Surprising Reasons to Adopt a Turkey This Thanksgiving

When it comes to Thanksgiving, adopting a turkey may not be what you had in mind. But this year, why not start a new tradition and save an animal while you're at it?

Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Project helps people get involved through sponsorships or home adoptions. The idea may never have crossed your mind, but you might be surprised to learn just how loving and personable these birds can be. We spoke with Farm Sanctuary’s national shelter director, Susie Coston, and one turkey-adopting family about the experience.

Drucilla Roberts and Nick Semine
Courtesy of Nick Semine and Drucilla Roberts
Nick Semine and Drucilla Roberts currently have three birds adopted from Farm Sanctuary.

Life With Turkeys

What's it like having a turkey around all the time? Dr. Drucilla Roberts and Nick Semine have adopted a number of animals from Farm Sanctuary over the years, including turkeys, and currently have three of the birds. Roberts says they decided to take in turkeys since their small farm had many animals and they “thought turkeys would be a good addition to the mix.”

“I had always heard that turkeys were one of the dumber farm animals, and I guess I just wanted to know if that was true,” Roberts says. “I learned that is not true. They have a lot of personality.”

Roberts says the process with Farm Sanctuary is streamlined and simple, and calls owning turkeys fun and easy.

She says about turkeys: “They’re very friendly. They come right up to you; they’re not afraid of people. They’re very curious and vocal and not afraid of any of the other animals."

From their desire to be petted to how they seem grateful for help when they need a hand taking some steps, their turkeys have individual personalities that vary just like cats' and dogs' do.

“They’re sensitive beings, they have feelings, and the personality part is very strong,” Roberts says. “We are so very happy with our turkeys.”

What You Should Know Before Adopting

The process starts with filling out an application. Coston says her group is strict and careful with who gets to adopt since turkeys have specific requirements. Before adopting, Coston thinks people should realize that turkeys have different needs from another bird you might find in backyards: chickens.

“Turkeys are much larger animals, and their health needs are different, especially when it comes to industrialized birds,” Coston says.  

Adopters can take in industrial turkeys or heritage breeds, which are smaller and have health issues closer to chickens. The lifespan of an industrial turkey is about two to five years, while a heritage turkey can live 10 to 12 years. 

Once you’ve decided to adopt, you must make sure your area is zoned for livestock. Then check that having turkeys won’t be an issue for your neighbors and prepare a proper shelter that will keep your turkeys safe from predators.

“They can’t see at night, so usually turkeys roost high up — but [industrial ] turkeys can’t because of their body structure, so you worry about predation,” she says.

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