Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: turkey

Victor and Hugo: Turkeys at Poplar Spring

This month all of the pictures I post will be in black and white; I’m participating in Black and White November. It has nothing to do with anything other than photography, but for those interested, it is an idea originating with, and there is an associated flickr group. So if you’re surprised to suddenly see only b&w pics on this blog, there you go, that’s why.

Last weekend at the sanctuary I was captivated by the turkeys. The arrival of the three new turkeys has changed the dynamic in mostly interesting ways. The three new arrivals are more active, spend more time outside – they are younger, and that might be one reason. Since they are outside more, it seems that Victor and Gertrude are outside more often as well. Opal prefers to stay inside, basking in the sunshine she can find in the barn.

Victor is still the head honcho of the turkey tribe, but Hugo and the two females he came with tend to stick together. I was thrilled when I saw one of them part way up in a tree on Saturday. It was exciting to me to see something like that, it was such a wonderful bird thing for her to do. Dave says that they sometimes go higher up in one of the other trees. I’d love to see it.

It highlights some major differences between the new arrivals and the turkeys like Victor and Opal. The new arrivals, much like Gertrude, are much smaller, much more mobile and agile. They were perhaps bred for entertainment or for a certain look as opposed to immense size. Opal and Victor, on the other hand, have the mangled genetics that came from the human desire to have them grow as large as possible as quickly as possible. Their bodies are too large. Opal is further hindered by the fact that her toes were partially amputated.

So as Gertrude, Hugo, Giselle, and the not-yet-named third new arrival hop nimbly onto perches, and trot through the yard, or climb a tree, Victor and Opal limp ungainfully around.

It breaks my heart to see.

And yet….and yet, Victor doesn’t want my pity or my heartbreak. He struts, chest puffed out, feathers on constant display, his snood long and colorfully ostentatious. He circles around us, making sure he is always noticed. “Here I am!” his limping strut seems to say, his trills and puffing of air announcing his presence.

I was videoing the new three on Saturday when I heard the tell-tale trill followed by “poof!…thump…thump….poof!…thump…thump” to my left and slightly behind me. I stayed where I was, and sure enough Victor came around me, strutting, and making sure that we are all aware that no matter how pretty and fascinating the newcomers are, it is Victor who we should all be taking note of.

Victor makes me smile. It is heartbreaking what has been done to his body and the bodies of his unlucky brothers and sisters who are sent to slaughter at a few months of age, but Victor himself? He is the victory, the rescued one, the safe one, the proud one.


Celebrating the lives of turkeys


Three new turkeys arrived at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary a couple weeks ago. Saturday was the first time I’d seen them, since they’d been in quarantine at first.

Their story is an odd one. They were hanging around a man’s house, and he finally called someone to get them. The county thought they were wild turkeys. But what wild turkeys eat out of your hands?

They came to Poplar Spring, and it was really obvious that they were not wild turkeys! They are domesticated turkeys, and Terry is pretty skeptical of the story that the man just happened to notice them hanging around his house.

You see, you can buy domesticated turkeys from a catalog, just as if you were buying a bike or a shirt. They have many different varieties, they even have “heirloom” breeds. Many people buy these turkeys, raise them in their backyards, likely feeding them by hand some of the time, and then they “release” them and “hunt” them.

The DIY canned hunt?

So that’s a likely scenario for how these three turkeys ended up hanging around a man’s house.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is hard to forget that when we see the turkeys at the sanctuary. For most of us, holidays are filled with baggage. Family obligations of one kind or another. The emotional impact of a holiday where a dead animal seems to matter more to those of us around us than anything else.

For me, holidays lost any sort of meaning to me a long time ago. I’m not sure when or why, but they have become a day I’m happy to have off work, and happy to make no plans for. This bothers my mother, who has never understood her children’s happiness at being solitary so much of the time. So when she asks, I always tell her that I’m spending time with friends on these holidays.

This is always true; I go to the sanctuary to help out on Thanksgiving and Christmas!

And truthfully, especially as a vegan, I am so happy to have no family local, and no omni friends local-enough to feel slighted by my preference for mucking barns to socializing with a dead bird.

The real season’s celebration for me happens the Saturday before the official American Thanksgiving Day at Poplar Spring’s Thanksgiving for the Turkeys. It is a giant vegan potluck, more giant than I could have imagined before attending my first one. 300 people attended last year, when it was bitterly cold and windy. Tables upon tables (oh, those dreaded tables!) of vegan food that people brought…and then there were the tables of vegan desserts! It is a sight to see.

Of course before the humans eat we get the food ready for the Turkeys (and chickens and guineas!). All kinds of delicious goodies, painstakingly cut in small pieces by the kitchen elves, then spread out on a couple tables, which we put down in their yard for them. Terry gives a small speech about it all, and it’s all pretty sweet.

Last year there were people videoing. One woman asked me to tell what we were putting on the tables for the turkeys, assuring me that this was better than her taking notes. Assured that I was really just a talking scrap of paper, I listed everything on the tables. You can imagine my surprise (and horror!) when Terry said she’d found the video on YouTube, and that I’d “done a good job”!

It turns out that it was a pretty decent covering of the event, with a few interviews, and a great view of how much food there is and how long the line was.

I don’t know what this video was used for (aside from being put on YouTube!) but it is nice to see such positive coverage of events like the one held at various sanctuaries around the country. The feeling is so incredible, all these people there to brave whatever late November weather is being thrown at us, just so they can enjoy a celebration OF the turkeys, rather than the opposite.

Anyone else celebrating in this way for the upcoming (and often dreaded) November holiday? Or maybe you already have if you are Canadian or went to Woodstock’s ThanksLiving Celebration (a month early for weather reasons). I know Tristan went to Woodstock’s!

And finally, this week’s piglet video of Morty and Izzy. I had to use the thrilling Flip music to cover up the sounds of the wind in the microphone. That’s as fancy as I can get, sorry! (There is always the mute button!) They were so cute as they raced across the yard to Terry, and then Morty was happy to roll over for Belly Rubs. I’m still getting used to just how much they remind me of puppies, from their play with each other, to their interactions with people.

turkey’s day

This will be a very quick post – it has been a long cold day, but an amazing one as well. Somewhere around 300 people came to Poplar Spring‘s Thanksgiving With the Turkeys, despite a predicted high in the 30’s, and a bitter wind.

And the turkey’s had a hell of a time.



It was so great to see.

turkey stories

I wrote an article for Stephanie’s animal rights blog on about the turkeys at Poplar Spring. It was posted today, so go check it out!

ingenious slings

I’m always learning something new at the sanctuary, and it amazes me how much knowledge Terry and Dave, and all sanctuary people have, and need to know.

One of the turkeys had injured her leg, they believe from jumping down from her night perch. Carly arrived at the sanctuary about a year and a half ago (just before Thanksgiving of 2006), but they are bred to grow so big and so fast that their skeletons are often overburdened. Needless to say, Carly isn’t the first who has had this kind of injury. She wasn’t putting any weight on it, and she had her toes curled up under her, so Terry and Dave wheeled this contraption over that is a frame to which different size slings can be attached.

It was really ingenious. They got it a few years back from a company in Washington (state), and though they got it at the time for a pig who was having trouble standing, they’ve used it several times for turkeys and once used it to bring a hurt cow in from a far pasture. The frame+sling can be attached to the trailer hitch of a truck…otherwise you can imagine that getting a 2000 lb cow-who-couldn’t-walk anywhere would have been impossible!

carly in the sling at ps

This weekend it was used to give Carly a chance to stand, supported. This will prevent other injuries from her putting all her weight on her good side, and will help keep her muscles working on her bad side without needing to make her injured leg support her weight. As soon as they put her in it, she lifted her head right up, and seemed really happy. We fed her fresh corn, which she gobbled up, and that was a bit of a relief because she hadn’t been eating before. Eventually she fell asleep. It made me think wistfully of hammocks, and how nice it would be to have one to nap in!