Happy Turkeys and Happy People


Happy Turkeys and Happy People

It is often the unexpected encounters and experiences that one recalls. While researching our article on sanctuaries, we had one of those moving encounters with four turkey hens and a male one. I’m Johannes and am part of the Velivery editorial team. Today I would like to tell you about the turkeys that captured my daughter’s and my heart.

Off to the ‘Land of the Animals’

While we were researching sanctuaries for the article, we found the ‘Land of the Animals’ – a sanctuary for farm animals, which is run by a vegan community totally devoted to animals. Because the farm is not very far from our home, we asked for an interview on site at short notice and off we went to the Land der Tiere. I was accompanied by an expert on animals -my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Madita- who of course fell asleep in the car on the way.

When we arrived at the Land of the Animals, Tanja, one of the friendly staff members, greeted us with disinfectant for our shoes. Having just woken up and still rather grumpy, my assistant was not at all happy about it. But the prospect of seeing free-range animals helped. And the second greeting by two small pot-bellied pigs put her in a good mood again.

The grounds and the way the animals live there are impressive. Each animal has a lot of space and peace to just be themself. At every turn we saw happy humans and happy animals.

Happiness from the Heart

Madita was happy and as taken with all the peace just as I was. Then we went to the turkeys. As soon as Tanja took us through the gate, Luna, Cleo, Amelie and Anouschka came towards us. Four turkey ladies who had only recently come out of quarantine. They were missing feathers all over their bodies, which seemed to be slowly growing back.

Now, a full-grown turkey hen, even if a little plucked, is an impressive sight, not only for a little girl like Madita. Nevertheless, the four more or less feathered friends did not frighten us with their interested, cordial manner. They simply sat down next to us while gobbling. One of the ladies stretched out her neck to us and asked to be stroked. I would never have expected such closeness and warmth from a bird.

We all sat together for some time and Tanja told us the story of the four parent animals and their neighbour Pü.

Turkey fairy tales come true

In their previous lives they were held captive, regularly caught and forcibly inseminated. Their days were filled with stress, illness and fear. But when they came to the sanctuary, everything changed for our new turkey friends. After their necessary quarantine, where their wounds were healed and their illnesses treated, they discovered the sun, the grass and the pleasure of bathing and rolling in the sand in peace for the first time in their lives. Amazing, finally they were allowed to be in their element!

It is these seemingly small joys that mean a whole new life for them. A particularly touching image is when these gentle giants run joyfully towards familiar people, almost flying, and then sit down next to them. They cuddle as if to make up for all the lost time, and often fall asleep amidst these loving gestures. Their dreams? Maybe it’s images of wide fields and the laughter of their new human friends.

The story of the young turkey Püdelius, affectionately known as Pü, is similar. He sat apathetically in a cage at an animal market until fate, in the form of a determined animal welfare worker, gave him a second chance. Despite the initial difficulties that came with his rescue, Pü found his way to the sanctuary. Today he is the living embodiment of joy and happiness. He runs around, plays and enjoys ‘puffing up’ as turkeys uniquely do. Then when he cuddles his chicken friends Cosma and Cosmo, you can’t help but be touched by it. We were so impressed by our encounters with Pü, Luna, Cleo, Amelie and Anouschka that my daughter and I still talk about them today, months later. We are still fascinated by the gentle nature of these warm and loving animals, which should not be underestimated.

The fascinating intelligence of turkeys¹

Turkeys are creatures capable of displaying complex emotions and developing social bonds with  their counterparts and with humans. Studies have shown that turkeys have remarkable intelligence and social skills. Here are five amazing facts about turkeys:

  1. Recognition: Turkeys have the ability to recognise and distinguish between both humans and other animals based on their facial features.
  2. Social life: They are social birds, that live in groups and have developed complicated social structures and hierarchies.
  3. Communication: Turkeys have a large ‘vocabulary’, so to speak, and communicate through a variety of sounds and tones.
  4. Learning abilities: Turkeys can learn quickly and adapt to new situations. They also have an amazing memory.
  5. Empathy: They are able to show empathy, especially mother turkeys who are very caring towards their chicks.

A joyful feathered encounter

Not only Madita, but I was also flabbergasted by the turkeys‘ behaviour. Not only did we warm to them immediately, but I also wanted to learn more about these animals straight away, which I would not have thought of as being cuddly. I think it is important to realise the diversity and complexity of these birds. Because by knowing about their intelligence and social side, we can give them the respect and care they deserve. The sanctuary ‘Land of the Animals’ shows us exactly that: how enriching and inspiring living together with these fascinating birds can be. It is time that we all recognise and appreciate the beauty and value of each and every animal. Children in particular are often better at this than us adults. But I am willing to learn …

¹ Sources:

  • Hill, J., & McGary, S. (2002). Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach. Animal Cognition Journal.
  • Smith, E. P., & Roberts, W. A. (2003). Poultry memory and the object-place-time task. Animal Behaviour, 66(5), 769-777.