Friday, 2 October 2015

How to Sex Turkeys

The hen can mimic strutting

Sexing turkeys remain one of the biggest challenges for most turkey owners. It is in fact one of the most researched topics of the bird. Toms, as turkey males are called, shares several similarities with the hen. This can get many people, including some experienced turkey farmers, confused.

A friend of mine started with 3 poults about 6 months ago. He was pretty sure that he had both sexes in the lot. As the poults started growing, he started having doubts. He did some consultations and was told all the turkeys were toms. He quickly got 3 more hens to the flock because he wanted to expand. You needed to see him recently when  all six turkeys started laying recently!

Telling the sex of a turkey is not that easy. Many people have come to believe strutting is the most distinctive difference between a young tom and a young hen. Well that is not exactly true because female turkeys also mimic it. So how can you tell the difference between a young tom and a young hen?

Honestly, before the age of 6 months, the difference is very subtle. Everybody can get the guess wrong at a point. However after 6 months, the difference becomes quite clear. That statement though is only true if you have both sexes in your flock.

The domestic male turkey is bigger than the hen. The distinctive featherless neck of the tom tells it apart from the hen. The hen only has a featherless head. The male turkey has got a very large snood compared to that of the hen. During strutting, the snood relaxes and cover the beak giving the tom that scary look.

Another difference between the matured tom and hen is the wattle which is located under the head. The wattle saps on the chest and clearly tells a male turkey from a female.

The female may mimic strutting but it is only the male turkey that can gobble. Gobbling is the distinctive male call to attract females when they strut. The female also make the call which is a sound only distinctive to the female.

At the center of the male turkey's chest, the creature has the beard. Well it is not a beard as we know it but this is a cluster of feathers that looks quite like hair. They are however just modified feathers. The female does not have that.

The male turkey has a huge snood and wattle. The beard is also visible at the chest area

The tom has a blue face when it is relaxed. However when it becomes agitated, the face color may become bright red. The hen however has a pink face which also become red when she becomes aggressive.

With these differences, you are pretty sure to pinpoint the exact sex of your turkey!

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