Photo: Woodstock animal sanctuary

Turkeys are sensitive, social individuals, and in conditions where they are permitted to thrive, they are seen for the complex, adaptive, and intelligent animals that they are. Turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their young, with broods staying together for 4-5 months and male siblings maintaining a social bond for life.

~ Young turkeys under four weeks of age, known as poult
s, learn crucial survival skills and information from their mother, including what to eat, how to avoid predators, the geographical layout of the home range, and important social behaviors.

~ During the day, the birds forage together in brush, fields, and wooded expanses, using their beaks to explore and to locate food; by night, they roost high in trees, safe from predators. The size of a broods’ home range varies, but can be as large as 500 acres.

And did you know?

Turkeys like to have breakfast and dinner as a family. Turkeys have two major feeding times, one during mid-morning, the other mid-afternoon. Family groups often meet to enjoy their meal together.

A mother turkey is very protective of her young, and will risk her life to save her babies. If she feels threatened, she may freeze or sound a cry of warning to her young, instructing them to take cover. She may also attack or pretend that she is hurt to draw the predator’s attention away from her offspring.

Turkeys love to be petted. They will sit happily for long periods having their feathers stroked, and some even purr.

The turkey was almost selected as the United States national bird. Benjamin Franklin proposed the bird to be the proud symbol of the United States.

Turkeys like to listen to music, especially classical. In fact, they like it so much that they will often cluck and gobble in a manner that can only be described as singing along.

It is difficult to sneak up on a turkey. They have excellent vision and a wide visual field of about 270 degrees. They also have great hearing-but no external ears.

Males love to feel noticed and admired. Toms on sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, standing off to the side, puffing out their feathers in full display, quietly and patiently waiting for the prospect of attention.

On industrial farms, turkeys never know the comfort of a natural environment or the satisfaction of instinctual behaviors. In natural conditions, baby turkeys would stay with their mothers for up to five months, but turkeys on commercial farms never experience the safety or warmth of the nurturing presence they instinctually long for. Instead, they endure confinement, crowding, disease, abuse, and a short life of intense suffering that ends in brutality. Between 250 and 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter every year in the U.S. – more than 46 million are slaughtered for Thanksgiving alone.

Woodstock animal farm sanctuary, Woodstock, N.Y.