Despite their differences, turkeys and traditional pets share traits such as the ability to love unconditionally, loyalty and intelligence, owners said. Dr. Drucilla Roberts, a pathologist from Millis, Mass., pointed out a bonus: “They give us manure and eggs.”
“I was always told that turkeys were the dumbest of farm animals. But that’s not true. They know us and protect us. If a stranger comes, the turkey is right in his face and clucking and raising its feathers. They make great noises,” Roberts said.
Like dogs, some turkeys grow attached to their owners. Oeh recounted how her last turkey, Ariala, followed her around the garden.
“She would stay by my right leg. When I was picking vegetables, she ate out of my hand. She let me pet her and kiss her,” Oeh said, adding that petting turkeys can put them into a trance-like state. “She was so immersed in the moment that if you got tired of petting her and moved away, she’d wake up and look around as if to say ‘What’s going on?’”
The part-time teacher and student services coordinator had to put Ariala to sleep last year due to her health problems, for which Oeh discovered a lack of available information. Through trial and error, she learned that it’s hard to give a turkey a pill or take them on trips, because crating them requires giving them bear hugs to keep their wings from flapping.
Experts and owners, however, are aware of at least one problem: owing to their large breasts, commercial turkeys have little balance and can fall easily. One of Roberts’ turkeys, Turks, had to be put down after its weight caused a split sternum, she said.
Commercial turkeys are usually the ones that get adopted as pets: Coston said most turkeys rescued by the Farm Sanctuary come from factory farms and have been debeaked, detoed and fattened. Many arrive as victims of neglect, cruelty or hoarding; they fall off farm trucks; or they mysteriously show up in boxes on doorsteps, she said.