All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey has reason to be THANKFUL!

Dear Marie
My son’s school is having a raffle to raise money for a class trip to science camp. Most of the parents have donated prizes for the raffle. However, one family will be giving away a live turkey that they will butcher, and dress for Thanksgiving as their donation. My son, as well as the majority of the other students are appalled at this, especially since the Turkey in question has been brought to school on a number of occasions and allowed to mingle with all the kids. It’s actually very cute and very friendly. It is like a pet...not dinner!

Well, to make a long story short, it has been decided that whoever wins the turkey is going to give it to my son who has promised to take care of it for the remainder of its natural life. I’ve agreed to this but I don’t have a clue about how to care for turkeys. What can you tell me?

Dear Eleanor:
What a wonderful mom you are to have stepped up to the plate (no pun intended) on this issue. Even if children are not vegetarians, it is hard for them, if not impossible, to look at live animals and picture them killed for food. I think there would be many more vegetarians if people had to meet
and fraternize with cows, turkeys, and other barnyard animals prior to the slaughter of these highly social animals.

You should understand, however, that turkeys are indeed livestock and you must live on a parcel of property zoned for such animals if you plan on maintaining it on your property. Check with your city hall for more information about their rules and possible exemptions.

Turkeys are fairly easy to care for. They enjoy grassy areas, but should also have access to dirt for daily dust bathing. This helps them stay parasite free. They also need a waterproof and well ventilated shelter. Line the shelter with straw four to six inches high and change it daily.

Turkeys love to perch. You can make a suitable perch within the shelter by using a two by four board secured to the walls. You can purchase all the supplies for making the shelter at your local hardware store. Go to the library and check out a book that has plans and diagrams for building sheds or coops.

Once your turkey arrives, be sure to put him inside his shelter every night to protect him from predators and cold weather. You can purchase special turkey food at most feed stores. Check your yellow pages to find the closest location. You can also feed your pet a mixture of corn, oats and sunflower seeds in equal parts. Add a spoonful of grit and oyster shells to help with digestion and satisfy calcium requirements. Place the food into a feeder. Avoid feeding him from the ground. This will keep him healthy. Turkeys also need greens and enjoy fruits; however, keep the fruits to a minimum.

With good care and attention, turkeys live six to eight years or longer! Females weigh between 25 and 35 pounds, while males are usually 35-45 pounds by maturity. With daily interaction, they become affectionate and playful. They actually enjoy companionship with people. You will enjoy your unusual pet.

For more information about pet turkeys, contact the Farm Sanctuary at

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