EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

November 21, 2012

Some eat 'em, some feed 'em

LOS ANGELES — Turkeys: Main course or animal companion?

OK, so it isn’t even close. According to the industry group National Turkey Federation, more than 46 million of the big birds will be served as Thanksgiving dinner this year. Just a few hundred will get to experience the holiday as a pet, said turkey rescue Farm Sanctuary.

“I believe they make amazing companions, but they are different than cats or dogs,” said Susie Coston of Watkins Glen, N.Y. For one thing, turkeys get too hot and are too messy to come indoors, said Coston, the national shelter director for the Farm Sanctuary.

Taking the large bird on as a companion requires more responsibilities than owning a dog or a cat, experts say. “If people are adopting domesticated turkeys, they should be aware that it’s not a simple endeavor and would take a considerable amount of work,” said NTF spokeswoman Kimmon Williams.

“Turkeys as pets is a complicated question,” she added.

Like other animals that serve as companions to humans, turkeys come in different breeds, with some weighing as much as 60 pounds, Williams said. Every turkey has its own personality — and some can be aggressive, she said.

Most pet turkey owners agree the birds aren’t the kind of pets that can be walked on a leash or dressed for the Christmas family photo.

“Turkeys are inherently nervous and do not tend to be warm and cuddly. Turkeys also need plenty of space to run around in and be fed the appropriate diet,” Williams noted.

Still, Karen Oeh, who will be getting four pet turkeys just before Thanksgiving, said she preferred them over dogs.

“Dogs are needy to me. They need affection, attention, security, they always need you to do something for them. With the turkeys, I don’t feel guilty because I didn’t take them to the park and throw the Frisbee,” said the Ben Lomond, Calif., resident.

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