Walk for Farm Animals: Delta and the turkeys
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As we approach our 6th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary on September 29th,we’re posting a series of stories about a few of the approximately 900 animals who live at their three shelters. Have you registered for the walk yet? Get more info here!
This is part of a series of farm animal stories on our blog.
In February of 2004, Delta and 14 other week-old turkey chicks arrived at our California Shelter. The turkeys were rescued from a poultry auction. One of our field investigators found the turkeys after hearing tiny peeping sounds near a trash dump. The sounds were coming from a crate thrown next to the dump -and when she looked inside, dozens of tiny frightened eyes looked back at her. (more)
Delta passed on in 2010 but I was fortunate enough to get to know her on a trip to Farm Sanctuary’s California shelter in the summer of 2008. She was spunky, to say the least, a turkey very much in charge of herself and ready to get whatever she wanted. Though she was only 4 years old, generations of selective breeding on the part of the animal agriculture industry meant that her body was already breaking down. Unlike most turkeys, she had not been debeaked; like most turkeys, she had been de-toed. The ends of her toes had been cut off, and had healed as knobby stumps. (It isn’t surprising that foot problems are common in rescued turkeys.)
When we entered the turkey barn, she and Ash were the first to approach us. We stroked their heads and their backs while they stood patiently with their wings just slightly open until one of the Farm Sanctuary caregivers told us, “They really love being pet right under their wings.”
We gave it a try and it was obvious that she hadn’t been exaggerating. The girls were in heaven. Their eyes started to close, the wrinkly skin on their heads went pale as they slipped into a light afternoon doze. We pet both of them for a long, long while and when we came into the barn the next day, there was a third turkey vying for our affections. Her name was Amelinda. Over the next few days, we spent hours petting the three darling birds under the soft warmth of their wings. We also got to know a few of the other turkeys, and learned that like humans, each one has a distinct personality. Ash and Amelinda were friendly and gentle, Delta practically demanded petting and quickly became jealous if she didn’t think she was getting her fair share. Oak was sweet but independent and would rush out of the barn each morning to spend the day in the shade of her favourite tree. Ginkgo was curious about everything shiny–rings, glasses, cameras. Jewel was aggressive and territorial, and only tolerated us as long as it took for her to swallow the occasional grape slices we’d bring. (We had to love her from afar.)
At Farm Sanctuary, the female turkeys are separated from the males. Selective breeding on the part of the animal agriculture industry means that male turkeys are so much larger than females that they cannot mate naturally; they have to be kept apart so as to prevent accidental crushings. (Like many farmed animals, turkeys are artificially inseminated. It is a particularly cruel and brutal process.) We got to know the shelter’s three toms as well: Isaiah and Gideon were brothers and competed constantly for our affection. Like most of the male turkeys I’ve met, they were colossal show-offs, chirruping sweetly, their faces turning bright red and blue while they inflated their chests and fanned their tails.
The third tom was Gobbel, and at 11 or so years old, he was more than elderly. Like a crotchety old man, he would puff up proudly at our approach and hobble up to the fence to gobble enthusiastically whenever someone called his name. (I’m serious here; it was hilarious.) Unlike Gideon and Isaiah, he was pretty ferocious and couldn’t be pet without risking serious injury. He and Jewel probably would have made a good couple.
That’s just one story about the wonderful turkeys at Farm Sanctuary’s California shelter, and just one reason that Liberation BC is proud to support them by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals. Won’t you join us?