[Update 11/11/2016: We hope you enjoy our new turkey hugs video, above. If you would like to see more of the individual videos of turkey hugs we used in this montage, please scroll down.]
A few days ago, while searching online for photos of turkeys snuggling, I came across a discussion thread in a Backyard Chickens Forum that sort of floored me. It began with the following question from a new member:
“This my first [time here] so please forgive me if I am repeating a question. I am in my second year of raising Chickens. I love them way too much to put them on my dinner table. I adopted two turkeys with holiday’s in mind. But low and behold I am attached to them as well. I suppose some people get parrots or finches, but my birds are some of the best company. I am a young retired vet with severe PTSD and “TURK and Lurk” are wonderful therapy. My question is, is this practical? Do other people actually have turkeys as pets or am I nut’s? any advice would be greatfully welcomed.”
As someone who spends a lot of time researching “humane” meat and eggs, I am all too familiar with the “kinder, gentler exploitation” model promoted by so many proponents of the backyard chicken movement. So it was that I fully expected this gentle, turkey-loving newbie to be roundly laughed out of the forum, told to man up, admonished that becoming food is “what these animals are here for,” etc., etc.
But instead, one after the other, replies like this one (many with photos attached) began to pour in:
“Here’s my pet turkey, Barnham… Her mom abandoned her at 1 week old, cause a hail storm killed the 11 other siblings. We brought her inside & raised her for a while. She used to love to sit on my lap, while watching T.V. Seven years later, she still wants to be carried around in your arms..”
“My little turkey is named Buzzy and he’s the best pet!…He was the sweetest little poult, he followed me everywhere and always wanted to be in my lap. Just don’t get broad breasted because they don’t live long due to their size.”
“I hatched 4 turkies a month ago with the intention using them for the holidays. And now I am sure that they may be at the table, but as a guest not as the food…They are the most adorable creatures that ever was.”
“Hello i just wanted to share my pet house turkey…she is precious and she has her own fish tank for her enjoyment, she goes to the vet, and gets injections for joint support. She is spoiled and we like her this way, we rescued her from the feed store at one week old, she couldn’t walk and without therapy she would have died cuz she was not able to get to food or water without someone placing her in front of it…Lurk has problems with her joints and she has really bad curl toes on one foot, we switched her diet to less fat and less protine to hopfully keep her weight down, she is also on biweekly injections of ichon to help her joints.. It makes the world of difference…all the work i do cleaning up after her is so worth it… She is the best!”
These kinds of comments went on for 10-plus pages; I only wish I could share them all here. It seems that the more people spend time with turkeys, the more they are able to recognize them as individuals with unique personalities, emotions, and preferences, just like the cats and dogs we know and love. It’s an instructive moment, and a good reminder that our job as advocates isn’t just about helping people understand the suffering farmed animals go through, but also about helping them perceive these grossly depersonalized beings as individuals.
It’s in this spirit that I share the following clips of turkeys snuggling with their human friends. I hope you will enjoy and share them too!
If you’ve gotten this far, there’s one last comment from that backyard chickens thread that I want to share. (I can’t account for the unusual spelling, but I find it strangely beautiful, almost like something out of Faulkner). This commenter is replying to the original poster who asked if he was “nuts” for wanting to keep his turkeys as companions, rather than kill them for meat as he had intended:
“no way ur nuts i had to of my turkey i loved them so much but a bald egol came and took my baby turkey she was like varry hevey so the egol only killed her and left her i went in to adepreshen cous i spent so much time with he i mein i had a harnes and i took her and coco her boy frend on walks evey day and i spent most of my day plaing with her and she was the best freind i ever had i had 23 chicken at that time that she always went with me and help me feed but i fell in to a deep depreshen wen she die and i haned up giveing away all of my loving bird and to this day i i rilly regret it i should of keept them but i got so sad and mad its my falt that i couldnt help her and i i still blame my self in face bloonie s bf axol die to after she past he stop eating and with in 13 days later he had past i i rilly tred to keep hem but it was not sumthink i could do he was so lonly.”
To learn more about the incredible bonds turkeys are capable of forming, please see How A Turkey Became My Best Friend.
Learn more about turkeys used for food at 12 Reasons You May Never Want to Eat Turkey Again.