Recently, staff members at our New York Shelter were greeted by the sight of 24 baby turkeys when they arrived at work early one morning. Left anonymously in the night, these young “poults” were dirty, sick, and in desperate need of proper care.
Whoever rescued these turkeys brought them to the right place. Over the years, we have sheltered and rehabilitated hundreds of ailing poults, providing them with the special care and secure environment they need to grow into thriving adults. We knew just how to help this latest flock of feathered friends.
Although we don’t know their history, the shorn beaks of our new friends tell us that they came from a factory farm, where they would have lived in misery until they were slaughtered at 16 to 20 weeks of age. Like so many others we’ve welcomed, these young birds have suffered “de-beaking,” a procedure in which the sensitive, nerve-filled tip of the beak is amputated with a hot blade or, as in this case, infrared. Common among industrial turkey producers, who raise turkeys by the thousands in intensely overcrowded warehouses, this mutilation is intended to discourage fighting among the stressed and frustrated birds.
Disease and injuries are rampant at factory farms, and individualized care is unheard of. Such conditions could easily have spelled a very early death for our new poults — many arrived too weak even to stand. Some have joint infections, and others are sneezing from upper respiratory infections. But here, these babies are being given the crucial care they need to pull through.
The poults are still receiving around-the-clock treatment at our Melrose Small Animal Hospital. Here they are isolated from any contaminants that might pose a health threat in their vulnerable condition and treated for their very high parasite counts, which has contributed to their weakened state. Those who were too weak to eat on their own required tube and syringe feeding at first, but we are happy to report that everyone is now able eat just fine. There is still much rehabilitation to be done, though, especially for those with joint issues. Because industrial turkeys are bred to grow excessively fast and large, which puts a strain on their legs and feet, it is essential for us to attend to the health of their joints from the start.
Right now, we’re focused on keeping these young birds safe, warm, and comfortable as they heal, but we are already looking forward to the next stage of their new lives. Once they are healthy, these turkeys will be able to step outside into the big, beautiful world that is now their home. All of the joys that factory farm animals are denied will be theirs to experience to their hearts’ content — sunshine, fresh air, friendship, space to roam, and the compassion of human friends who are dedicated to their happiness.