Turkeys: how do you know if you have a female turkey?

undercover_owl(8 Pac.NW)December 10, 2006

We have one "pet" turkey, most likely a Broad Breasted Bronze. 9 months old.

Was purchased as a baby, to be a companion to a broad breasted white baby that had been bloodied by the other chicks. (I saw the poor thing with a bloody behind, and I felt the need to rescue it. Well, the BBWhite named "Casper" grew up to be disabled with "special needs", and was an easy mark for a predator one night when we failed to carry him/her into the coop. So now we just have the one healthy Bronze turkey, named "Birdie".

We say "he's a handsome boy", but, maybe it's a female?

No huge eggs have appeared, so we've just assumed it's a "he". But when I look at photos of male Bronze turkeys....our turkey is not doing any of that showy display. Our turkey's face never gets as warty and swollen as the photos of males I've seen. The snood stays small. He/she has as shiny and as pretty feathers, as a rooster. The shiny, pretty feathers have made me believe this is a male. Sometimes he/she puffs up body feathers, but not to the extent I've seen males do in photos. I've never seen Birdie fan out his/her tail.

No eggs, but, all our birds free range and it's possible that an egg has been laid in the woods.... Not that I would even know what a turkey egg would look like.

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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

You'd know if it was a tom by now. Feather sheen and color is not indicative of sex in turkeys. If the snood never changes size and shape, and the caruncles are not pronounced at this age, it is a hen. Hens do sometimes display, even the full strut and tail spread of a tom. It's usually due to dominance, and it does not surpise me a bit that a single hen kept as a pet is frequently displaying to the humans she's been acclimated to as one of her own, or vice versa. She's probably just becoming sexually mature, but as a seasonal layer, she probably won't start laying until spring when the daylight begins to increase, unless she gets artificial lighting in her shelter. It is possible that she's started to lay already as you suspect, if she has free access to your property, but it's unlikely. Frankly, I'm amazed that a "free range" BB hen has survived the summer. I'd be absolutely shocked if she were still alive come spring for you to enjoy the eggs that she'll begin laying.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 5:59PM
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We had 2 turkey hens at one time and they both strutted. One was killed and the other started laying at about 2 years old. Turkeys will only lay eggs for a couple months and then they never do again in their whole life. The one of ours that started laying hid her nest outside even though she was very friendly and had an indoor area. The eggs don't taste any different than chicken eggs so if it is a hen and you have no tom, put those eggs to good use!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:58AM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

"Turkeys will only lay eggs for a couple months and then they never do again in their whole life."

This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. You've obviously never had more than the one adult turkey hen. The broad breasted commercial meat turkeys do lay less, and for a shorter time period than the standard breeds, but they do continue to lay in subsequent years, if they live that long.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 12:55PM
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We've had several turkey hens and also if you read anything on wild turkeys you'll find they only lay once.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 12:34PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

We must be reading different books. Wild turkeys will lay generally one clutch PER SEASON, but assuming that they survive the winter and hunting season, they'll lay again each spring afterward, and so do domestics.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Ok I apologize, I looked on the web some and couldn't find anything saying that hens lay once. However, I have read about it a couple times and experienced hens doing so first hand. Maybe it's a particular breed although a few of the articles I've read mentioned wild turkeys doing this. Also I don't particularly appreciate being called ridiculous because a hen laying once is all I've seen or heard of. Undercover Owl I hope you guys get the sex figured out, and I hope you enjoy having turkeys as much as I have!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 1:40PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Reread carefully. It was your comment that I found ridiculous. It wasn't a personal attack, and as you've found through your research, your impression was incorrect. Please understand that experience with one or two hens is really an insignificant number to be basing any general ideas about their laying habits on. There is so much misinformation out there, and you must be careful what you pass on as fact, for there may be someone out there who will call you on it if you're not correct. Our society is so far removed from agriculture these days, that the major reasons for the proliferation of these rabid terrorist animal rights groups is complete misunderstanding and ignorance of the basic biology and requirements of domestic animals. Don't be part of the problem.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:59AM
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I am not to long in your country, last jahr Mein wife und I to our home brought 8 little ducks, they are wonderful little persons. Wir now had to wonder ober turkeys. As the Turkey is a bird that bigger then the ducks, we are wishing to understand ob alles to live happy together. We have wishes to have as "pets" und nicht for your holiday in November. So from you und your help might we the correct choices to make.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 8:18PM
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"Turkeys will only lay eggs for a couple of moinths and then they never will again in their whole life"

that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I have had turkeys for years and they always lay eggs. I don't know where you got your information but it is WRONG.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:45PM
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I raised wild turkeys and the hens layed eggs every year and they or sometimes the Toms would hatch them

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 1:47PM
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Wild hen turkeys (and sometimes tame ones) will lay eggs and hatch out live chicks even if no tom is present. Yup, it's a head-scratcher!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 3:05PM
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Naomi Miller

Well, let me say that I do not think when someone comes here for info or to share that calling the comments ridiculous or dumb is a very mature thing to do... I have had turkeys for years; bronze, narragansette, royal palms .... and they lay every season, although I had one hen in those years who laid her first year and never again... although she was healthy and lived for many years to follow. With regard to the original question; by nine months, a Tom would be strutting and showing signs of snood action , reddening of facial area in excitement etc rather there is a hen or not... it sounds like you have a hen which is a good thing if she is alone since a Tom will often leave looking for a mate whereas the hens usually 'wait' for a Tom to come to her, lol.... good luck with your baby....

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 1:55AM
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Rockguy 6 doesn't know what he is talking about either. If there is no male present, the eggs will not be fertilized. The eggs don't fertilize on their own. Imagine if your wife tried pulling that one on you lol. Maybe you didn't see the tom around, but he obviously has to be nearby.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:40PM
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Turkeys have a storage chamber for seamen. It can be stored up to 3 months and still have fertilized eggs without a Gobbler.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 2:45PM
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ewe we do I dare talk ..I had last fall a turkey roaming neighborhood.We have 40 acres.He was here then it made its rounds to all neighbors.He found our chickenhouse hungry I guess.We brought home chicks so we had to close door.
Lost about 20 chickens to dog in vacinity.He came through wiped everybody out (free range.) next year again till I called police.Anyway dont know what kind,female male??Its white gray looking,feathers look scalloped ,friendly,I thought it had the beard when it came here dont think its there now,Not a fat turkey.How do I tell what I have?It really looks healthy now.He was roosting on hubbys backhoe at nite

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 9:15AM
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Its a girl!!!!!!....She laid an egg this week.shes beautiful we saved her in fall it was small game season she was roaming the neighborhood.We put her in the chicken house Dont know what kind shes like a pale tan ,with blue head.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 8:47AM
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is there anyway to tell a boy Turkey at 4-6 weeks?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 3:55PM
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I have a male turkey with a beard and spurs he is about a 2years old his mate died about 4 months ago when a wild dog atack her and hes been by himself since but the last 2 days he has laid eggs this bird gobbles struts has a 4 inch beard and 5/8 spurs and deep red white blue head while strutting is this normal are what is going on will these egg hatch.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:42PM
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Ive never heard of a male of anything laying eggs....Mine has hair on her chest,she lays eggs.You have a female

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:32AM
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    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 4:37AM
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First of all, hens will lay eggs every year. Its possible for a hen to stop laying but that is probably a genetic issue. Also turkeys usually lay eggs between march to june. I have a tom and hen red bourbon and last year she laid 132 eggs just by herself. I think that has to do with that they are domestic and unlike wild turkeys they dont have to deal with food shortage, weather, pressure, and everything else. Also a hen can grow a beard and that is a genetic issue as well but a male turkeys will not lay eggs and males are bigger than the females from day one. Once the males are about 9 to 10 weeks old there will be a mole type looking thing appearing on its leg which is the spur starting to form. You can also tell a male from female the first day its born but this method is harder than it sounds, you have to spread apart their sex organ and just by looking at it the males and females look the same but while spreading it apart you have squeeze a little and if its a male then you should see a lump kind of poking out. You can look it up for better instructions.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 1:42AM
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Ok so every now and then you have a hen that only lays once but I can't find how long a Broad Breasted White lays eggs? She has for about a month and just stopped suddenly 3 days ago! Her and our gobbler are a year old but we don't know if this is normal, a problem, or anything else?!? Can someone please help us!?!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 8:45PM
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I know MANY of you are not going to believe this, but I studied about pathogenic turkeys while a genetics student at UC Davis. Enclosed is a brief discussion from Ohio State University:

"The Tremendous Turkey by Dr. Karl Nestor

Parthenogenesis in Turkeys

Karl E. Nestor

Turkeys reproduce by natural mating or commercially are mated using artificial insemination. Is there another way in which turkeys can reproduce? Lower animals can sometimes reproduce by a process termed parthenogenesis in which unfertilized eggs develop. Parthenogenesis does not usually occur in higher animals but has been shown to occur in chickens and turkeys. Parthenogenetic development in chickens ceases long before the embryo develops to full term, therefore few chicks have been obtained by parthenogenetic development. Patricia Sarvella obtained one parthenogen chicken from a chicken hen that was not mated.

The same is not true for the turkey. Dr. M. W. Olsen working for the United States Department of Agriculture extensively studied the development of parthenogenesis in turkeys. He worked with a small variety of turkeys called Beltsville Small Whites. He found that the onset of parthenogenetic development in turkeys takes place three or four hours prior to ovulation or soon after ovulation of the ovarian follicle from the ovary. In Dr. Olsen�s early studies, the parthenogenetic development in eggs from nonmated hens would only proceed though the development of membranes and early blood formation by the embryo. He bred a strain of Beltsville Small Whites for a higher incidence of parthenogenesis in unfertilized eggs. As selection continued, the incidence of the condition increased and parthenogenic development proceeded to more advanced stages until an embryo that developed parthenogenetically from an unfertilized egg. The first poult that hatched by this method was moved, for safe keeping, from the research farm to Dr. Olsen�s basement. Unfortunately, his dog killed the turkey.

Dr. Olsen�s continued selection for increased incidence of parthenogenesis resulted in almost half of unfertilized eggs showing some development and some 8% of the embryos (200) hatched in the final year of selection, all were males. All of the parthenogenetic males were indistinquishable from males produced by natural or artificial mating and were capable of natural mating or producing semen for artificial inseminations. Research has shown turkey parthenotes start as haploids, they then become diploid due to inhibition of cell division or cell fusion. In birds females are the heterogametic sex (ZW) and males are the homogametic sex (ZZ), this is the opposite of mammals. WW parthenotes would not develop as this condition is not viable.

Several factors affect the frequency of parthenogenesis in chickens or turkeys. Vaccination with live virus vaccines such as Newcastle disease, fowl pox, and Rous sarcoma viruses increases the incidence of parthenogenesis. In general, parthenogenesis develops more from younger hens than older hens. Hormonal factors may be involved because housing females in sight or sound of males increases the incidence.

In summary, normal male turkeys can be hatched from unfertilized eggs by parthenogenesis. The incidence of the condition can be greatly increased by selection and can be increased by vaccinating the birds with live virus vaccines or having the nonmated females housed in sight of males."

Here is a link that might be useful: Parthenogenesis in Turkeys

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 11:10AM
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treasurificgal(z8A CA)

Wow. Is that cool or what?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Other than the obvious tom, which i just bought; i thought i had 2 jakes and jenny. Now all 3 are laying eggs. Can someone tell me what breed they are.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 2:25PM
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Other than the obvious tom, which i just bought; i thought i had 2 jakes and jenny. Now all 3 are laying eggs. Can someone tell me what breed they are.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Other than the obvious tom, which i just bought; i thought i had 2 jakes and jenny. Now all 3 are laying eggs. Can someone tell me what breed they are.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 2:38PM
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I have a turkey hen, a year old laying and nesting eggs outside home, but I never seen a tom in my surrounding, will this eggs hatch.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Turkeys are like chickens, got to have a male to fertilize the eggs. No male, no babies.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 10:08PM
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