Turkeys is as turkeys does

In addition to being large, slow growing, less productive birds, there is another husbandry reason why you don’t see turkey eggs … turkey poults are probably the dumbest creatures on the farm (not including the people who grow them ;))

Two instances come to mind from a researcher whose trial was destroyed by the stupidity of the subjects.

Firstly at on stage during the trial, an empty 4 gallon feed bucket was left in the middle of the run while the researcher attended to a problem with either the fence or shed. One turkey decided to investigate and jumped into the drum. That was sufficient to invoke the interest of another that followed, then another, then another … In a couple of minutes the researcher returned to see a mound of turkeys about 10 feet high with the newest arrivals at the top trying to fight their way to the bottom to find whatever was so interesting. From the carnage about 1/3rd were lost due to suffocation and broken bodies.

Another time the poults were free in the yard when it started to rain. Never having seen a rain before they stood transfixed, looking up at the cloud with their mouths open. A significant proportion of the flock drowned.

I heard this first in the late 70s so getting a cite might be difficult. If I can find anything I’ll let you know.

Hi! Amazingly enough, the Master has already addressed this.

Are turkeys so stupid they will look up in the sky when it rains and drown?

http://www.msue.msu.edu/msue/imp/modpo/e1259006.html

Turkeys are actually very intelligent birds who in the wild rely on being taught by older flock members (hens).

http://ms.essortment.com/turkeywildamer_raek.htm

http://www.go2pa.com/panwtf/turkeyprofile.html

In this they are similar to sandhill and whooping cranes–perhaps you’ve seen the nature films of crane chicks being fed by humans in crane costumes? This is not only to prevent their imprinting on humans, but also because they depend on having adult birds teach them what to eat.

http://www.audubononline.net/martincofl/newsletter.htm

When such an authority figure is missing in the lives of the little turkey poults, i.e. mass production of turkeys on a turkey ranch in Arkansas, they tend to behave in a way that humans would categorize as “stupid”. They refuse to eat, they stand out in the rain, and they crush each other in a corner of the pen or in a bucket. However, they aren’t doing this because they’re stupid–they’re doing this because they’re hard-wired to have somebody teach them not to do it, and it’s just too bad for them that they’re growing up on a turkey ranch instead of in the woods.