Turkeys can be pets too — well, kinda

Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Featured, Great Big World, Wildlife Watch | 0 comments

Karen Dawn holds her new pet, Rosie the turkey, in her lap in her front garden in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Turkeys: Main course or animal companion?

OK, so it isn’t even close. According to the industry group National Turkey Federation, more than 46 million of the big birds will be served as Thanksgiving dinner this year. Just a few hundred will get to experience the holiday as a pet, said turkey rescue Farm Sanctuary.

“I believe they make amazing companions, but they are different than cats or dogs,” said Susie Coston of Watkins Glen, N.Y. For one thing, turkeys get too hot and are too messy to come indoors, said Coston, the national shelter director for the Farm Sanctuary.

Taking the large bird on as a companion requires more responsibilities than owning a dog or a cat, experts say. “If people are adopting domesticated turkeys, they should be aware that it’s not a simple endeavor and would take a considerable amount of work,” said NTF spokeswoman Kimmon Williams.

Like other animals that serve as companions to humans, turkeys come in different breeds, with some weighing as much as 60 pounds, Williams said. Every turkey has its own personality — and some can be aggressive, she said.

Most pet turkey owners agree the birds aren’t the kind of pets that can be walked on a leash or dressed for the Christmas family photo.

Coston said, for instance, that she wouldn’t sleep with her turkey “like I do my dogs and cats. But I don’t love dogs more than I do pigs or dogs and cats more than chickens and turkeys. I have a different relationship with each of them.”

“Turkeys are inherently nervous and do not tend to be warm and cuddly. Turkeys also need plenty of space to run around in and be fed the appropriate diet,” Williams noted.

Kind of like dogs: Despite their differences, turkeys and traditional pets share traits such as the ability to love unconditionally, loyalty and intelligence, owners said. Dr. Drucilla Roberts, a pathologist from Millis, Mass., pointed out a bonus: “They give us manure and eggs.”

“I was always told that turkeys were the dumbest of farm animals. But that’s not true. They know us and protect us. If a stranger comes, the turkey is right in his face and clucking and raising its feathers. They make great noises,” Roberts said.

Bath time: Karen Dawn, an author from Los Angeles, gets two turkeys from Farm Sanctuary every year and socializes them before they move on. This year’s birds are going to live in Malibu.

They arrive stinky, so she gives them a bath and blow dry. “They relax like this is the best day they have had so far,” said Dawn, who wrote “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals.”

Reported by SUE MANNING of the Associated Press from LOS ANGELES, California.

Ariala the turkey, and her owner, Mike Balistreri, spend quality time together in the garden at Love Creek Farm in Ben Lomond, Calif. (AP Photo/Love Creek Farm)

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