20 Turkey Facts That'll Blow Your Mind

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Posted November 10, 2014 by Nina Kahn

Ah, Thankskilling Thanksgiving. Let’s take a moment to honor the beings who are forced to give their lives every single year just so that people across the country can gorge themselves on their flesh on this “holiday”: turkeys. These dudes don’t have much to be thankful for around this time of the year, so I thought that we should take some time to get to know them. Shall we?

Here are 20 facts about turkeys who are forced to suffer and give their lives for this cruel holiday tradition:

1. They’re social butterflies.

Turkeys looove greeting visitors, making new friends, and being around others. They can even recognize human faces!

poplar-spring-turkey-crop2. They travel in groups.

Turkeys spend a ton of time with their families, so of course, they feel sad when a member of their family passes away—just as humans do.

3. They’re super-smart.

Turkeys are born with instincts that allow them to distinguish which insects are dangerous to eat and which snakes are poisonous—they can do this and so many other things without having to be taught. That’s more than we humans can say!

 4. They’re natural athletes.

For real! These guys can fly at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour and run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Impressive!

turkey in the snow

5. They don’t just fly …

…They also jump! Turkeys can jump crazy-high to reach food on taller tree branches.

6. They make great moms.

Baby turkeys will stay with their mothers for the first five months of their lives, during which time they create very close bonds. And turkey mamas are totally brave and won’t hesitate to defend their families against possible danger!

7. When they’re cuddling with each other or being petted, they PURR. JUST LIKE CATS.


8. They’re natural detectives.

Turkeys are naturally curious animals, and they’re always interested in checking out new sights and smells.

curious wild turkey

9. They’re music lovers.

It’s true! These birds love gobbling along to their favorite jams.

10. They have some unique body parts.

Wattles and snoods are two features of turkey faces that miiiight not be familiar to you (see below—now, ya know!).

11. Their faces are basically MOOD RINGS.

Yeah, it’s trippy. A turkey’s head and facial features actually change color, turning red, pink, blue, or white depending on their mood.

turkey close up colorful

12. Male turkeys are ladies’ men.

Male turkeys are bigger than females, and their feathers are much more colorful. They get the lady turkeys’ attention with the colorful wattles on their necks and the little beards that hang from their chests (good thing these birds are all born with full-color vision!). Whatever floats your boat, turkeys.

male turkey with hearts

13. They love taking naps.

“Roosting” is what it’s called when turkeys (and some other birds) nap together in groups. How cute is that?! Their favorite place to roost is way up high in the branches of trees.


14. They have hobbies.

Turkeys who aren’t trapped on factory farms spend their days hanging out with their families, building nests, searching for snacks, taking dust baths, preening themselves, and chillin’ high up in the trees.

turkey in grass

15. They can live for up to 10 years in the wild.

We wish that all turkeys lived long enough to be old and gray!

turkey at poplar spring animal sanctuary

But unfortunately, so many of these smart, playful, sensitive, fun-loving animals end up dead on a Thanksgiving dinner plate. Here’s a look at what their lives are like:

16. Forty-five MILLION turkeys are killed every Thanksgiving season.

Pretty horrific, right? And that’s after most have been pumped full of antibiotics and packed into filthy, cramped sheds for months.

Turkeys In Slaughter Truck

17. They’re bred, drugged, and genetically manipulated to grow as large as possible and as quickly as possible to increase profits.

In 1970, the average live turkey raised for meat weighed 17 pounds. Today, he or she weighs 28 pounds.

Turkey on factory farm

18. Parts of their toes and beaks—as well as the males’ snoods—are cut off without any pain relief.

This is to keep the frustrated birds from harming each other under such stressful, crowded conditions.

 19. Most are slaughtered when they’re only 5 months old.

And they were never allowed to roam free, experience fresh air or the warmth of the sun on their backs, enjoy the comfort of their nest, or spend time with their families.

Undercover at a Butterball Turkey Plant

20. In the end, their throats are slit—sometimes while they’re still conscious.

This is how they spend the last moments of their life.

crippled turkey

Guess what? You don’t have to feel guilty about eating turkeys if you just stop eating them.

Cut the cruelty and check out these delish and simple turkey-free Thanksgiving recipes!

vegan thanksgiving food

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