More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult

This is a continuation of yesterday’s article on turkey poults:  The Life of a Turkey Poult.  It covered:  nest-building, breeding, incubation and birthing.


The First Weeks of Life

The first 2 weeks, the poults stay close to mom’s side — for warmth and food.  They spend these

Turkey Poults Grow Rapidly; They Weigh 6 - 8 lbs. by the Time They are 1 year.

weeks on the ground, although the poults can fly by the end of their first week of life!

They are constantly learning at this time; they spend their days: feeding, sleeping, dusting, preening and peeping. By the end of the third week, the poults are able to roost in trees with their mother.

Cold weather can delay the process of moving to the trees.  By the time they roost in trees, they have  a large vocabulary.

A Poult’s Diet Changes 

In the early days, poults need a steady diet of protein:  beetles, grasshoppers and other insects.  However, as they are out looking for these in the open, they become food for hawks and other predators. Thus, they have to balance their hunger with their fear of being eaten!

During the spring and summer months, poults spend most of their time feeding – to fuel the rapid growth of their bodies.  Besides insects, they eat grasses, leaves, plants, berries and agricultural crops.

Because we make scratching noises when we are calling turkeys, we assume they only eat things below them.  However, they also stretch to nab berries overhead and even jump to snatch a morsel from a low-hanging branch.

These birds use their scratching skills year-round, but especially in the fall and winter months.

As the months roll into autumn, the numbers of insects and vegetation sources decreases, leaving the poults to start feeding on acorns and other mast.*

As the poults grow into jakes and jennies, their diet changes from almost all insects to:  10% insects and 90% vegetation.

The Pecking Order

Over the course of their lives, their rank in the pecking order of their flock may change.

At the end of their first year, the jakes leave their mothers and follow the older males or form new flocks of young jakes. Jennies will stay with their mothers, learning skills they will need as hens.


For more info:  How to Use the Life Cycle of the Turkey to Your Advantage!


* mast = ‘nuts of forest trees used as feed….” taken from the Free Online Dictionary


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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm  Comments Off on More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult  
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More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!

Turkeys of a Feather

Are you aware that young jakes have longer primary feathers in the center of their fan-shaped

Jakes Have Longer Tail Feathers in the Center of the Main Fan; All the Tail Feathers of a Mature Tom are the Same Length.


In fact that is a way to tell a mature tom from a young jake. Keep in mind that the only time you will see those longer tail feathers is when a jake struts!

Feather Colors

At a distance, hen feathers look dark brown while a tom’s appear black.

Each of the 5 subspecies of wild turkeys has unique characteristics.  For an in-depth explanation (with photos), refer to these earlier articles:

Head Colors

Perhaps the reason Ben Franklin wanted to name the turkey as the symbol of the US (instead of the bald eagle), is because a male gobbler’s head color is red, white and blue!

In contrast, a hen’s head color is a rather dull blue-gray.

Caruncle Considerations!

Also known as wattles, caruncles are the fleshy growths that hang from the turkey’s head and neck.  According to Wikipedia, “The wattle is often an ornament for courting potential mates. A large wattle is correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition ….” *

An adult gobbler’s caruncle will turn bright red when he is sexually excited. In contrast, a hen has a smaller wattle that is pink. An excited jake will have a wattle  that is more pink than red.

FYI for Hunters

In the latter days of the mating season, it may be easier for a hunter to take a tom.  He’s still interested in sex but there are fewer hens available for breeding.  

As more hens start nesting, gobblers may resort to more strident calling for females. Since he’s more stressed (looking for the few hens remaining to breed), he’s more likely to make a mistake — and move into the crosshairs of a hunter’s gun.


*  Wikipedia, from the page — “Wattle (anatomy)”


Thanks for stopping by; come again!


This blog is a companion to my website:

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 7:21 am  Comments Off on More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!  
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Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?

Wild and domesticated turkeys may have a lot in common.  However, just because you nosh on turkey for Easter or Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean you know “jack” about the wild ones!

Note this turkey's beard sticking from his chest!

Sizing Up a Turkey

When choosing a turkey for Thanksgiving, you probably select one between 24 and 28 pounds for a large family gathering.   Domesticated turkeys are raised for lots of meat vs. their body size. 

 Habitat and food availability determine a wild turkey’s weight.  They average  a bit over 20 lbs. in the agricultural areas of the Midwest. In other areas, they average somewhat less than 20 lbs.

How Can I Tell a Wild Turkey’s Age?

The legs of an adult gobbler are about 2″ longer than a domesticated turkey.  Their feet grow to about 4 and 1/2 inches.

A few inches above the feet are bony areas called spurs, with a fingernail-like covering.   Colors of the spurs can range from black to white to translucent.

Soon after birth, the spurs begin to grow. General measurements are:

  • About 1/2 inch by the jake’s (young male’s) first birthday
  • 2 year-old’s have spurs just under an inch
  • and 3 year-olds have spurs just over an inch
  • It is rare for turkeys to have spurs longer than 1.5 inches because of wear

The reason western turkeys do not have spurs as long as their eastern brethren is because of the rough terrain they cover.

 Birds with Beards

Male turkeys have beards – which are modified feathers (not hair).  It is not unusual for a male to have more than one beard!

The beard grows 4 to 5 inches each year.  A jake’s beard starts to show on his chest at about 6 months of age.  

Although turkeys molt and shed feathers, the beard is part of a turkey for life … unless something happens.

Once the beard reaches about 10 inches, it can wear away by dragging, getting caught in fencing, etc.  How much beard wearing  turkeys experience is an individual thing — depending on the thickness of the beard, height of the bird and the terrain he covers.

Did You Know?

One in 20 females has a beard!

Beard and spur lengths are usually more interesting to turkey hunters — rather than their weight!


‘Turkey Dream 2″ is used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics


Next Time:  More Fascinating Feather Facts & Caruncle Considerations!


This blog is a companion to my website: 

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Comments Off on Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?