In August 2006, over 10,000 baby turkeys (poults) were being shipped from Detroit to a factory farm facility in Central California to be breeders for Thanksgiving dinners. On a hot day, flight delays in Las Vegas caused the baby turkeys to become dehydrated and die. When they finally arrived at the San Francisco Airport, boxes of “dead” birds were thrown into trash compactors. Well, they were not all dead. Someone at the airport called the Palo Alto Humane Society who rescued about a dozen baby turkey poults. From the Bay Area, Farm Sanctuary, an experienced farm animal rescue organization, took them to Orland for immediate vet care. Many did not survive.
We got involved after reading a local Bay Area newspaper that published an article about 9 turkeys housed at the Palo Alto Humane Society, and to call if you wanted to adopt them. After calls back and forth, I was forwarded to Farm Sanctuary. We were told that the turkeys were not healthy and were still under watch. They asked us to complete the necessary paperwork and to just wait for information.
We completed the detailed adoption application and submitted references and names of veterinarians who could vouch for our ability to provide vet care and to confirm that we are vegetarians. Over six months of waiting led to a surprise call informing us that we would be receiving two girls, Ariala and Rhoslyn. We frantically worked to shore-up the chicken coop and prepare for the delivery.
To Ben Lomond:
On November 12, 2007, Sarah Downs drove Ariala and Rhoslyn to Love Creek Farm from the Orland shelter, a three hour drive. Farm Sanctuary publicized the Adopt-a-Turkey Project with a Press Release. The news reporters showed up later in the day after Sarah left. The turkeys were treated to a Thanksgiving feast of pumpkin pie and squash.
This photo provides a good visual image of how large the turkey’s breast is as a result of being genetically modified. These turkeys cannot reproduce like a wild turkey because their legs are too fragile and cannot support the weight of a male. Their legs will break. Factory farmed turkeys do not breed naturally, they are artificially inseminated, and their beaks are cut off. Ariala’s beak is chipped and cracked as a result of this cruel treatment.
The girls were given free range of the yard when we were home on weekends. They would sit outside the house and peer in the door’s paneled windows waiting patiently for us to come outside and play. They are very social and friendly animals.
Everything was going smoothly, and we jumped for joy when we learned that the New York Times newspaper was writing an article for the Thanksgiving day edition, front page! November 22, 2007. The article was titled, “In Some Households, Every Day is Turkey Day.” A columnist for the food section supported Farm Sanctuary, and she had visited the New York-based sanctuary. She wanted to do a twist on the typical story about the Presidential pardoning of a turkey.
The morning of the photo shoot, I went outside to feed the turkeys, and Ariala had blood on her beautiful white feathers.
After panic set in, I called our local dog/cat vet to see if she would be willing to see an injured bird. Being a mountain vet with chickens, she agreed. The NY Times photographer was able to get shots without blood, but I immediately drove Ariala to the Boulder Creek Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Kathie Gerrity pulled feathers and stitched her up. We believe this accident happened because she perched on top of a four foot high coop and fell off in her sleep hitting a metal post. Turkeys should never be allowed to walk up a plank or perch high up. We learned a lesson and built a new coop for the two turkeys.
During the vet visit, I was holding Ariala for a couple of hours and talking to her which bonded us. She became very protective of me whenever Rhoslyn would try to peck. Rhoslyn was not as friendly, and she did not like to be touched.
Ariala’s recovery period included staying warm indoors, so the girls stayed in the kitchen together for about a week. We gladly shared our home with these girls!
No Voice Unheard:
After the newspaper article, we were interviewed by a non-profit organization called No Voice Unheard. They publish cutting edge books to promote the ethical treatment of all living beings. They met with us and took photos of the turkeys for a book that was published in 2010 called Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs. Ariala and Rhosyln’s story is told on pages 72-74.
Life on the Farm:
The turkeys had free range of the yard and garden. They enjoyed hanging out with the chickens, but preferred to investigate the area. They would trek up the hillside and into the Oak Woodland to find a relaxing and quiet nesting spot. They would check in at the house, greet the horses, and waddle through the garden. They had a much more carefree lifestyle than they would have experienced as breeders at a factory farm.
In 2009, Ariala fell off a hay bale and broke her hip. She was taken to an Avian Specialist who took x-rays and told me the grave news that pins may not hold her bones together. We decided not to make her go through a painful surgery and long recover period with no guarantee of success. I was also not willing to “put her down” either since she’s been a survivor.
Turkeys are absolutely amazing creatures who should be given more credit because of their ability to socialize. They are not like chickens who peck and scratch on the ground for food. Turkeys sit and observe, listen and look around. They react to people by chirping and cooing to express joy and concern. For example, when I walk into the coop, Ariala greets me with a specific chirp because she’s excited to get a banana and apple with her feed. On the other hand, when I move her, and she’s not balanced properly on her good leg, she makes a different sound letting me know that she’s worried. She is one unique turkey. Turkeys are wonderful garden companions!
Ariala and Rhoslyn are buried on the farm. They live long happy lives, and we learned a lot about turkey behavior and health issues. We also had our first experience with the media, giving interviews and appropriately answering questions. We look forward to caring for more rescued turkeys and making a home for them at Love Creek Farm.