a rafter of turkeys

Helping out our Wild Turkeys

We have a flock of about 12 wild turkeys visiting our yard on a regular basis now that there is over a foot of snow on the ground.  It hasn’t taken them long to figure out that the songbirds spill seeds onto the ground.  We feed the songbirds mostly black oil sunflower seeds, and some fruit and nut mix for the woodpeckers

Two of the females are smart enough to fly over the 5 foot fence into the yard and scratch in the snow right under the hanging feeders.  The others tend to stay on the outside of the fence and reach through or pick at the corn left over from larger animals.

The turkeys are quite cautious, and typically run (or try to fly) away if we step outside, or if the dogs bark at the back door. However, they are somewhat comical at times, and interesting to watch.  If we are lucky, they will be around until spring when we can also see a tom in all his glory.

male turkey dance

Tom turkey strutting his stuff

Depending on where you live, it may or may not be legal to actually feed wild turkeys. But you can help them in other ways.  Ideally food for turkeys should be offered from plants, not from a bird feeder.

Plant food sources for wild turkeys.  They love acorns, so oak trees area good thing.  Also any berry bushes, like blueberries or raspberries, and other nut producing trees: hickory, beechnuts, pecans and crab apples.  Small grasses, tender grass shoots, roots, fleshy bulbs, buds, corn and wheat are also part of their diet.

Turkeys are omnivores, meaning they will eat proteins as well: snails, slugs, worms, small reptiles like snakes and lizards.  If you leave rotting leaves and downed trees, they will scratch around looking for the small toads and salamanders that use the decaying wood for cover.

Turkeys, like other fowl, need grit and gravel in their diet.  We happen to have a gravel walk to the barn, so they are often pecking and  scratching along it.

Lastly, make sure there is a good water source.

Turkeys diets vary depending on the season and local resources.  But like songbirds, they can be attracted and enjoyed from your window if the environment is to their liking.  Let them work the garden in late fall and early winter – they will scratch and turn over soil, even after the first snow. You could go so far as to plant a ground cover crop of grasses, milo, millet, or wheat to help them through the winter.

Note that they always scratch, and can destroy carefully tended lawns, so it’s best to offer food, if you choose to do so, in a place where you don’t care about maintaining a groomed surface area.

If you are lucky, mamma hens may bring around the poults (baby turkeys) in spring time.   Young adolescent  turkeys are dubbed jakes and a group of turkeys is called a rafter.

wild tom turkeys

wild turkeys

8 thoughts on “Helping out our Wild Turkeys

  1. Patricia G. says:

    It seems you live in a nice, wooded area. How fun to see these turkeys visiting your yard! It’s great that you are taking them under your wing (no pun intended), so to speak.

  2. The Crumby Vegan says:

    Ahhhh such a lovely article! I think it’s wonderful that you’re taking time and effort to make the turkeys more comfortable through the winter and I’ve actually learnt quite a lot about them from your post. Thank you for being so mega to the animals 💚

    • foxpineshomestead says:

      Have always loved animals – more than anything else my mom used to say when I was little! Don’t get me started on the stray cats….

    • foxpineshomestead says:

      In the summer, they are seldom around, but in winter, they are happy to come and get whatever seed or corn is available. Sometimes in spring the hens will bring all the little ones – so cute!

    • foxpineshomestead says:

      I’m happy you got something form it! Mostly they are fun to watch, and sneaky, so I never know when they will show up. I periodically glance out the kitchen door or window to see if they are visiting! They are very shy and alert though, so sometimes just the slightest movement or sound will shoo them away.

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