Turkeys raised for meat in factory farms usually don't breed naturally so it's no wonder that many people wonder just how does a turkey reproduce? Instead, farmers artificially inseminate them. In the wild, male turkeys seek the attention of females in the early spring by wooing them with a special courtship dance. During this dance, male turkeys fan out their tail feathers, puff up their body feathers and display their brightly colored waddles in an effort to win a female.
The Courtship Dance
Mating season for wild turkeys begins in spring. Every morning during the mating season, just before sunrise, the male turkeys start loudly gobbling to attract the females. Once the females come around, the males fan out their tail feathers and raise their body feathers while they dance around. Their dancing display is meant to entice the females to mate with them. Turkeys are polygamous, meaning they will mate with multiple partners. If the female turkey is receptive to his advances she will lower herself in front of the male.
The Mating Act
The male hops up on top of the female to mate with her. Sperm is transferred from the male's cloaca to the female's cloaca. The cloaca is the name for the vent that leads to the turkeys' sex organs. The turkeys place their vents next to each other in order to allow the transference of sperm. The dominant males get to do most of the mating, but the other males have opportunities to reproduce as well.
After mating, the females seek out a good nesting spot. Turkeys lay their eggs in ground nests. They choose nest areas that are covered by brush to help prevent detection by predators. The female turkey lays an egg each day in her nest for up to 11 days. The eggs take about 28 days to hatch.
Called poults, baby turkeys spend their nights in the ground nest under their mother's watchful and attentive care for the first two weeks of their lives. At two weeks of age, they fly up to tree branches at night with their mother, she offers them protection from predators. Unlike factory farm turkeys, who are unable to fly because of overgrowth from growth hormones, wild turkeys can and do fly. Turkeys are very social animals. The poults spend their days playing with their siblings and with their mother. The mother guards the poults, plays with them and teaches them survival skills. Poults stay with their mothers until the next breeding season.
About the Author
Rose Kivi has been a writer for more than 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.