Turkey Strut

Posted by on Oct 1, 2010 in Farm Blog, Turkeys | 31 comments

Early this morning, we weren’t sure what today’s Fowl Friday post was going to be, but when we walked into the turkey pen, the turkeys suggested this post should be about them.

At only eight weeks until Thanksgiving, our turkeys are looking more...turkey-like (click any image to enlarge)

It’s less than 8 weeks to Thanksgiving, and our turkeys are now 25 weeks old.  This puts us 19 weeks into our first turkey-raising adventure.  They’ve been interesting to watch grow from downy poults, and are now regularly seen strutting their stuff around the farm.

Bourbon Red/Royal Palm Jake

Bourbon Red/Standard Bronze Jake

Admittedly to some, turkeys are rather ugly.

Well...he may not win any beauty contests, but turkeys are unmistakable!

They do have a rather unique appearance, but after raising them ourselves, we’ve come to realize they are actually quite beautiful, and remarkable birds.

This morning all three boys were dressed to impress, in all their colorful glory, looking every bit the quintessential birds that have become synonymous with Thanksgiving.  We’ve posted about Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor) before, but these are the real thing!

Tail of the Standard Bronze cross

Tail of the Royal Palm cross

We’re often joking between ourselves about the turkey’s ‘mood snoods’, because the snood length on the males changes significantly depending on the mood of the bird.  However, in reality their entire head is an indicator of their mood.  We’ll probably never tire of watching a Jake’s head flush vivid red, then blue, and as the blue color fades, turning a rather alien-looking green.  You’ll never see a chicken do that!

He's actually quite handsome...for a turkey

Each of the birds is beautiful, in its own turkey sort of way, but the Bourbon Red/Standard Bronze Jake is our personal favorite. His feather colors are almost mesmerizing in the early morning light, and he’s certainly the friendlier of the three males toward us.

The Standard Bronze cross has the most remarkable colored body feathers

The largest of the birds is ‘Thanksgiving’, one of the Bourbon Red/Royal Palm crosses.  He’s quite enormous, and is maturing a little faster than the other males. He’s very handsome, but also becoming quite aggressive.

Jenny (left) isn't all that impressed with 'Thanksgiving' (right) - he's a bit of a bully

In contrast the female, who we’ve jokingly dubbed ‘the incredible shrinking Jenny’, seems to be getting smaller each week, not larger.  She’s not though, it’s just that the males continue to grow at a much faster rate, dwarfing her in comparison.

Jenny looks really small next to the Jakes

It’s really difficult to capture behavior with still photographs, so hopefully the following video will give you better idea of how a turkey looks when it’s dressed to impress.  If you turn up the volume, and ignore the squawking pullets in the background, you may be able to hear the low rumbling noise that emanates from the Jakes when they’re displaying.

Thus far our turkey-rearing experiment has been mostly a very positive experience.  At least to this point I can honestly say that raising turkeys has been significantly less problematic, and less drama-drenched, than raising roosters.

However, that said, turkey life is not completely drama free.


Boys will be boys, and sometimes they like to fight

This morning’s displays were impressive, and fortunately, passive.  However, there can be drama in the life of young male turkeys, even at this age, and we have had some escalation in the number of fights between the Jakes in recent weeks.  Sometimes I think goats would be much easier.  Thankfully though, a short sharp squirt with the garden hose usually cools everyone off.  It does however make it clear that this population needs to be thinned, soon, as the fighting will only increase significantly by spring, and we really can’t leave poor Jenny loose with three Toms!


  1. Beautiful displays! I can’t wait until next spring to try my hand at turkey raising.

    Are you going to keep Jenny and one of the Jakes for breeding?
    Dog Island Farm´s last post…Today is a BIG Day

    • Our plan is to keep ‘Jenny’, and the one we just call ‘Jake’ right now. He’s the dark male Bourbon Red/Standard Bronze, that looks most like Jenny. We’ve been doing some homework on turkey feather color genetics, and are curious to see what the results are. Although most importantly, ‘Jake’ is the tamest of the boys. When he turns into a 40lb monster, I don’t want to be scared of him! I have enough trouble with Siegfried already 😛

  2. I never realized turkeys are kinda pretty.They have really nice tail displays. My only experience with a turkey was at a petting zoo, and the turkey was really nice to me, then when my husband entered the pen all heck broke loose.The turkey violently attacked him, driving him out of the pen. No more turkey petting for me.

    • We’ve heard adult turkeys can be very aggressive toward humans. There can be a lot of factors in play, including the individual personality of the bird (breeding), and how they’re raised etc. Our largest male is becoming quite aggressive with his cohorts, although not (yet) with us. I think personality is always important to consider when breeding. I think all too often we obsess too much about looks with breeding.

  3. Oh, I agree that your turkeys and the wild ones here are very beautiful… feathers, and those red jewels they were on their heads. They have a different sort of beauty is all. Love your video! They all look so very healthy and happy. You have done such a good job with them Clare. It will be hard to harvest them I imagine. ;>)
    Carol´s last post…WELCOME OCTOBER and the Return of BLOOMING FRIDAY

    • We’ve raised these birds with the intent of culling two of the males (we originally intended one, until we discovered we had three Jakes). It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be. At least we’ll know where our turkey came from for Thanksgiving, and exactly how it was raised. 🙂

  4. As shown in your beautiful photos, I’m one who thinks turkeys are beautiful, Clare. Last weekend, we woke at the lake to a party of wild turkeys (about 30) dining happily in the yard. So fun to watch, blessed by the visit. We are on the ‘turkey trot’ so not unusual but always grand! I have the gift of a wild turkey in the freezer from last spring season, waiting to be enjoyed. First time preparing one … any ideas?

    • I looked into prepping wild game/heritage birds a lot last year, although couldn’t source a heritage bird as so few were available. There seem to be as many opinions on the matter as there are Chefs.

      Most importantly, if you don’t have one, invest in a meat thermometer, a good one, so it doesn’t get overcooked.

      Traditionally, and I grew up with this method, game birds were barded. We used to stuff under breast skin with forcemeat, and cover the entire breast with thick bacon, and pack sausage under the legs etc., then roast slow, and low. This method has been used in Europe for centuries, although it’s fallen out of favor now we have fat corn-fed, salt-laden, market birds on grocery shelves. I made my first turkeys here that way, and my husband still swears they were the best he’d ever had. I have a 17th Century cookbook that gets into the use of all sorts of barding methods and uses of forcemeats for cooking game. Makes for a fun read! 😛

      What I don’t want to do is dunk the bird in a bucket of brine. To bury the richer, gamier flavor of wild/heritage birds in obscene amounts of salty water, I think rather negates the whole point of going to the trouble of sourcing (or raising!) one. Salt to enhance flavor is fine, I just don’t intend to (wet) brine this bird. I’m thinking of more of a dry brine for flavor, with an herb/salt rub, heavy on the herbs, light on the salt, and then using some sort of barding method to help improve texture. I think the key will be not to over-roast it, and dry it out! I’ll let you know how it goes!

  5. Wow, it’s going to be strange to see them stuffed with chestnuts…But that’s the way life is.

    • Well, fortunately I agree with Alton Brown…stuffing is EVIL! 😛 I don’t stuff my birds, and haven’t for years. But yes, it will be quite strange to see our Thankgiving meal, and realize it came from the garden. I am looking forward to less turkey fights though…

  6. I’ve been getting a bit behind with ‘Fowl Friday’ – the turkey’s sure have grown! They do indeed look beautiful in their own unique way!
    Heidi (GippyGardener)´s last post…Identification help please!

  7. Gorgeous birds! I am looking forward to a nice little Bourbon Red hen that is being raised by a local poultry farmer. I always get a hen because they are smaller and seem more evenly tender. I guess I prefer shrinking Jennys over large jake’s like yours.

    Are you planning to grow a commercially viable flock, or are you aiming to take care only of your family’s needs?
    Angela´s last post…Morning at the Lotus Pond

    • We have no desire to grow a commercially viable flock. We’re doing this just for us. Even a few turkeys generate significantly more odor on the farm than all our chickens combined. A few turkeys are relatively simple to raise, but large flocks become more difficult to manage. As heritage breeds can fly, they have to be wing-clipped often if out on pasture, and if housed, need multiple pens to prevent skirmishes. I’d like some time to spend in the garden 🙂

  8. I guess I don’t know much at all about turkeys but the “mood” snood is neat. Does it really tell it’s mood? Is Thanksgiving really going to be for Thanksgiving? The poor guy doesn’t stand a chance with that name. 🙂
    charsgardening´s last post…Last Supper

    • Well, they flush vivid red at the sight of hawks and bobcats, are more pale pink when relaxed and foraging, and turn bright blue when they’re puffed up trying to impress. That however is about as much I’ve been able to decode about the mood of turkeys 😛

      ‘Thanksgiving’ is more a destiny, than a name, but yes. As the largest bird, and the most aggressive, we think it’s best to choose him, if only for the benefit of the remaining birds.

  9. They are fascinating to look at and the different colours are amazing. I like the bit about the head changing colour!
    easygardener´s last post…Wordless Wednesday – waiting for a mate to come along

  10. I think they are beautiful birds. I didn’t know about their color changing abilities. That is pretty amazing! It almost sounds like something from Star Trek.

    I had a neighbor with goats once. He learned (the hard way) to never bend over in their presence!
    villager´s last post…Sunny Update

    • Good tip! If we ever goats (and I’m very tempted to get a couple of dwarf dairy goats) I also have to be careful with my hair. I’ve had goats pull it and try to eat it before! 😛

  11. Dear Clare, What dandies these turkeys are. Puffing and strutting, they remind me of Teddy Boys in the past….out on the town and dressed to impress. I think that the turkeys are striking rather than beautiful, and they certainly have a ‘presence’. But, poor Jenny, what is to become of her? Rather like a ‘wallflower’ waiting to be asked to dance…perhaps Frodo will oblige?!!!
    Edith Hope´s last post…Bathtime

    • Well, hopefully Jenny and Jake (the bronze cross male) will have lovely fluffy baby turkeys in spring. We’re going to keep that pair here on the farm. Frodo at the moment is waiting to see what becomes of Siegfried…more on that soon…

  12. Clare, I think they are incredible looking creatures! and I am fascinated and love looking at them. It looks as though Jenny was holding her own with ‘Thanksgiving’. 😉

    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Diana´s last post…Family Time and Coopers Rock State Forest

    • ‘Thanksgiving’ was getting a little hen-pecked. We’d noticed a few feathers missing on the back of the Jake’s necks, and assumed they were losing them during the fights. Now we know the truth though! Apparently Jenny fancies herself a stylist. 😛

  13. Now that IS impressive! Beautiful creatures! It would be so hard to think of one of them as “Thanksgiving” though….
    Floridagirl´s last post…Flamin Hot and Pretty Loud!

  14. Clare they really do have an incredible display of plumage. I’m wondering if “Thanksgivings” days are numbered due to his name? Have you got one named Christmas aswell?
    [email protected]´s last post…Bromeliads- inflorescences and plastic bags

    • Our plan is only to have Jake and Jenny left by spring, the two bronze crosses. We have dubbed the other Bourbon Red/Palm cross male (the second red-colored turkey) Christmas. ‘Thanksgivings’ days are numbered, but I know we will think more about our meal this year, appreciate where it came from, not just the turkey, but the entire meal, and be that much more thankful, and respectful of what it took to produce. I wish it was possible for everyone to reconnect with real food, to get past the anonymity of plastic wrap, boxes, cans, and drive-thrus, and have a true understanding as to where their food comes from, and what sacrifices were made for each and every meal. We sadly, as a society overall, seem to have become rather numb in regards to our food.

  15. The video is interesting. Did I see Jenny kissing one of the males?. Those fat turkeys should make a real Thanksgiving feast. I look forward to hearing how it turns out.
    debsgarden´s last post…Nandina- Is it Heavenly or Not

  16. I really like this post, Clare. I’m a little surprised no one has commented about the butchering prep, yet. Having grown up on a 1st generation family farm (no turkeys), my mother didn’t fancy the butchering process, and we never did have lamb again after our bottle-fed ones were ready to go.

    Years ago, I was fortunate to meet a college classmate who was also a commercial turkey farmer returning to school with hopes to get out of the business. He invited my husband and me to his family’s annual Wednesday before Thanksgiving tradition of prepping the next day’s meal. He let us take a pick of his turkeys and we chose the smallest one at a live weight of only 28 lbs.

    Thankfully his son did the kill and spill (lots of blood). I enjoyed plucking the feathers after an outdoor bath in a huge cauldron of boiling water, but I was surprised at how warm the body and guts still were when I reached in to empty the innards. They had a dug-out fire pit to slow-cook their turkeys overnight… and it’s no wonder. We kept our prepared turkey in a garbage bag outside overnight since we couldn’t fit it in our fridge and had to squeeze it into our oven.

    It was the best turkey I ever ate! I liken the freshness to just-caught fish or recently harvested vegetables. I find most elaborate recipes (including brining, save for religious purposes) are designed for the sole purpose to mask the “old” flavor of long-stored/frozen meats and vegetables.

    I hope you have a splendid Thanksgiving!

  17. Nice video. It took me back about 25 years to my grandparents’ farm and their old Tom turkey. What a show they put on!
    Jackie´s last post…Central Coast Tomato Taste Tests 2010 – Black Zebra

  18. “Mood Snood.”

    I love it.

    How often are bobcats spotted at your place?
    Lisa´s last post…Why We Do It

    • It varies. Sometimes we see them almost daily. If the coyotes are hanging around a lot though, we won’t see a bobcat for weeks. Last time both were here together, about 10PM one night, it was obvious they found each other. Sounded like a small pack of coyotes vs. one bobcat…hard to say who won, but I’m guessing it probably wasn’t the cat.

      When we do see bobcats though, they often walk straight past the coop, as it’s down in bottom of the small valley here, and the bobcats like to walk along the valley floor in the afternoon shade, up toward the ridge…probably just making sure we haven’t left them a free chicken dinner unattended 😛

  19. I have such a crazy love for bobcats, having only seen them in the wild twice. Each time, though, it was heart-stopping.

    If you do decided to get goats, would you consider boarding goats for urban weirdos like me? I’m trying to convince my self that a pygora or two wouldn’t trash my tiny backyard.
    Lisa´s last post…Why We Do It