My Life as a Turkey
Video: A New Mother

In this scene from My Life as a Turkey, wild turkey chicks, emerging from the shell, are introduced to an unusual mother: writer and naturalist Joe Hutto. The story of one man’s remarkable experience of raising a group of wild turkey hatchlings to adulthood. My Life as a Turkey airs Wednesday, November 27 at 8/7c (check local listings).

These particular eggs that lie before me now represent something very important to me. Each harbors a mystery, something untamed and virtually unknown to us–an embodiment of wilderness. They are the wild turkey.

* * *

Gradually, a uniform line begins to develop that seems to be confined to a particular latitude, approximately one-third of the way from the larger end of the egg. The hatching activity is punctuated with rest periods lasting only a minute or two. Often, it seems that he resumes hatching in response to my vocalizations. At last, the end of the egg falls away, hinged by only a small piece of membrane. The little turkey pushes at the door he has created and scrambles free of the egg. The entire process has taken fifty-five minutes.

–Joe Hutto, Illumination in the Flatwoods

  • Cheryl Rausch

    JUST AWESOME! I raised 5 racoons from birth on, and they loved me also until around 2 yrs of age, and I had to take them to North Carolina, from Chicago, and release them, on my in-laws property. They could be walked on leashes, played with all the kids, and loved all my other pets. But around the age of 2 they began to get possessive, and too rough on the other animals. But it was very rewarding to release them into the wild, and see them have families.

  • Cyndi Daves

    We are so excited to see this one come on. Joe and his lovely wife Leslye are clients and friends and we’ve heard so much about this adventure. Not only will it be amazing to watch the transformation of these lovely creatures but knowing Joe will make it so very special indeed!!! Hugs to you both Joe and Leslye!!

  • Jeff Messer

    AMAZING clip. Most of my study has been on the communication centers of corvids and their accompanying social activity … but I have always found the Galliformes behavior interesting as well (especially the Prairie Chicken).

  • Tzuoo says

    I just heard your amazing story on my way to tennis this morning, then found this wonderful clip, Can’t wait to see the whole story in movie.

  • Eddie

    I am so anxious to see this video. Why? I feel that I’m a Mom to Mr. Bug. Well — I found a little bug on my bedroom window frame the Summer of 2009. He was on his back and unable to turn over. I gently scooped it onto a tissue, and placed it on the floor of my carpeted terrace. Later, I noticed it was still there but again on its back. I gently turned it over. No use. He was unable to remain upright on his little legs. He resembles a very small lady bug without the colors or wings — very black and shiny. Fast forward… Mr. Bug is part of my family! He lives on lettuce, he drinks water from his little saturated sponge and he receives a lot of attention. I check him frequently because he often flips over and needs to be turned. Mr. Bug lives in a plastic cup with little pieces of torn tissue (for carpet)! He has his own shelf within my home-library and I love him so much! He’s the greatest pet I’ve ever had!

  • Tommy

    Please tell me when this will air again! Awesome show! Email: Thanks anyone!

  • Jan

    What a wonderful program! I loved “Illumination in the Flatwoods” when I read it years ago, and was so excited to come upon this film. The photography is great and captures the charm and wonder of Joe Hutto’s writing perfectly. Bravo!

  • Daphne

    I just watched “My Life As A Turkey” this evening. I must say, I experienced a variety of emotions, while watching the transformation that took place with each stage of development the turkeys (and Joe) experienced.

  • Bryan

    Watched it it tonight and was hoping this would be released to show other people… What a great job and a very en lighting presentation..Thanks

  • Jack H Robinson

    Nov 16 – I am 80 years old and was an avid PA bow deer and small game hunter. I was amazed at the details of the film. The idea that a turkey can communicate and protect itself and the flock was know to me but I was amazed at the detail that the arthur was able to accomplish. I have sent an email to my sons and other hunter friends telling them to see this presentation. Thank you so much – jhr

  • Gary

    I watched this tonight and was pulled into a very beautiful story…I raised orphaned geese and they taught
    me a lot ,,,like living in the moment…Joe is a remarkable man with a huge heart…We can learn so much if we look to nature ,,,the others that live here…

  • Rod Price

    One of the best shows. I was sucked in to the lives of this man-turkey and his new family. Beautifully shot, narrated and a great story. Thanks to Mr. Hutto and PBS for the program

  • Candy

    I stumbled across this show and was fascinated from the beginning to the end. Afterwards, got on-line and orderd the book for a Christmas present for a co-worker who I hope will enjoy it as much as I did watching the show. Thanks for airing!

  • Karina

    That was the most captivating nature show I have ever experienced. The story is incredible. Never knew the wild turkey language was so advanced and would have never known if it wasn’t for Joe and his uncanny ability to learn and share with others. Thanks Joe! The cinematography was great too! All around exceptional. Thank you.

  • Jean Warren

    We (my husband and I) watched this show tonight and were blown away by how Joe was able to bond with these creatures! It is so wonderful that people like Joe are doing this work and making fellow humans aware of what “wild creatures are capable of, and of what humans are capable of as well. I’m planning to renew our membership in Channel 9 as well.

  • Patsy

    Thank you for an incredible story enjoyed it so much. I have property in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and have had the pleasure of being around many of the turkeys there and this spring we had several babies. They truly are an amazing bird.

  • Cindy Black

    “My Life as a Turkey,” huh? Might be kinda cheesy. So before I hit “record,” I stayed a minute or two to check out the opening scenes. Well, that was that. There was NO WAY to tear myself away. I went through the full gamut of emotions, along with Joe — but now I am simply left with enchantment. The production was top-notch, the turkeys were fascinating, but Mr. Joe Hutto is a wonderment. His heart is so pure, so inquisitive, so open and loving. WHY, oh why, can’t we have more people on this earth like Joe Hutto. Such peace and love, such positive evolution this planet would experience…. but instead, we have war, greed, violence, competition and corruption. There simply aren’t enough Joe Huttos to reverse the downward trend. But I bless him for slowing the velocity of the plunge. Also I am extremely jealous of his beautiful lifestyle.

  • Douglas Sandberg

    The best hour of television I’ve experienced in a very long time.

  • Rose Samson

    I did not see the beginning of the episode tonight and only got to see portions of the middle but when I saw a portion of a dead newly hatched chick and Joe’s words that the turkeys left, I sat down and saw the video until the end. After that portion I had seen, I wanted to see the entire episode because I had a recent encounter with wild turkeys in my yard. While cleaning the undeveloped portion of our land, we found a nest with about 20-25 large eggs and after about a month ten to fifteen years ago, saw about 6 turkeys walking around our yard. Their number increased until last year we counted 25 of them. We took pictures but did not bother them. We were amazed at how high they could fly,sleeping on the branches of our tall trees. A pair ,we thought was the matriach and patriach of the group liked sitting, nestling on the middle of our lawn infront of the house where they sometimes leave one or two feathers, somewhat decorating our lawn. We watched them make footmarks on the snow last winter, but suddenly this spring instead of 25 birds there was only one left walking around looked so very sad and after two to four weeks also disappeared. I was wondering what happened to them and some neighbors said they were transferred probably by city officials or nature conservationists to introduce them to another place. I wondered why they never told us about this when they had been living in our yard for years. When I heard Joe say “And they all left”, I wanted to see the entire episode so I can make an educated guess on what happened to our turkeys. Maybe they just left and were not taken away. Maybe I should contact Joe Hutto and find out what he thinks, but I will try to find out how I can watch that episode again in it’s entirety.

  • Gretchen Stricker

    The movie wonderfully expressed life with the turkeys! After all these years on this earth with turkeys and other animals, only some of us have eyes to listen to their ways. Surely others before us have taken the time and set aside our egos to walk amongst their alien worlds….that are our own.

  • Sue

    This was a fantastic show! With such a unique topic, I have to wonder how it was “recreated” for filming. The result is incredibly well done, with excellent cinematography. The show raises some very thought-provoking points about the intelligence of animals and the wisdom of human lifestyle.

  • Primicerio

    While watching My Life as a Turkey, animal lovers across the world will easily understand the truths Joe Hutto exemplifies. I too am quite envious of Joe’s lifestyle and in love with him for sharing. Yes, we live in a world driven by greed; indeed, we need more Joe’s in the world. However, I believe we all can become more like him by listening and learning from creatures we share this earth with that know so much more than humans. Is it not the thoughts we have that create our world? But then if you are on this site you probably already like the company you keep in the empty moments.

  • kerri

    I watched in awe last night on PBS. You could see the love and respect in Joe’s eyes as he told his story. Iwas not sure what happened to the birds. And I most did not understand what happened with Turkey Boy. They were not turkey brothers because Joe was from a different species and had to return to his human life. Was he attacked by turkey boy because he was seen as a turkey rival? Why would he have made an unprovoked attack and continue? Can anyone please explain this to me. Thank you!

  • Ron

    A very spiritual film. Joe’s turkey family taught him about living fully in each moment and experiencing the joy that is available by being “fully present”. …probably the most inspirational nature film I have ever viewed. It speaks deeply of the interconnectedness of all life. Joe possesses the kindness, love, and humility of higher soul. Imagine a world where we all carried Joe’s spirit in our daily walk.

  • Philip

    I find the vehemence and anger directed at Sharon, (who I think was only concerned with what’s best for animals in most situations) sad but interesting especially coming from people sensitive enough to appreciate the story. I wonder why? and what it says about us

  • Betty Rose

    I missed the beginning of this film last evening, I would like to know if there is going to be a video available to the public. I would certainly buy it for my son. My son is raising 12 wild turkeys from young chicks. They really do see him as their turkey mom and follow him around the property. They even fly up on the second story roof and peck on his bedroom window to get his attention. Do they want him to come out and play or what? When they hear his car coming up the driveway, they run out to greet him. I would really like to watch this again from the beginning.

  • Marsha

    I found this piece to be incredibly interesting but was shocked that Joe did not understand why Turkey Boy stayed. From birth, Turkey Boy presented himself as the dominant male. He stayed because Joe was the only “bird” he couldn’t control. Joe said that Turkey Boy taught him what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. He taught him submission. I was so surprised that Joe had not anticipated the attack and wasn’t prepared for it. Joe was the one who was supposed to run away. Man won that battle and shouldn’t have. I’m sure Turkey Boy got his butt kicked again by the other male turkeys watching from the sidelines.

  • Robert

    Watched this awesome show with my wife. It was incredible, we both loved it, still talking about it over morning coffee. Thanks!

  • Nancy Warren

    I am SO glad I “happened” onto this movie last night! I was riveted to it from beginning to end and ordered the DVD today! What a powerful demonstration of the joy and beauty that can be experienced between us and nature if only we open to it. Awesome! Thank you, Joe.

  • Ann Isherwood

    I was amazed by the small portion about newborn turkey chicks I saw on my e-mail. In our condo development wild turkeys roam about in a wooded section. They cautiously strut on a portion of the golf course left for them. Their gentle mothers always have a keen eye as they watch. Just in case anyone should get too close. I wasn’t aware that they roost on tree branches until one day I saw, blended in the leaves, movement. I didn’t know what to expect, until I saw two of them fly down to the grassy area. WOW!
    Lately, they’ve been out of sight, and I am always afraid some stray wolves or foxes enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner. Their presence would be sadly missed. Instead I walk and wait straining to see deep into the wooded area. I’m sure they’ll be back soon. Fingers crossed!

  • Robert

    I have yet to see the whole show. Just from the clip I hope that many people will see and watch this. Since childhood I have saved and rescued everything from bugs, to dog, and everything in between. My kids are the same. I don’t eat meat, and never will. For any human to assume other living things do not experience life is sad. The worlds greatest minds have known this long before. From Leonardo Da Vinci, to Albert Einstein. The question is “witch came first, compassion, or common sense”? I do believe program this will spare the lives of many poor animals.
    Thanks so very much !

  • C. Hylkema

    Can’t wait to view it again.
    Great detail & insight

  • Sue Barnett

    I particularly want to thank the camera person or persons, fantastic wildlife photography. thank you very much for this production and touching story. I adore the wild turkeys on my property and love knowing more about them.

  • CC

    Simply the most fascinating film I’ve ever watched. Thanks to all those associated with the creation of it. And thank you to Mr. Hutto for sharing his remarkable story.

  • Linda

    What a wonderful program! Joe and the camera team — Kudos! I felt this show was a gift in allowing us to enter the intelligent world of animals.

  • John Blaisdell

    One comment made a comment on why the turkey attacked Joe….the entire episode was dedicated to the concept that animals will seperate from the family when they have enough maturity….that seperation can be violent physical one or a verbal one after a loving parenting experience….and that seperation is a natural event and is predictable and a simple fact of life. Ask any parent….fabulous story…well done.


  • Maresa Pryor-Luzier

    Joe, what an awesome experience for you! Glad to see someone enjoying our great state of Florida and the creatures in it. It was a wonderful study and I agree that all creatures have feelings and can teach us many things about life. Luckily in my lifetime, I’ve been able to have similar experiences as a professional nature photographer and cherish every one of them. Look forward to your future works!

  • Helen H.

    I caught only the last portion of the show tonight- and was mesmerized. I hope it will run again so I can view it from the beginning.What wonderful wisdom and insight Joe brings us through his amazing experience in the beautiful wilderness with his family of turkeys…It shows us nothing in nature should be taken for granted and that all life posesses intelligence and feelings of some kind and should be respected. Why so many humans feel that we are more important than every other species has never ceased to amaze me. It seems to me, especially in these times, that the majority of the masses are actually LESS good! Just look at the news reports every day and listen to the antics of the majority of our politicians… I feel sure the world would be a much better place to live if there were alot less of us and more turkeys!!!

  • Liliane Vallotton Bonjour

    Quelqu’un pourrait-il me dire s’il est possible d’acheter la video de ‘My life as a turkey” en français, et peut-être où la commander ? Merci par avance pour d’éventuelles réponses. Je viens de découvrir cette magnifique aventure au travers de l’émission “La semaine verte” au Canada, et je tiens à l’offrir à mes petits-enfants. Respect et chapeau bas, Monsieur Hutto !

  • Liliane Vallotton Bonjour

    J’ai écrit mon message trop vite, j’ai trouvé où acheter le DVD ! Extra !

  • Charlene Willis

    My husband and I watched this beautiful story. We were both envious of the opportunity Joe had and took. We love his heart and his ability to connect with nature. I was raised on a dairy farm in Oklahoma and some of my first memories were of baby lambs, calves, chickens, etc. I got to watch them come into the world and never knew it was so very special.

    Thank you Joe for that time you spent and then the gift you will leave behind of your experience. It was just beautiful to watch.

    We are purchasing this video to give as Christmas gifts to our grandchildren.

    Merry Christmas and Have a very Happy New Year!

    Charlene Willis

  • Stacy Music

    While I enjoy PBS programming, I usually cannot watch NATURE some of the material is upsetting to me, but I stumbled upon this episode one night at about 2am and it was engrossing to say the least. Bravo to the author and filmmakers! I shed a tear at the end, along with the man, upon learning about sweet pea’s demise but nevertheless, I enjoyed this and am so glad many others here in the comments feel the same. Turkeys and any other animals are very important and love is love.

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