My Life as a Turkey
Domesticated versus Wild Graphic

What’s the difference between domesticated and wild turkeys? Plenty. Here are a few of their distinguishing characteristics:


  • john b.

    graphic??? what’s so graphic about this?????

  • GailS

    No, John. I believe they mean it IS a graphic or pic instead of BEING graphic. :o)

  • Terry

    LoL, thought I was going to see a video about turkeys similar to the famous Honey Badger.
    Instead, I get to be the “turkey”.

  • Anna Fiona

    These are not attributes but symptoms. These symptoms are not just simply due to a difference in the breed. It is because we have aggressively engineered domestic turkeys to point of deformity.
    1. They weigh twice as much because industry-bred birds have unusually large breasts (so the sellers can make more money). These severe abnormalities have caused serious health problems such as, collapsed lungs, swollen joints, crippled feet and heart attacks.
    2. They cannot fly and are “poor runners” because we have engineered their breasts to be so disproportionate with the rest of their bodies that they have trouble running, standing, and even walking, as for mating — these turkeys rely on artificial insemination for reproduction (you don’t even want to know that process).
    3. They are “noisier” because they begin life hatched in incubators, have their upper beaks and toenails clipped without anesthetics, and spend their days and nights eating fortified meal and antibiotics in a barn full of hundreds of turkeys-so packed, most cannot even spread their wings. Industry turkeys are abnormally fast growing, and by the time they’re 12 weeks old, they’re shipped off to the slaughterhouse. Their vocalizations are stress related-as they are still infants.
    4. Their feathers are white because the follicle of the feathers are less visible on the carcass and it is less offensive to those cooking them.

    Thank you PBS-I love what you do, I am a member, but perhaps if you are going to put out information it be useful if it were more; insightful, accurate and truthful.

    PBS-try to uphold your standards-if you are going to provide information, be truthful, be helpful and be accurate.

  • Tom

    Also, it should be noted the difference between broad breasted and heritage breed turkeys….

  • Eileen Gunning

    I have raised domestic standards, broad breasted whites and bronzes, and heritage breeds for 16 years. My heritage and standard turkeys have shown a gift for flying. When they reach about 3 months ( turkey teens) they often are up on the barn roof in the evening if I am the slightest late with feeding!

  • Sean

    That’s it ?!?!? This is the whole fac sheet on the difference between wild and domestic turkeys. Seems like this could have been a sidebar or something. Does not seem to warrant it’s own page.

  • Pamela

    I would like to know if free range domestic turkeys are as smart as the wild turkeys. It will be difficult to eat turkey for thanksgiving after seeing Joe Hutto and his turkeys living side by side in such beautiful harmony.

  • b-no

    graphics? i was ready to put my 3d glasses on.

  • Rebecca

    Kudos Anna Fiona. Well said. Ironic how non-graphic this “graphic” is, considering the graphic nature of large scale, factory-farmed turkey production. The graphic enumerates pertinent and important facts while ignoring and failing to elaborate upon the meaning and significance of these differences between wild and domesticated turkeys. I am so glad this graphic is here on the PBS website — it is better than nothing, and perhaps it’s an attempt to draw attention and awareness to the lives of domesticated turkeys, even though an opportunity at further education was missed here. Glad it’s here….too bad it isn’t more meaningful and revealing, though.

  • chrissy

    My domestic broad breasted bronze Tulah is unbelievably smart and funny, she is into everything, she must be doing whatever I’m doing every minute, and if I’m sitting down she must be in my lap getting kisses and hugs. The biggest challenge with this type of bird is keeping the weight off of her so as not to ruin her legs. She gets fed mostly veggys and fruits and just a bit of feed and is the most spoiled happy bird ever.

  • Christine Still

    So, when I hear a group of guys talk about it being “bow (and arrow) season”, I’ve asked what it is they’re hunting. Usually, I’m told “wild turkeys”. My question is WHY? Wild turkeys always look so ’slim’, it can’t be for the meat, or is it? I’ve pretty much eliminated any animal ‘farm raised’ from my diet and will probably have to become a total vegetarian. There are now plenty of videos, starting with commercail egg production, which will put most people off consumption of animal products all together. Loved this video.

  • Cindy

    Joe is awesome, but I would disagree with him that wild and domesticated turkeys are so completely different. Like wild turkeys, domesticated ones are highly variable in temperament, and some are sweet and affectionate like Sweet Pea. All are much more intelligent than is generally supposed.
    Also true for chickens. A pet rooster who lived in the house was the best pet I’ve ever had, and I’ve had many pets.

  • Shanan

    Our Heritage breeds do fly quite well, up to the roof of our house or the tops of the cedar trees in fact. They also have a very fast turkey trot. They normally only vocalize when one is separated from the rest of the flock or they see a hawk or coyote. I think it is a difference in the commercial type birds and the heritage/wild breeds. Heritage breeds are very close to the wild breeds in size, intelligence, and behavior. There is also a difference in how the birds are raised. Birds raised inside a barn with hundreds of other birds do not have to develop the same skills and behaviors as those who fend for themselves or are free-ranged. When given a chance to develop their brains, all turkeys can show great intellect and personality. Loved the program!

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