Thanksgiving is almost here which means it will be turkey time! But does anyone really know anything about the turkey? How does it live? what does it eat? Why do we eat it on Thanksgiving? Well let’s get settled here and learn a little bit about that infamous bird and discover just why we consider it Turkey Day. Gather your boys for some great information.
The wild turkey was discovered in America, it was native to Northern Mexico and the Eastern United States where the pilgrims settled. They were domesticated by the Aztecs who raised them for meat and in the 16th century when the Spanish landed in Mexico they learned all about the turkey. The Europeans were impressed by the large bird, it was easy to take care of and it tasted delicious when cooked. It was also not expensive to care for and could be used for multiple large meals that could be stored for the winter. The most common breeds of turkey at the time, and even now are the Bronze “White Holland” Narragansett and the Bourbon Red. The Europeans were so impressed by this great bird they brought several hundred back to Europe to breed. There they quickly became a beloved dish.
When the pilgrims were preparing their first autumn feast with the help of the Indians they chose the turkey because it was easy to keep alive and fed, they were born in the spring and eat mainly insects, plants, corn, and seeds. They were not expensive to feed or care for, and they were already a beloved dish they had eaten in Europe. It was a simple choice to make turkey because turkeys were not as expensive or useful as cows or chicken which were of better use alive than dead.
Over the years turkeys have been more widely domesticated and are quite common farm animals. Domesticated turkeys are white while wild turkeys have very dark and colorful feathers. Over the years the colors have been bred out of the turkeys in order to not discolor the meat. The Turkey is the largest bird on a farm and a full grown male is called a Tom or a Cock. A female is a Hen and a baby is a poult. A young male is often called a Jake and a young female is called a Jenny. As male turkeys grow older they become more aggressive and are known to bristle their fan of feathers and puff out their chests in an aggressive show of dominance, the male turkey also has a large Wattle on its bill and neck (the little red gobbler!) Like most birds the males have more beautiful feathers than the females, usually bronze, red, and gold. Female turkeys can lay 9-18 eggs in a clutch (set of eggs.) Turkey eggs are a creamy white with reddish brown speckles all over them. When baby turkeys (poults) hatch they live in a brood (group of young birds) with their mothers protection until they are strong enough to protect themselves.
Now that we know so much about turkeys we can share our knowledge with our family and friends on Thanksgiving!