Turkeys and “Blackhead” Disease

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Turkeys and “Blackhead” Disease

Several years ago my neighbor had some turkey poults and I just had to have a cute baby turkey! My largest tom I lovingly named “Turk.” He would sit on my lap and snatch mosquitos off of me before they could start biting, he would cluck at me and follow me around like I was the leader of the flock. I spent my evenings just watching my birds. Much to my dismay, my sweet Turk died from unknown causes at about 8 months old. I suspect it could have been “Black Head”, a form of histomoniasis which is transmitted by the protozoan parasite Histomonas meleagridis.

Turkeys and Backhead Disease

I decided at that point I didn’t know enough about turkeys to raise them and gave up.

This past February (2014) I decided to purchase five more turkeys after seeing a beauty of a tom along the side of the road one day by a farm. This time I knew enough to read up on a few things to keep my sweet turkeys alive.


I can not say I did everything needed to properly raise my turkeys, I probably broke the number one rule that I have read about online and that is letting them run free range with my other birds (chickens and guineas.)

The things I read all said to isolate them from the other fowl is because the chickens have a parasite in them that the chickens can withstand but that causes the “Black Head” disease in turkeys. My thought was, “Now, wild turkeys run all over the country side (as did the beautiful tom I saw along the road) and don’t die just because they came into an area where chickens may be so why should I worry about mine, that just is not logical.”  Besides, I had read that the parasite can actually “blow in” from the surrounding areas and still infect your flock, no way to prevent that. So I planned when they were big enough they would go free range, and I would learn to treat “blackhead” if I had too. I did isolated them for the first 4 months mainly until the turkeys grew large enough to withstand being hen pecked by my girls and then I turned them out.


I kept a close eye on them for signs of illness, and one day we found one of my turks had died. I have no idea why, it did not seem sick the day before, no weird poo, nothing… I guess sometimes stuff just happens. I watched my other turks very closely and none of them showed any sign of distress so I chalked the one loss up as a fluke. Of course most blackhead losses occur in young birds (six to sixteen weeks) so I suppose I isolated them long enough to keep them out of the worst danger zone, giving them time to build up their immunity.

I wanted to do a write up on my research of Turkeys & “Blackhead” for my own “go to” post incase I ever do have to deal with it. And of course I want to share the info you!

Symptoms for “Blackhead”
The main “tell-tale” sign of “Blackhead” is the sulphur colored foamy droppings.

Your birds may also have these symptoms listed on The Poultry Site which are…

Birds develop foamy yellow diarrhea and sit huddled up
They appear depressed and ill
They stop eating and get very thin
Increased thirst
Darkening of the facial region
The birds can be so ill, that their wattle and comb goes blue (thus the name blackhead)
If not treated the birds usually die
Any sulphur colored foamy droppings should be considered as blackhead, even if the bird is not showing any other signs of the disease
Blackhead acts as an immune suppressor, which will allow other diseases to have greater effect on your bird’s health
It may cause stunted growth, poor feed utilization and then death

So if you see any signs (or if you just want to use precautionary measures) here are the choices I have found:

The “UN-natural way” to treat “Blackhead”
I read the best treatment for the disease was emetryl. But I have read it is no longer available on the market and is now illegal because it was found to be carcinogenic. Treating with Metronidazole now seems to be the way to go. You can find dosing info at Fluffy Bottoms Farms but I like to do things the all natural way so….


Here are some all NATURAL remedies for “Blackhead”

Grapefruit seed extract can be added to the waterer to boost immune system in turkeys. (read about it HERE in the Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 2014, Vol 21, No 3, 581–584)
I never could find the dosing for turkeys but for parasites in humans the recommended dosage is 100 milligrams (ten drops), three times a day in at least 5 oz.. of water. I would also recommend removing any other water sources to force them to drink from the “dosed” waterer.

An average human weighs 150 lbs.   so 300 mg (30 drops) in 15 oz. of water is the human “daily total consumption. “ An average turkey can weight about 30 lbs. …  ?/30 = 30/150 (scratching my head at my math) Doesn’t that come out to be 6 drops to 3 oz. of water total; 2 drops in an oz. of water 3 times a day?

Or just go with the easier prevention that I could find a dose for that had several people posting success stories….

Cayenne pepper is said to prevent and cure blackhead in turkeys. It is also seems effective in preventing and treating coccidiosis in chickens and turkeys.Doses is 1 rounded tablespoon per 20 liters or 1/4 cup/10-15lb of feed.  Also a teaspoon of cayenne into a cup of water give a large dropper full (about a tablespoon) every 3 days to sickly poults. Read about success stories on the forum post titled “Hope This Saves A Turkey From Blackhead


At least there are some options and I hope they help if I (or you) ever have to deal with the dreaded Turkey Blackhead disease! Please leave comments if you have any suggestions or success stories, all info helps!! Thanks!


My Turkeys “Sing in the Rain”




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Disclaimer on Health Issues: The information contained on this page, OhHappyDaze.net,  is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to prescribe, treat, prevent, or diagnose any disease or condition. The information represents what I have chosen to do to take charge of my own personal health and that of my family and livestock. Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician (or veterinarian) before using these products. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this page with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician. Do not alter any medical treatment or the use of medications, without the advice of a qualified expert.

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About Becky Husband

Becky is a Hebraic Christian homeschool mom blogger that lives on a small farm in Deep East Texas. When she isn't homeschooling her kids, she is busy documenting her family's life on her blog. In her blog, she writes about her faith, family, homeschooling, and homesteading. She also shares the family's abundance of hobbies such as geocaching, hiking, biking, birding, nature photography, and most recently her art! She is always eager to answer any questions others may have so feel free to leave comments and inquiries!

Posted on January 15, 2015, in Animals, Homesteading and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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