- What to do about wild turkeys
- Five ways to solve a wild turkey problem
- Wild Turkeys
- Wild Turkeys in Town
- Why is there a Problem?
- Don’t feed wild turkeys!
- 6 Tips for Feeding Wild Turkeys with Your Garden
- Feeding Wild Turkeys the Natural Way
- What Are Wild Turkeys Afraid Of?
- 1. Noises
- 2. Coyotes and Scarecrows
- 3. Leashed Dog
- 4. Water
- Shop Repellent Tape Online
- Have questions about how to install Nite Guard Repellent Tape on your property?
- Wild turkeys from hell are terrorizing this town
What to do about wild turkeys
Once a rare sight, these days it’s not uncommon to see a flock of wild turkeys in residential neighborhoods. Drawn into urban and suburban areas looking for food and mates, wild turkeys are loved by some but may be a nuisance or source of fear for others.
The fear of getting diseases from turkey droppings has been used as an excuse to kill wild turkeys, but killing nuisance turkeys is cruel and doesn’t solve the problem (more turkeys will just take their place). Try these effective, non-lethal ways to get rid of unwanted wild turkeys.
Five ways to solve a wild turkey problem
1. Don’t feed wild turkeys
Most conflicts with turkeys occur in areas where they’re being fed by people. The first step towards resolving conflicts with turkeys is to eliminate sources of food such as direct handouts from people, unsecured garbage, and spilled bird seed. You may consider removing bird feeders (especially in the spring and summer) until the turkeys move on. Remember to also talk to your neighbors to ensure that they are not feeding turkeys either!
It’s easy to scare turkeys away by making noises, popping open an umbrella, throwing tennis balls, or dousing the turkey with water from a hose or squirt gun.
2. Scare away problem turkeys
Wild turkeys have a “pecking order” of dominance and may view people or pets who act fearful as underlings, chasing them or blocking the entrance to homes or cars. If a wild turkey (or a flock of turkeys) has invaded your yard, driveway, or neighborhood, it’s important that you establish your dominance by hazing the turkey(s). It’s easy to scare turkeys away by making noises (try waving your arms and yelling or blowing a whistle), popping open an umbrella, throwing tennis balls, or dousing the turkey with water from a hose or squirt gun. A leashed dog may also be effective in scaring a turkey away.
It’s important that all members of your family (including children and the elderly) exhibit their dominance over your neighborhood turkeys through hazing in order to have the desired effect. Although wild turkeys may look large and intimidating, they are usually timid and scare easily.
During mating season (February-May), male turkeys may venture into neighborhoods looking for females to mate with. They may respond aggressively to reflective surfaces (such as windows, automobile mirrors, or polished car doors), thinking that their reflection is an intruding male turkey. In this case, haze the turkey away and then temporarily cover the reflective surface if possible.
Motion Sprinklers on Amazon.com
3. Encourage roosting turkeys to move elsewhere
Wild turkeys usually roost in trees, but in urban areas they are also known to roost on roofs or on decks.The good news is that wild turkeys are cautious birds that are pretty easy to scare away. To break up turkey roosts on decks or roofs, making loud noises or spraying them with a water hose is usually all that’s needed, although sometimes a follow-up treatment might be necessary. You may also use motion-activated devices (such as a Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler, which will scare turkeys away with a sharp burst of water) or anti-perching devices (such as Birdwire or another type of wire installation that limits or prevents perching on your roof).
4. Protect your garden from turkeys
Most of the crop and garden damage blamed on wild turkeys is actually caused by other animals (such as raccoons, groundhogs, foxes, deer, or squirrels). Still, you can keep wild turkeys from feasting on your garden or shrubs by using a motion-activated scare device (such as a Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler) or by protecting plants and vegetables with hardware cloth. (Try to avoid the use of netting, which can entrap birds and other animals.)
5. Watch out for turkeys on the road
Wild turkeys sometimes forage along the road, so watch for these feathered pedestrians crossing the road without checking for cars. And look carefully for stragglers as these birds travel in groups. See our tips for watching out for wildlife when behind the wheel.
DEAR JOAN: I was talking to my sister-in-law the other day, and she said she was having trouble with turkeys in her yard. They are eating all of her green plants, pooping everywhere and are calling her yard their own. Is there anything she can do to stop this?
She doesn’t mind the deer, but the turkeys are so terrible she can’t let her grandkids out to play.
DEAR JACQUELINE: I’ve had a flock recently descend on my yard, where they feasted on spilled bird seed and then took an afternoon nap. The tom was very protective of his harem. When I tried to slowly back out of my driveway, he ducked his head low, fluffed out his wings and feathers, and charged at the car, giving the tires a few pecks.
I actually enjoy seeing these larger-than-you-might-think birds, but they can be intimidating and they do leave behind a lot of droppings. I’ve heard from others about damage to gardens, cars and roofs, so I can understand those who don’t want them in their yards.
The turkeys were imported to California many years ago to be a game bird. Either we don’t have very good hunters in California or the birds found life in the golden state rather invigorating, because we now have a large population of wild turkeys that have taken a fancy to our developed areas. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife now estimate that turkeys cover 18 percent of the state.
There are a few ways to discourage them from coming into your yard. First of all, don’t invite them in. If your sister-in-law has bird feeders, like I do, she needs to take them in and clean up any spilled seeds.
Perhaps the best anti-turkey device is your sister-in-law. Whenever the turkeys approach, she should go out in the yard and make as much noise as possible. Use an air horn or bang on pots. She should also have an umbrella handy to use as a shooing tool, pointing it at the turkeys and opening and closing it rapidly.
Turkeys that have lost their fear of humans can be more aggressive, so anyone confronting them should use caution and their best judgment.
Turkeys are not as dumb as they often are portrayed, and it doesn’t take a lot for them to get the message they aren’t wanted. They’d much rather move on to another yard and leave the loud, umbrella-wielding woman alone.
DEAR JOAN: A pile of poop, which was loaded with nuts, was left on my driveway as well as similar piles on two neighbors’ driveways. We are unable to identify the culprit and hope you’re able to identify.
DEAR DEBBIE: That would appear to be raccoon scat. Raccoon poop can look a little like dog poo, but you almost always can see remnants of what it’s been eating, whether that’s nuts, berries or corn.
You need to use care in removing it. Raccoon scat can contain raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) which can sicken humans and pets alike if ingested.
Wear disposable gloves and rubber boots to remove the poo, then scrub the area with bleach or vinegar. Don’t wear the boots into the house without scrubbing them, too.
Contact Joan Morris at [email protected] Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris, and read more of her Animal Life columns at www.mercurynews.com/animal-life.
Turkeys get a lot of attention in the media this time of year, what with Thanksgiving and all, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to see a bunch of gobblers strutting their stuff around your yard. Wild turkeys are not animals you typically think of as likely to turn up in your backyard. Increasingly, though, they do.
Wild turkeys in the yard are not an uncommon site in many urban and suburban areas.
They live in every state except Alaska, and with natural areas increasingly becoming urbanized, residential areas become habitat for wild turkeys and other wildlife. They’re just trying to survive—foraging, looking for mates, roosting—but their proximity to homes can sometimes alarm people who have never encountered a turkey not on their plate. You may find them roosting on your deck, your roof, or the roof of your car. Or, they may forage in your garden or under your bird feeders.
These social birds have a pecking order, so they may get bossy toward people they perceive to be intimidated by them. If you’ve got wild turkeys in your yard, you’ve just found solid advice for effectively dealing with them, so read on.
What to do and how to behave around wild turkeys…
As with any unwelcome wildlife, you want to eliminate or minimize the things that attracted wild turkeys to your yard in the first place. They also need to understand they’re not welcome, so here’s your plan:
- Do not feed them, and—this is important—discourage neighbors from feeding them. This includes unintentional feeding, such as spillage that collects under birdfeeders. If spillage cannot be raked up daily, consider taking bird feeders down until they have moved on.
- Scare turkeys off decks and away from gardens. How far you escalate the scaring will have to do with how hardened they are on the site. Yell at them, push them along with brooms, throw tennis balls at them, squirt them with a hose or water gun, and even chase them with your dog on a leash. Performing a combination of these things will provide the best results.
- Be consistent. You can’t be friendly or indifferent one day, attempt to scare them another day, and assume that they’ll get the message. Nor can some members of the family or some neighbors choose to be friendly or indifferent. If you want your efforts to frighten them off to be effective, everyone needs to be on the same page.
- If male turkeys appear to be fighting with their reflections in mirrors, windows, or shiny car doors, first frighten them off and then cover the shiny surface they saw their reflection in. They think their reflection is a rival male, and may continue to try to make “him” go away unless you eliminate the reason for the confusion.
- If you’re encountering wild turkeys foraging along road edges in your neighborhood, be watchful, and be aware that if one crosses, others are likely to follow.
Upon closer inspection, wild turkeys are quite magnificent looking birds.
Things to aid your efforts…
Your initial responses to wild turkeys in your yard will be essential to getting them to leave. Be bold, firm, and consistent with them. But, it’s good to know about some additional means to support your efforts.
- Motion-activated sprinkler devices, such as Contech’s motion-activated and water-spurting ScareCrow®, can discourage wild turkeys from foraging in your garden.
- Alternatively—or as a supplement to the motion-activated sprinklers—you can protect garden crops with hardware cloth staked fencing.
- Depending on the situation, electronic bird repellers may make your yard seem unsafe to wild turkeys. These devices typically emit hawk calls or distress calls, or some interfere with the turkeys’ communication. All tend to make them nervous, and may play a role in moving them along.
- For roofs or deck rails that attract unwelcome roosting turkeys, products are available through companies like BirdBarrier® that will make the surface inaccessible to them for perching.
- Predator kites are an option for large yards or gardens that need to be protected. Hovering overhead, they make turkeys nervous, much the same way a real predator would, helping to encourage turkeys to seek other digs.
- Placing reflective flash tape on stakes around a garden, on tree limbs, or on deck railings can create a visual disturbance that combined with other efforts above may make turkeys uncomfortable and encourage them to move on.
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The combined use of these approaches should yield a positive outcome for you. So, whether it’s the turkey’s month to have their 15 minutes of fame or not, there’s rarely, if ever, a reason to resort to inhumane or lethal measures to get turkeys to leave. In any case, lethal methods are notoriously ineffective, because other turkeys would simply come along to take their place.
The solution to unwanted turkeys in your yard is very much in your control—through eliminating their sense of safety and the tempting foods that make turkeys feel welcome, as well as maintaining a firm and steady response to their attempts to hang around. Soon they’ll leave, and you’ll have accomplished your objective effectively and humanely.
Wild Turkeys in Town
Benjamin Franklin admired the North American wild turkey (meleagris gallopavo) so much that he wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird. At one time the estimated number of wild turkeys in the United States was 10 million. Overhunting and destruction of wild turkeys’ forest habitat caused their numbers to drop to 300,000 by the 1950s (found at that time mostly in southern states). Since then, wild turkeys have made a remarkable comeback due to conservation efforts and reintroduction.
Wild turkeys stand 2-3 feet tall, weigh between 7 and 24 pounds, and have iridescent dark brown, gold, green and red feathers. They spread their elegant tail feathers into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Long legs propel them into sprints that have been clocked at 25-30 miles per hour. They spend most of their time on the ground in and near woods, foraging at dawn and dusk on their natural foods (nuts, acorns from mature oak trees, seeds, insects, frogs, snakes, spiders, and grasses). They roost in trees at night to avoid their many predators that include bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes.
The turkey hen nests in a shallow depression on the ground or in thickets. When the poults (baby turkeys) are a month old they can fly up to roost in trees with their mother and her flock. At that age a pecking order among the poults has already been established. Young turkeys live with their mother and learn from her for four or five months. Wild turkeys are very social animals with good memories. With luck, they can live 10-12 years.
Why is there a Problem?
Wild turkeys would lead a normal life within their natural habitat, their numbers kept in ecological balance with available food and natural predators, if nearby humans observed one cardinal rule:
Don’t feed wild turkeys!
Many perceived problems concerning wild turkeys are related to humans putting out food for what can soon grow to be a large flock.
Wild turkeys do not need handouts from humans. Once turkeys are habituated to receiving supplemental food from humans, it is difficult to change their habits. Established habits of both birds and humans are hard to break!
Therefore, efforts to de-habituate wild turkeys must involve everyone—including your neighbors and people you never may have met who are buying birdseed or bags of corn and scattering it in their yard or in places where no one sees them. Some people may be allowing wild turkeys to pick up the spilled seed under their birdfeeders or be feeding turkeys their kitchen scraps. If wild turkeys are receiving food from someone in your area, it will make it much more difficult for the following suggestions to be effective. Nevertheless, here are some strategies that can work. It’s best to take action when the turkeys first show up.
- Remove backyard bird feeders if turkeys have been eating spilled seed under them.
- Turn on the water and with a hose direct a stream at the turkeys’ feet.
- Opening an umbrella will frighten turkeys if they seem not to be afraid of humans. So will chasing them with a broom.
- Farmers have frightened away wild turkeys by flying predator kites from tall poles.
- Garden supply stores sell iridescent reflector tape that can be tied to trellises, trees, and bushes and startle the turkeys. It flutters and glitters in the breeze. (Some people prevent songbirds from hitting their windows by attaching this same reflective tape from a string weighted with a small pinecone and hanging the string from the eaves in front of their windows.)
- Metal poultry wire can be placed over berry bushes and fruit trees. Do not use polypropylene bird netting as it can entangle and trap nocturnal wildlife such as opossums and skunks. It’s not easy to release a skunk trapped under bird netting!
- Wild turkeys are perceptive and notice changes in their habitat. Unusual objects (such as rope, boxes, balloons, reflector tape, an old fashioned “farmer John” scarecrow) placed in a garden and moved to new locations in the garden from time to time can alarm them.
- Light up the roosting area with bright lights or install a motion sensitive sprinkler there.
- If a turkey is pecking at a shiny object such as a vehicle or window, cover the object and chase the turkey away.
- Do not use inhumane, sticky substances that trap wild creatures when they touch or step on the sticky substance. Wild creatures that become stuck sometimes tear off their own legs trying to escape. Sticky substances should not be used to deter turkeys or any other wildlife.
- Install a motion-sensitive sprinkler such as ScareCrow or Spray Away in areas frequented by wild turkeys and activate it only during the day. It shoots out forceful squirts of water when turkeys pass near it. Keep in mind that other wildlife and pets may also set it off. Use it only as a last resort after trying all other methods of deterrence.
- A dog on a leash will frighten turkeys away. Do not allow dogs to harm turkeys.
- Request that your community make it illegal to feed wild turkeys.
Keep wild turkeys wild. Problems arise when turkeys lose their fear of humans. This happens when they become accustomed to living in human habitat (with human- supplied food, highways, decks, parked cars, and railings).
Prevent most problems by chasing them off and not feeding them when they first show up in your area.
6 Tips for Feeding Wild Turkeys with Your Garden
The wild turkey is one of the most recognizable birds in all of North America and a symbol of the holiday season. As these fascinating and adaptable birds are becoming increasingly common backyard visitors and popular birdwatching subjects, you can turn your own yard or garden into a natural buffet to support them.
Instead of focusing on the turkey on your dinner plate, consider what food sources you can offer wild turkeys and increase your chances of seeing and enjoying them right outside your window. Here’s how to fill the wild turkey’s proverbial “plate” with food year-round.
Feeding Wild Turkeys the Natural Way
Wild Turkey’s Range provided by Nature Serve
- Plant Native Oaks: Acorns are a key food source for wild turkeys. By planting native oaks, like red oak, chestnut oak and black oak, you’ll supply them with plenty of acorns to eat. Turkeys eat acorns in fall and winter and in many oak forests you can even notice a V-shaped scratching in the leaf litter (a sure sign of wild turkeys). Many other wildlife species rely on acorns as a food source too, so you’ll be feeding more than just turkeys when you plant native oaks.
- Plant Other Nut and Berry-Producing Plants: In addition to oak acorns, other staples of the wild turkey diet include beech nuts, pecans, hickory nuts, crabapples, and hackberries. By planting native nut and berry-producing plants you’ll provide turkeys with the natural foods they’ve consumed for thousands of years. Other planting suggestions include black cherry trees, blueberries, wild grapes and dogwood. They’ll consume cacti fruits in arid areas. They will even consume poison ivy berries (along with dozens of other bird species).
- Offer Seeds and Browse: Turkeys browse on plant buds and shoots in the early spring and feed off fern fronds, club mosses, and weeds such as burdock, especially when there is a lot of snow cover and other foods are hard to find. Grasses, sedges and many wildflowers provide wild turkeys with seeds to eat. We don’t encourage attracting turkeys with birdseed from feeders, mostly because artificially feeding turkeys causes them to lose their natural fear of people*.
- Grit and Gravel: Turkeys will swallow grit to help them digest their food. Offer grit by placing a shallow bowl filled with sand, fine gravel, sterlized ground eggshells or ground oyster shells. Or just keep a patch of sandy soil free of plants.
- Stop Using Pesticides: Aside from the direct harm you can cause wildlife by using pesticides, by not using these chemicals you’ll make sure that turkeys have plenty of much-needed protein in the form of insects. About ten percent of an adult wild turkey’s diet consists of small animals, including insects such as stink bugs, grasshoppers, and ground beetles, as well as snails, slugs, worms, spiders and other invertebrates. Turkey chicks, called poults, begin foraging shortly after hatching for invertebrates, which make up a large portion of their diet as they grow. Turkeys will actually help keep invertebrate pests in check for you, and there are many organic gardening techniques you can also use to control pest outbreaks.
- Leave the Leaves: By leaving some dead plant matter in your garden, you’re providing habitat for the small animals that are a key part of a turkey’s diet. Turkeys forage for invertebrates in the leaf litter and also enjoy eating salamanders, frogs, snakes, and lizards that also live in the fallen leaves or decaying logs.
Bonus Tip: Provide a water source in addition to providing natural food sources. By providing a backyard pond or even a birdbath placed directly on the ground you’ll supply clean drinking water for the turkeys.
This year, learn more about turkeys than just the best recipes cook them. Discover the intriguing natural history of the wild turkey, make turkey-inspired crafts and laugh at amusing turkey trivia.
Wild Turkey Chick. Credit: Nick Kerosky.
*Male wild turkeys are territorial and can occasionally become aggressive, especially during the spring breeding season. This often happens when wild turkeys are being artificially fed with feeders and have lost their natural fear of people, so avoid doing that. If turkeys are cleaning up spilled seed from songbird feeders, take those feeders down. If you have plenty of native plants in your yard, all the birds will have plenty of natural foods to eat.
If you encounter a turkey that’s got something to prove, assert your dominance by standing your ground and chasing it away by walking towards it with a broom or rake or spraying it with a garden hose, to remind it where it fits in the pecking order. Male turkeys are large and intimidating and do have sharp spurs on their legs, but generally pose little actual threat of harm to humans. If you find that the wild turkeys in your yard are too much trouble, we recommend putting automatic sprinklers in your yard to scare them off whenever they show up. They also don’t like larger dogs and avoid yards where they are present.
A wild turkey in a field of buttercups. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Monte Loomis.
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What Are Wild Turkeys Afraid Of?
At first, you may be delighted and surprised to see a wild turkey in your backyard. But as the days and weeks pass, you may find wild turkeys are eating your garden, scaring away birds, or frightening your children.
It’s time to learn more about wild turkeys and more specifically, what they are afraid of.
Like many animals, wild turkeys are afraid of loud, unexpected noises. Consider making a noise maker out of a can of pennies. You can always wave your arms overhead and startle them with your own noises. These are good quick solutions, but require you to be home to deploy them. For a more permanent solution, our durable flash tape creates bright flashes of light and loud, crackling noises that scare away wild turkeys. Learn how Nite Guard Repellent Tape works.
2. Coyotes and Scarecrows
Wild turkeys are afraid of coyotes and can be tricked with scarecrows. A basic, but tried and true solution.
3. Leashed Dog
Do you have a dog at home? Or could a neighbor with a dog stop by and lend a hand? Wild turkeys are afraid of dogs. We add “leashed” as your goal is to frighten the turkey. Not injury it.
Unexpected bursts of water startle wild turkeys. Consider a Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler. We’ve also heard of people hosing turkeys down with squirt guns.
Now that you know what wild turkeys are afraid of, explore our 5 humane tips to deter wild turkeys. The Humane Society also has a great resource about what to do about wild turkeys.
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Wild turkeys from hell are terrorizing this town
Residents across a Connecticut town say they were a bunch of sitting ducks — thanks to a flock of aggressive wild turkeys that has been on the attack.
The foul fowl have attacked joggers and mailmen in the Stamford neighborhoods of Turn of River and Newfield – and some residents are fearful to leave their homes, the Stamford Advocate reported.
“I have been getting several complaints, mostly from older people afraid to leave their houses, and a few joggers who have been chased,” said City Rep. Steven Kolenberg. “But my biggest concern is for Newfield Elementary School, which is in the middle of these turkeys’ territory.”
The problem has been with two “tom” – or male adult — turkeys in the Pepper Ridge Road area, Kolenberg said. The pair is sometimes accompanied by a female bird or two.
The birds can get up to 24 pounds with a wingspan of about five feet.
“This is one of the stranger constituent complaints or issues I’ve gotten, but that doesn’t make it any less serious,” Kolenberg said. “These birds may come across as silly-looking, but they are very territorial, and if you feed them, they become aggressive.”
The rep urged his constituents to stop feeding the birds, calling it a “public safety issue.”
“We need the community to come together, stop feeding the turkeys, and if they still continue to come around, we need to harass them and push them out and make it uncomfortable for these turkeys to be in our neighborhood,” Kolenberg said.
Michael Gregonis, a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologist, said when people feed turkeys, the animals become “habituated” to them and see them as equals.
That’s when they become dangerous — and target the elderly, children and mail carriers.
“There’s a hierarchy in turkey flocks and each turkey has its place and they fight among themselves,” said Gregonis. “It’s likely they target mail carriers because they come every day — it’s a routine that’s set up.”
The attacks have gotten so vicious this summer, the post office sent letters to Turn of River residents urging them to stop feeding the turkeys.
Gregonis said it’s best to slowly walk away in order to avoid a turkey attack, instead of running away or backing up – or make yourself appear larger and aggressive.
“Generally, if you’re aggressive toward the turkey, they will back down,” he said.
But Gregonis also said reiterated that cutting off their food supply was crucial to kicking them out of town.
”The first thing you need to do is get all the food out,” he said. “That’s enough to move them back into woods.”
Benjamin Franklin called the turkey “a bird of courage” and “a true original native of America.”1 They can fly at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, and live for approximately 10 years.2,3
A British study found that turkeys showed a preference for different kinds of music and sounds, and a poultry scientist said, “If you throw an apple to a group of turkeys, they’ll play with it together.”4,5 Some turkey farmers admit that the birds show “signs of personality.”6 Hunters are advised that killing wild turkeys “is not an easy pursuit as gobblers are smart and wary.”7 The millions of turkeys who end up on American dinner plates are genetically manipulated animals who have brief, painful lives on prison-like farms that are far removed from the open spaces enjoyed by their wild cousins.
About 240 million turkeys are raised for food every year in the U.S.; approximately 85 million of them are slaughtered and eaten for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.8,9 Before ending up as holiday centerpieces, these gentle birds spend five to six months on farms, where thousands of turkeys are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.10 To keep the extremely crowded birds from scratching and pecking each other to death, workers cut off portions of the birds’ toes and upper beaks with hot blades and desnood the males (the snood is the flap of skin that runs from the beak to the chest).11 No painkillers are used during these procedures.
Genetic manipulation has enabled farmers to produce heavily muscled birds who can weigh 40 pounds in as little as five months.12 The average turkey destined for today’s dinner table weighs more than 30 pounds, a whopping 56 percent more than his or her peers did in 1960.13 Factory-farmed turkeys are so large that they can barely walk, are unable to fly like their wild cousins, and cannot even engage in normal reproductive behavior, so all turkeys raised for food are conceived by artificial insemination.14
Millions of turkeys don’t even make it past their first few weeks before succumbing to “starve-out,” a stress-induced condition that causes young birds to simply stop eating.15 Catching and transportation are particularly stressful procedures for birds, yet they are repeatedly moved during their short lives—from the hatchery to the brooding area to the growing area and finally to the slaughterhouse.16
At the slaughterhouse, turkeys are hung upside down by their weak and crippled legs before their heads are dragged through an electrified “stunning tank,” which immobilizes them but does not kill them. Many birds dodge the tank but then are still conscious when their throats are cut. If the knife fails to properly cut the birds’ throats, then they are dragged through the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tank while still alive and conscious.
Investigations Reveal Intentional Cruelty
In 2006, undercover PETA investigators worked at a Butterball plant in Arkansas and observed that live birds were slammed against transport trucks and walls, punched and kicked, hung by their broken legs, used as punching bags, and even sexually assaulted. One worker was seen crushing a live turkey’s head under his shoe until the bird’s skull exploded, and another slammed a bird against a handrail so hard that her spine was exposed. For more information about this investigation, please visit ButterballCruelty.com.
A PETA investigation of Minnesota-based Crestview Farm revealed that the farm’s manager repeatedly used a metal pipe to bludgeon 12-week-old turkeys who were lame, injured, ill, or otherwise unsuitable for slaughter and consumption. Injured birds were thrown onto piles of dead and dying birds, and then they were tossed into a wheelbarrow for disposal. Birds who were still alive were kicked or beaten with pliers or had their necks wrung—all in full view of other terrified birds. When the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association came to the defense of the farmer, the local district attorney refused to prosecute. More details and photos from this case are available at PETA.org.
Turkey Flesh Linked to Disease
Turkey flesh is devoid of fiber and loaded with more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef. A turkey’s leg contains more than 450 milligrams of cholesterol and more than 1,100 calories—40 percent of which are derived from fat.17
The USDA estimates that an average of one out of fifty turkeys is infected with salmonella, a foodborne illness that sickens more than 1 million people each year and kills 450.18,19 Campylobacter, a type of bacteria found in turkeys, is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the United States.20
What You Can Do
Spread some holiday joy to turkeys by sparing their lives. Look in supermarkets and health food stores or on the Internet for Tofurky, Tofu Turkey, Garden Protein’s Veggie Turkey Breast, Field Roast, and other widely available turkey alternatives. For more information on vegetarian holiday meals, go to PETA.org for great recipes, nutritional information, and cooking and shopping tips as well as to order a free copy of our vegetarian/vegan starter kit.
Garden Protein International
1Benjamin Franklin, “To Mrs. Sarah Bache,” 26 Jan. 1784, in The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert Henry Smyth (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905-1907).
2National Wild Turkey Federation, “Hunt Wild Turkeys: Wild Turkey For Thanksgiving,” accessed 2 Oct. 2018.
3Brad Howard et al., “Eastern Wild Turkey,” North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 2017.
4Andrea Gerlin, “Researchers Examine Music’s Impact on Turkeys,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 26 Nov. 2003.
5Aaron Hougham, “Turkeys—Not as Dumb as You Think,” The Daily Barometer 26 Nov. 2003.
6Arthur Hirsch, “Home Before the Holidays. At Springfield Farm in Sparks, Turkeys Roam Free Before Turning Up on the Thanksgiving Table,” The Baltimore Sun 26 Nov. 2003.
7“Where You Can Hunt Spring Turkey in Virginia,” Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2018.
8National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Turkeys Raised,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 28 Sept. 2018.
9National Turkey Federation, “Turkey History & Trivia,” 2018.
10Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, “Crop Profile for Turkey in Virginia,” Mar. 2006.
12Phillip Clauer, “Modern Turkey Industry,” The Pennsylvania State University, accessed 6 Oct. 2018.
13Alexis C. Madrigal, “The Supersized American Turkey,” The Atlantic, 27 Nov. 2013.
14Nicholas Staropoli, “Your Turkey May Be Organic, But It’s Not Natural,” American Council on Science and Health, 23 Nov. 2015.
15“Non-starter and ‘Starve-out’s’,” The Poultry Site, accessed 6 Oct, 2018.
16Poultry Service Association, “Poultry Handling and Transportation Manual,” 2017.
17U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, “Turkey, All Classes, Leg, Meat and Skin, Cooked, Roasted,” Release April 1, 2018.
18Elizabeth Weise, “Don’t Wash Your Turkey! And Other Food Safety Tips,” USA Today, 17 Nov. 2012.
19U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Salmonella,” 15 Mar. 2018.
20U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Campylobacter (Campylobacteriosis),” 2 Oct. 2017.