Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TURKEYS!


Turkeys are big, kind of ugly birds that are very important because they are so yummy to eat.  Lots of people eat turkeys for Thanksgiving.  The fancy, scientific name for turkeys is Meleagris gallopavo, but it's easier just to call them turkeys.

Basically, there are two kinds of turkeys.  One kind is wild and lives in the woods.  The other kind lives on farms.  The farm turkeys are often white, but the wild turkeys are mostly black and brown.  I don't know why the farm turkeys are white, but I do know that if wild turkeys were white, they would probably all be seen and eaten by their predators!


Girl turkeys are called "hens," and boy turkeys are called "toms" or "gobblers."  The boy turkeys make gobbling sounds to attract the girls.  Also they spread their tail feathers really wide, because they think this makes them look more handsome and sexy.  The boys have this thing called a "wattle" that hangs down on their neck, and they also have something called a "snood," which is a fleshy sort of thing that is attached to the top of their beak.

Some show dogs wear snoods to keep their ears clean until they go into the show ring, but this is a different kind of snood, and much prettier, in my opinion.


When the Europeans came to America, they found that turkeys were already living here.  That is one of the reasons that Thanksgiving was invented, so that there would be a special day for eating turkeys.  Benjamin Franklin thought that turkeys were such fine, smart birds that they should be the symbol of America.  Other people thought the eagle would make a better symbol, and they outvoted Mr. Franklin.  So we ended up with a national symbol that is more regal-looking, but not nearly as good to eat.

The way the turkey got its name was that when the first settlers came to America, they thought turkeys were a type of guinea fowl, which are also called "Turkey fowl" because they were imported from the country of Turkey.  This was a case of mistaken identity, and it was never really corrected, so that's why we call turkeys turkeys.

Wild turkeys can weigh anywhere between 8 pounds and 24 pounds.  This means that some of them are even bigger than me!  They can fly pretty fast, but mostly they like to walk around on the ground, looking for good stuff to eat, such as acorns, nuts, seeds, leaves, and insects.  At night, they roost in trees.


In the spring, the boy turkeys gobble and strut and show off their wattles and tail feathers to impress the girl turkeys.  After the boys and girls hook up, the girl turkey scratches out a nest on the ground and lays a bunch of eggs, like maybe between 8 and 15.  Then she sits on the eggs for about a month until they hatch.  The boy turkey doesn't help her at all, so it's like she's a single mother and has to do all the work by herself.


The babies are called poults, and they can already walk and feed themselves within 24 hours after they hatch.  But the mom turkey still has to protect the babies from predators, such as raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, bobcats, snakes, eagles, and owls -- all of whom think turkey eggs or baby turkeys would make a tasty meal.  And I have to agree with them on this!


Farm turkeys don't have a very nice life because they don't get to roam around in the woods.  In fact, they often have to live all jammed together in a building.  Also they are bred to be fat and have large breasts, so sometimes they can't even walk very well.  This is a sad situation, and people who worry about animal rights become vegetarians because of things like this.  Mom feels a little guilty about eating meat, but she does it anyway.  I don't really feel guilty at all, personally.  Food is food, to my way of thinking, so I just eat it without asking where it comes from!

Thursday will be Thanksgiving Day, which is when we should be eating turkey, but Mom has decided not to cook one for us.  I can't believe she would make a terrible decision like this!  Usually she cooks a turkey breast for Thanksgiving, and she gives us dogs some of the turkey.  Mom said it was too much trouble to do it right now, but she promised to cook us a turkey breast for Christmas.  So I guess we will have to wait until then, but it seems like a long, long time to have to wait!

3 comments:

  1. Piper, I think you need to talk your mom into getting a pet turkey for you to play with! doesn't that sound fun!?!?!?!?

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  2. This sounds like a fabulous idea! I think I will suggest it to Mom!
    Piper

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