Peculiar Pets for a Good Cause
(Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)
After Thanksgiving, some are still talking turkeys — as pets.
Thanksgiving may have come and gone this year, but for some, the spirit still lives on through the turkeys they keep as companion animals.
It isn’t quite what you may expect – turkeys can make for fun and affectionate pets, but they do require a certain level of specialized care that all prospective adoptive owners should be ready to provide, says Susie Coston, the national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, an organization that shelters and adopts out rescued, industrial turkeys.
But Coston says taking the extra effort to prepare for and host a turkey is well worth it.
“Turkeys are usually very intelligent, very charismatic, attentive and like people a lot,” Coston told Zootoo. “They all have different personalities, but the ones we adopt out are really friendly.”
Turkeys like to stick together, and typically do better in a flock – groups of four, or two, depending on what a home can allow for. It’s also typically better to keep females and males separate, as the males’ large size can cause them to hurt the females.
Keeping turkeys as companion animals – they are best fit for farms, or on a considerable plot of land that would allow them to graze, which they are said to love – hasn’t always been very popular, Coston concedes. Farm Sanctuary is working to change people’s perceptions of turkeys through their adoptions each year, which vary by number, but is usually between 20 and 30.
Joan Poster, a veterinarian in Westport, Ct., now has four heritage turkeys on her farm in nearby Southport, Ct., and told Zootoo shortly before Thanksgiving that she was soon expecting two more to join her family of farm animals, which include pigs, sheep, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits.
She described the turkeys as “really cute” and said they are a lot of fun to watch as they strut around. In order to keep her turkeys comfortable and safe, she keeps them in fenced in quarters that have both high and low fencing – dug about a foot-and-a-half- into the ground – so predators, like raccoons and foxes, can’t reach the birds. If predators like hawks and eagles are also a risk, then the fencing should cover the top of the turkeys’ area.
You’d need a big enough space to keep turkeys, as well as a zoning permit to have them, says Coston. Another must is a house that you can lock the turkeys into, so they can sleep peacefully at night and not have to worry about predators reaching them.
Since most turkeys are bred only for human consumption, they do come with some health problems, which can include weakened joints and a shortened life span.
On average, females live from 6 to 7, while males live from 3 to 5 years.
“Genetically, you can’t change these guys, so we are doing what we can to make their lives good,” said Coston. “They can have great lives, but you’ve got to watch their weight so they don’t get arthritis and they don’t get heart problems, because if they are in pain they won’t walk.”
To help provide comfort for the arthritic-prone birds, nice, bulk bedding inside their houses is recommended – and hard, concrete floors are considered a definite no-no, since their joints already take a hard hit in their everyday life.
But with a little bit of extra care and love, turkeys can thrive, says Coston.
“They love to run out in the grass and graze, they really love duck bathing,” she explained. “One of the things they will do is bathe in the dust, which keeps lice and mitts and all parasites off, which is an instinctual thing they will do. They like to sunbathe and will lay in the sun and stretch their wings out.”
For more information about adopting a turkey, visit farmsanctuary.org.
Would you keep a turkey as a pet? What is the most peculiar pet you’ve ever heard of? Tell us below!
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