Taylor and Friends: Baby Turkeys Bring Thanksgiving Early to California Shelter

Taylor turkey at Farm Sanctuary

Taylor and Friends: Baby Turkeys Bring Thanksgiving Early to California Shelter

It was not yet Thanksgiving, but everyone at our Orland shelter had turkeys on the brain when 11 poults were dropped off at the sanctuary.

The exact provenance of these young turkeys is a mystery, but because they arrived here debeaked and detoed, we know that they were likely born on a factory farm, so we are especially thankful that they somehow made their way to our door.

Our first concern was providing healthcare to these tiny birds. Several initially displayed symptoms of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, which we treated by adding antibiotics to their water. One of the poults, Kasey, arrived with a distended abdomen and appeared lethargic the next morning, so we drove her to the University of California, Davis Veterinary Hospital for emergency care. Despite exhaustive treatment efforts, Kasey passed away the next day as a result of a virus that had destroyed her liver.

Back at the shelter, the other poults were growing rapidly and exploring their cozy new habitat in our hospital. Their flourishing was checked, however, by an illness we could not identify, which caused walking and balancing trouble for most and left some unable to stand. We monitored them closely during this time, providing the best veterinary care and the most comfort possible. To our grief, a poult named Hayden was severely affected and, though we did everything we could for him, he passed away.

But to our great relief, the health of the surviving poults is improving. They are back on their feet and appear to be feeling much better. They are scratching in the straw for seeds, and the inquisitive Taylor and Harley even try to take dust baths in their bowl of turkey feed. They all sleep close together, sometimes almost on top of each other, but spring suddenly to action if they sense that anything of interest is happening nearby. They love to preen themselves and each other, run across the stall testing their wings, and flap up to the top of any tall object they can find in order to enjoy the view.

The view for these turkeys could have been much bleaker. One sign of their factory farm origins was immediately apparent: their blunted beaks and toes. Turkey producers typically crowd these birds by the thousands in warehouses, allowing them inadequate room to establish a functional pecking order, and fighting among frustrated birds is rampant. The industry has addressed this complication not by altering the facilities but by altering the animals: Producers amputate the tips of the toes and a portion of the upper beak of each turkey. This painful and sometimes fatal procedure is the overture to a life of stress, filth and disease in which the turkeys are never once allowed to go outdoors.

Our rescued poults will know a different life. Their hospital stall is filled with warm, clean straw and offers them plenty of space to play, nest and express their turkey natures. When they are old enough, they will be able to venture outside more and continue their explorations, roaming freely in the sunshine and fresh air for the rest of their days.

We are able to provide lives of comfort and happiness to animals like these poults only through the support of people like you. As the Thanksgiving season approaches, please consider helping us care for our turkey flocks and educate and advocate on behalf of all farm animals by sponsoring a turkey through our Adopt-A-Turkey Project. We, and our feathered friends, thank you for your compassion this holiday season.