Farm Sanctuary’s “Turkey Whisperer” Shares 10 Fascinating Facts about Turkeys

Farm Sanctuary’s “Turkey Whisperer” Shares 10 Fascinating Facts about Turkeys

Just in Time for Thanksgiving, Nation’s Leading Farm Animal Protection Organization Shares Little-Known Facts About America’s Favorite Holiday Bird

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – November 23, 2011 – With Thanksgiving just days away, Farm Sanctuary’s own “Turkey Whisperer,” National Shelter Director Susie Coston, is sharing her top ten list of fascinating facts about the birds of the hour.

Having rescued and provided lifelong care for hundreds of turkeys in her 10+ years overseeing the animal protection organization’s three world-renowned shelters located in Upstate New York, and Northern and Southern California, Coston, seen in this video, is recognized as a foremost expert on these highly intelligent, emotional, and thoroughly fascinating birds.

Susie Coston’s Top 10 Fascinating Facts about Farm Sanctuary’s Rescued Turkeys

1.  Between 1965 and 2000, the weight of the average turkey raised for food in the U.S. increased by 57 percent, from an average of 18 pounds to an average of 28.2 pounds, preventing commercially-raised turkeys from performing their natural behaviors and causing them to suffer from crippling foot and leg problems.

2.  Wild turkeys, who weigh between 8-18 pounds, are able to fly up to 55 miles an hour, but turkeys raised for meat on factory farms are so large they can’t even perch. When turkeys arrive at Farm Sanctuary’s shelters, they attempt to perch and even fly until they are too large to do so.

3.  Industrial turkeys’ unnatural weight causes many health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and arthritis, at as young as one month of age. At our sanctuaries, we have to feed our turkeys rescued from industrial farms a restricted diet to ensure that they will live long, healthy lives; otherwise, they will gain even more weight than the averages listed previously.

4.  Turkeys recognize each other by their unique voices. Researchers have identified nearly 30 distinct vocalizations in wild turkeys.

5.  Like dogs and cats, turkeys are highly intelligent and emotional animals who show great affection to others and form strong social bonds with other turkeys in their flock that last a lifetime.

6.  Turkeys have excellent geography skills and can learn the specific details of an area of more than 1,000 acres.

7.  On factory farms, turkeys frequently have the ends of their beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia — practices known as debeaking and detoeing — to prevent them from injuring one another as they are crowded by the thousands into dark, filthy warehouses.

8.  Completely unlike their wild ancestors not only in terms of physique but also in hue, most commercial turkeys are totally white — the natural bronze color selectively bred out of them to eliminate uneven pigment colorations — because of consumer preference for even flesh tones.

9.  Catering to consumer preferences for “white meat,” the industry has selectively bred turkeys to have abnormally large breasts. This anatomical manipulation makes it impossible for male turkeys to naturally mate with females, eliminating these birds’ ability to reproduce without artificial insemination. As a result, artificial insemination is now the sole means of reproduction on factory farms, where breeder birds are confined for months on end.

10.  Turkeys, like all animals, love life and want nothing more than to live free from fear and pain. Yet turkeys, along with other poultry, are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act. Every year, more than 46 million turkeys are killed, frequently without first being stunned, for Thanksgiving dinners.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you think these fascinating birds deserve better, please join Ellen DeGeneres, Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project spokesperson for the second year in a row, in starting a new holiday tradition by adopting a turkey instead of eating one. For a one-time donation of just $30, adopters will receive a special Adopt-A-Turkey certificate complete with color photo of a rescued turkey who resides at one of Farm Sanctuary’s shelters and fun details about their adopted turkey.

To adopt, visit or call the Turkey Adoption Hotline at 1-888-SPONSOR. To learn more about Thanksgiving’s toll on turkeys, check out this video.

About Farm Sanctuary
Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, promotes legislative, policy, and individual lifestyle changes to help farm animals. Farm Sanctuary’s shelters in New York and California provide lifelong care for nearly 1,000 rescued farm animals. For more information, please visit