Like chickens, turkeys have no federal legal protection and it’s estimated that 245 million turkeys are raised and killed each year in the U.S. alone. In factory farms, turkeys are bred to grow as quickly as possible and can become crippled under their own weight. Turkeys are raised by the thousands, in cramped, filthy sheds, and are subject to routine de-beaking and partial amputation of their toes, before they are sent to slaughter at only 3 to 5 months old.
When not being raised for food, turkeys are naturally curious animals who spent their days building nests, foraging for food, taking dust baths, preening themselves, and caring for their young. Here at Charlie’s Acres, some of our turkey residents are even partial to snuggling with their human friends.
Hombre was in a wedding ceremony as a part of a traditional Oaxacan dance and was intended to be the feast afterwards. A member of the wedding party asked to rehome him instead. Now, Hombre lives with our special needs goat crew and has wholeheartedly accepted them as his family. Hombre is very protective of his goats and is often first to greet guests when they arrive, showing off his impressive size and coloring, and making sounds with the air sac on his chest to ward off potential danger. He keeps an especially close eye on Johnny, yelling at care staff when they go too fast with Johnny’s wheelchair and escorting out anyone that he’s not so sure about.
Mei Li & Sapphire
Mei Li & Sapphire were saved in an act of Thanksgiving mercy in 2018, that aimed to show the world "that even adversaries can show compassion this holiday season." When the owner of a Utah farm released 100 turkeys to animal rights activists and actor James Cromwell, who starred in the movie “Babe”, Mei Li & Sapphire came to Charlie's Acres. These two had a rough start in life, having been raised in the very stressful situation of a windowless shed, packed tight with thousands of other turkeys. They have both had the tip of their beaks and first digit of all their toes removed, a standard industry practice. Despite this, Mei Li & Sapphire amaze us all with their resilience and love to sit on the laps and shoulders of visitors. Many remark that they never knew turkeys were so loving and affectionate.
Franklin & Deborah
Inspired to celebrate Thanksgiving with an act of compassion, a local family rescued Franklin & Deborah from a farm where they were being raised for meat. The nine-year-old son named these two after Benjamin Franklin, who famously called the turkey “a bird of courage”, and Benjamin Franklin’s wife, Deborah. Deborah is nervous of human visitors and steers clear but enjoys the company of other turkeys, especially Franklin. Franklin on the other hand is quick to greet every visitor with either a display of intimidation or with a mating dance called “tid-bitting”, depending on the person.
Tim & Helen
Tim & Helen are blue slate turkeys born at a heritage turkey and chicken breeding facility and came to us after being listed for sale on Craigslist for pets, breeding, or eating. We were looking to add to our turkey group and asked their owners if they would consider allowing them to come live at Charlie’s Acres instead, where they wouldn’t have to play those odds. Tim & Helen live with one of our hen groups and Tim is very protective of his entire flock and is quick to chase off any humans. These too are known for being sneaky and jumping the fence of their pasture. They don’t go too far though and are always found waiting patiently by the gate to be let back inside.
- In nature, turkey mothers are very bonded to their young, and babies will stay with their mothers for their first 5 months of life. Mother turkeys are so courageous they have even been observed attacking predators, such as hawks, who threaten their babies.
- Male turkeys, or “toms” are more colorful than female turkeys. The colorful skin around their head and neck, or “wattle” actually changes color depending on their mood and stress level.
- Turkeys have very different personalities, likes, and dislikes. They can even remember human faces and will pick their favorite people. At Charlie's Acres, Mei Li likes to sit on laps and will snuggle in and close her eyes. Sapphire, prefers to surprise people by jumping onto their shoulders or even their heads when they're not paying attention!
- Wild turkeys can fly at speeds of up to 55mph, run at 25mph, and can live up to 10 years.
Turkeys are an often misunderstood and maligned creature, but anyone who has spent a little time with one knows how affectionate and wonderful they can be. In the proper setting, keeping pet turkeys can be a delightful and rewarding experience.