differences. 

Besides being much larger in weight and size than chickens, turkeys can also fly, lay far fewer eggs and are more expensive to raise than their smaller friends. 

If you’re interested in introducing some turkey variety into your flock or maybe you’re just a curious hobbyist, you need to know that while chickens are similar, they are certainly not the same. In this article you can find 7 main differences between chickens and turkeys, so keep reading to find out!    

Turkeys Are Bigger And Look Different 

I think that it’s safe to say that most of us know that chickens are smaller in height and weight than turkeys.

The average size of a chicken is a little over 2 ft tall and around 5 lbs, whereas the average turkey is going to be closer to 3.5 ft or 4 ft tall and about 25 lbs. 

So, that’s a pretty big size difference. Especially in the weight department! Not only are chickens much smaller than turkeys, but they look a little different. They are both feathered fowl with wattles that they use to regulate their body heat. Otherwise, they don’t look alike. 

Turkeys have much darker feathers with very long, erect tail plumage. They also have dark skin on the head and neck that is featherless. Chickens come in a variety of unique colors and looks, bringing more diversity in appearance to your flock. But that doesn’t mean turkeys are any less beautiful! 

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Turkeys Taxonomy And History Is Not The Same As Chickens

Taxonomy is just a way for scientists to classify a group or species of animals or in this case poultry. Both the turkey and the chicken belong to the same order and class, but things change when it comes to the subfamily. 

The chicken is referred to as Gallus gallus domesticus and the turkey is Meleagris gallopavo. 

For millions of years, turkeys have been native to America, ranging from Canada all the way to Central Mexico and anywhere in between. This flamboyant bird is part of the Phasianidae family, which has ties to areas of Eurasia. This information combined with fossilization records has led many scientists to believe the turkey’s ancestors migrated from Southeastern Asia all the way to the Americas.  

Chickens are descendants of the Red Jungle Fowl. While this is also part of the Phasianidae family, the genus is gallus. These beautiful egg-layers come from Southeastern Asia but have a debatable history that also links them to the jungles of Mexico as well. Regardless of the exact origin, historically humans have been utilizing chickens in some way for close to 8000 years.

Domestication dates back to the Romans being the first to identify the value of the chicken on farms and homesteads. 

Turkeys Prefer The Outdoors, OH, And They Can Fly  

Turkeys can fly and like to explore vertical spaces and often will stay outside instead of going into a coop at night. Chickens, on the other hand, prefer to seek the comfort and safety of their coops and nesting boxes.  

Chickens really enjoy their coops. It’s a safe place and they need somewhere to go at night after their visibility becomes basically nothing. While these birds are known for roosting sometimes, they also enjoy their nesting boxes and rarely attempt to reach areas beyond the height of their roosting bar. 

A very key difference between our chickens and turkeys is that turkeys can FLY.  I’m sure many of us knew that, but the reality is, you don’t know how much of a game-changer that is until you finally have a few turkeys among your flock. This will not only challenge the setup of your chicken coop but will require you to build higher roosting bars and maybe even restrict their vertical spaces. 

Something else noteworthy of mentioning is that because turkeys don’t spend as much time in a coop, you will have a lot less cleaning up to do! 

Turkeys Just Cost More Money Than Chickens

In general, turkeys are going to be more expensive than chickens. First off, purchasing turkey poults or even unhatched eggs will cost you more money than their chicken counterpart. Not only that but feeding them will cost more as well. 

A bag of game feed (turkey-specific feed, which is recommended) costs about $10-$20 more per 50 lb bag than that of chicken feed. This is because game feed is a higher protein food, therefore, it simply costs more money. Not to mention, turkeys eat more food than chickens too! 

If you’re not wanting to spend the extra cash on the expensive turkey-specific game feet, it would be fine to give them the same pellets and other feed that you provide to your chickens. Turkeys tend to be good foragers and can supplement the extra protein from finding bugs and other insects outside. 

Eggs: Turkeys Will Give You Less Than Hens

We all know and love the sustainability option that chickens bring to homesteading with their fast-growing meat and daily egg-laying. Turkeys also provide flock raisers with heavy meat and eggs, but at a much slower rate. 

Turkeys only lay about 2-3 eggs per week (close to 100 eggs a year) whereas a good egg-laying chicken can produce about 5-6 eggs per week (around 250 eggs a year). 

Chicken and turkey eggs also look different. Chickens lay smaller eggs that vary in color depending on the breed and turkeys tend to lay creamy white or light brown eggs that have a speckled and harder shell. 

The turkey egg once cracked will look fairly similar and have a higher protein content than a chicken egg. The taste is also slightly richer. 

Turkeys vs Chickens: Rearing Their Young

Turkeys don’t mature and lay eggs until they are close to 7 months old, whereas chickens can start producing eggs around 18 weeks (4 ½ months).

Turkey mothers also don’t take rearing their young nearly as seriously as chickens do, meaning that you will most likely have to be involved in a lot of their upbringing. 

Another point to make is that turkey poults (baby turkeys) are more fragile and susceptible to fluctuations of heat and light. During the first few days of life, they must be closely managed in a temperature-controlled environment. They are also much slower and prone to being stepped on by mom and take much longer to feather out. 

Overall, chickens are just easier to raise from eggs or chicks than turkeys are. 

Chickens And Turkeys: Everyone’s Got A Different Personality 

Your chickens and turkeys clearly have their own unique, individual personalities, meaning that no bird will be exactly the same. But as a whole, chickens tend to have similar behaviors to each other and vice versa with turkeys. 

The majestic and much bigger turkey is slower as well, usually letting the chickens do their thing first before they decide to step onto the scene. I’ve noticed that turkeys tend to be almost more deliberate in their actions and have a less skittish temperament than their smaller chicken friends. 

Sometimes turkeys have almost “dog-like” and friendlier personalities, where they will follow a person around and want to be petted and doted on. Chickens will do that too but tend to have much shorter attention spans. 

Chickens And Turkeys: A Quick Summary Of Their Differences 

Since this is a lot of turkey and chicken information to read through, I’ve put together a quick table for your referencing needs! 

Chickens Turkeys 
Size (height and weight)2 ft – 2.3 ft / 5 – 6 lbs 3.3 ft – 4.1 ft / 21 – 24 lbs
Origin Southeastern Asia/MexicoAmericas/Southeastern Asia
NestingCoop/nesting boxesTall roosting bars/Trees*turkeys will stay in coops if you insist but prefer height
CostCheaper feedMore expensive, higher protein diet 
Eggs5-6 eggs per week Larger eggs, 2-3 per week 
Mothering Relatively good mothersRequire more assistance and attention with poults
Egg-laying ageMature by 16 weeks Mature by 7 months 
Personalities Good pets, timider Friendlier, more dog-like 

Conclusion: Chicken And Turkey Differences 

Both turkeys and chickens are excellent homestead animals to have. Introducing a few turkeys to your already existing flock of chickens should be a breeze! You may have to adjust a few things in your chicken coop or design a higher roosting area, but overall, you can’t go wrong with either bird! 

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Allison Salonko

I'm a Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of experience in the field. I am using my passion for writing in between working with animals and spending time with my family.

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