Turkeys that are raised for meat in factory farms usually are not allowed to breed naturally. Instead, they are artificially inseminated. To look at the natural mating and reproduction habits of the turkey, we will look at the wild turkey.
The Courtship Dance
Mating season for wild turkeys begins in spring. Every morning during mating season, just before sunrise, the male turkeys start loudly gobbling to attract the females. Once the females come around, the males fan out the 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. The female lowers herself in front of the male that she desires to mate with.
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 get mating opportunities 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 turkeys lay an egg each day in their nest for up to 11 days. In about 28 days, the eggs hatch.
Baby Turkeys (Poults)
The baby turkeys are called poults. They 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, for 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.