From turkey part names to pardoned turkeys, Kaylee Vaughn tells us fun facts about Ben Franklin’s favorite bird.
Turkeys have long been the bird of choice to serve at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. But, have you ever considered just how unique and interesting these birds really are? Wow your family and friends over the dinner table this holiday season with these 5 fun facts about turkeys!
Two years ago during the holiday season, we were unexpectedly gifted a turkey from our neighbors. However, it was definitely not intended for our holiday dinner table! Our neighbors had raised turkeys to be processed for their holiday dinners. However, their young daughter instantly took to one of them and made it her pet, even naming it “baby”!
While we certainly didn’t plan on keeping a pet turkey on our homestead, we couldn’t say no when they told us the heart-warming story! Baby the turkey now spends her days in the pasture with her best friends, our dairy goats! She is friendly, loving and goofy – almost like a pet dog!
Being the bird-nerd that I am, I have loved learning more about turkeys over the years – an animal that I rarely gave any thought to before I met Baby the turkey! If you want to find out just how interesting these unique birds are, check out these five fun facts about turkeys!
5 Fun Facts about Turkeys:
Jennies, jakes and rafters, oh my!
Have you ever wondered what male and female turkeys are called? Male turkeys are called “toms” or “gobblers” which is very fitting considering the famous “gobble-gobble” sound that they make! Juvenile males are referred to as “jakes”. Females are known as “hens” and juveniles are called “jennies”. People sometimes refer to baby turkeys as chicks, but the correct term is actually “poults”. And, if there is a group of turkeys, they are referred to as either a “flock” or a “rafter”.
Turkeys have some pretty wild body parts!
Everyone undoubtedly knows that turkeys have some pretty unique features! Most famously, the snood is the unmistakable flap of skin that hangs over the turkey’s beak. Females have a short snood that looks similar to a small fleshy horn situated just above their beaks. For fun, we call our turkey’s snood her “unicorn horn”!
Males, however, have rather incredible snoods! Their snoods can change color, becoming darker or brighter, during mating season to attract females! Even crazier, it can elongate in a matter of seconds when a mate is near! As it turns out, size does matter, and female turkeys prefer males with long dark snoods!
Turkey droppings can tell you their sex!
Turkeys are certainly fascinating creatures! One crazy and unique turkey feature is that hens and gobblers have different shaped droppings! Males have droppings that make a J-shape while female turkey droppings are spiral-shaped. This is due to the anatomical differences in the male and female cloacas, which is the exit for the digestive/reproductive tract. A female’s cloaca is larger and more elastic than the male’s cloaca since females pass eggs through the opening. This allows more room for the female’s droppings to clump and create a spiral, whereas the male’s droppings are slimmer and longer.
Turkey eggs are edible & delicious!
Turkey eggs are completely edible, even though they are far less popular than chicken or duck eggs. I find that turkey eggs taste very similar to a chicken egg, although they are much larger! They also have a very hard shell and membrane, making them a challenge to crack! Since hens don’t start laying until about 7 months old and only lay two eggs a week at best, turkeys never became popular egg-laying birds. However, if you are lucky enough to own a turkey hen, you’ll be able to enjoy a tasty turkey egg, which can sell for around $3 per egg in the U.S.! That’s one pricey egg!
Presidentially pardoned turkeys live the life of leisure!
Have you ever wondered what happens to the turkeys that are pardoned each Thanksgiving by the president? Well, those lucky turkeys live the good life! According to the National Turkey Federation, the pardoned turkeys retire to “Gobbler’s Rest” located at Virginia Tech University. The turkeys are cared for by veterinary staff and are used in educational presentations for the poultry science department. You can even visit the presidential turkeys at Gobbler’s Rest, which is open to the public!
Kaylee Vaughn is a suburban homesteader, caring for chickens, goats, and a large garden on a little less than an acre. She and her family strive to create the most efficient homestead possible in the small space we have available. Her chickens are not only beautiful yard ornaments, but also a vital part of their homestead management practices! “We utilize them to produce manure, control pests, turn compost, and more.” Kaylee’s nick-named them “the gardeners” because they are always in the garden, working hard – and redecorating on occasion, too! You can follow Kaylee through her website.
Really enjoyed this article on turkey’s. I had some pet turkeys for several years. I really enjoyed watching my Tom strut and stomp. He was so protective of my female turkeys as well as my chickens.