How to Tell a Hen From a Jake

By Cynthia Measom
A pair of wild turkeys.

In terms of turkeys, a "hen" is a mature female and a "jake" is a young male. The immature jake does not exhibit many of the characteristics of a mature male or "tom," but rather resembles a hen, so it's helpful to be able to distinguish between a hen and a jake, especially when hunting wild turkey. Depending on where you hunt, it may be illegal to kill turkey hens, so knowing the difference between a mature female turkey and a young male is crucial.



Male turkey.

Look at the breast feathers of the turkey. A male turkey, including a jake, will have black tips on its breast feathers. A hen will have brown tips.

Female turkey.

Inspect the leg length from where the leg starts at the body to the middle of the top of the foot at the base of the toes. The leg length of a jake will be longer than the leg length of a hen.

Look at the fan of the turkey when it is spread.

Look at the fan of the turkey when it's spread. The feathers in the center of the fan of a jake will be longer than the rest of the feathers in the fan. The hen's fan feathers will be the same length.

Tip

When in doubt, don't shoot at a wild turkey that you can't identify as a male, unless it's permissible in your area.

Warning

The presence of a beard or spurs is not a reliable indicator of whether the turkey is a jake or hen. While not common, hens can have a beard and spurs.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.