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5 Facts That Will Make You Love Turkeys

Growing up near a turkey farm I had always thought of turkeys as dirty, dumb, smelly birds. Raising them has taught me that these birds are clean, intelligent, and loveable birds with better personalities and more emotional depth than first meets the eye.

1. Turkeys change color based on mood

A turkey’s neck and snood (little horn like bump on head) change colors based on the turkey’s mood and emotion. When excited or happy blue tones will begin to show on. When a turkey is angry the neck and snood will turn a bright red. A calm/content turkey will have a white neck/snood.

Turkeys are able to do this all thanks to a connective tissue called collagen. Blood vessels are surrounded by bands of collagen; when a turkey gets flustered, the blood vessels contract, exposing more of the collagen and in turn changing how light scatters and reflects off of the turkey’s skin, causing it to appear blue or white. It’s the same scattering effect that makes the sky appear blue but sunsets yellow or red. It’s also the reason that blood vessels appear blue beneath pale skin, even though the blood inside them is red.

2. Turkeys Purr

That’s not a cat you are hearing, its a turkey. Turkeys purr when they are calm and relaxed just like cats!

Speedy a resident turkey showing her multicolored neck off. She was calm yet alarmed here as I just walked past her nest to fill a feeder.

3. Turkeys are Speedy

Turkeys are so fast one of our girls was given the name Speedy. I’ve personally clocked a turkey at 26 mph and Smithsonian claims that they can fly up to 55 mph.

4. Turkeys used to be raised for feathers

These days, farmers breed turkeys in order to sell them for their meat to the point that if not butchered in time the turkey can die from its own weight (bumblefoot, broken legs, heart attack, etc.) . But, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, up until 1935, the birds were bred for their “beautifully colored plumage,” which features stunning striped patterns.

One of my turkeys showing off her pretty plumage

5. Turkeys have unique voices

Individual turkeys have unique voices. This is how turkeys (and turkey keepers) recognize each other.

Closing notes

Turkeys are emotional birds that deserve more than factory farms are giving them. Local, free-range, organic, vegan-fed, and other labels do little to tell you about the welfare of the animal and the life it lived. Try to find a local farm that pasture raises their turkeys; take a quick look around while you are there and check out if you actually see turkeys or the equipment to raise them or do you see huge houses with thousands of turkeys.

Currently I do not sell or raise turkeys for meat; although, I am looking into raising these birds in a manner that will allow them to live healthy turkey lives. There are difficulties with turkeys though that modern farming systems do not address.

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