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Will a Turkey Drown in the Rain?

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Whether you eat turkeys or not, you may have come across some weird stories or myths about this bird. Now, we know how awkward things can get if you go around thinking a myth is true.

So in this article, we shall be debunking one such myth—the myth about turkeys drowning in the rain.

farm turkey in the outdoors

The question here is will a turkey drown in the rain?

The answer is no. A turkey will not drown in the rain.

Turkeys are naturally curious, including about the rain. Usually, when a turkey dies during a rainstorm it is because they have been scared by thunder or lightning and have panicked to death.

We shed more light on this particular myth in subsequent paragraphs. We will also look at proper housing that can protect turkeys from the elements. 

Will a Turkey Drown in the Rain?

If a Turkey Looks up During a Rainstorm, Will It Drown?

Turkeys have been known to sometimes look up at the sky for a while before they look down again. This is because some turkeys are known to have a genetic condition referred to as tetanic torticollar spasms

These spasms cause the turkeys to exhibit abnormal behaviors. Such behaviors include looking at the sky for extended periods, usually between 5 seconds to 1 minute. Even with this disorder, no turkey death has been recorded from drowning during a spasm.

Because their eyes are located on either side of their heads, turkeys have monocular vision, which allows them to look at two things at once. This means they cannot focus both eyes on the same image simultaneously. As a result of this, they have poor depth of vision.

In other words, it is difficult for turkeys to look up when it is raining. Looking up at that angle would probably leave their eyesight blurry due to raindrops falling on them. Instead of looking up, the turkey would tilt its head to the side to focus better.

Can Rain Cause Turkeys to Die?

Contrary to what most people believe, rain will not lead to the death of a turkey. Although, young turkeys can fall ill and die of respiratory complications if they are soaked through and cannot get warm enough to dry properly. 

White turkey at the small urban farm

Baby turkeys can also drown in the rain if left alone, so you must keep them safe and dry when it rains.

What Do Wild Turkeys Do When It Rains?

When it rains, especially on cold rainy days, wild turkeys will go quiet. They will choose to stay in the trees roosting a little longer. Then when they fly down, they change their daily routine.

In spring, wild turkeys have predictable habits. On rainy days their habits are predictable as well, even though they tend to be different. 

For one, heavy rainfall in the morning and evening produces fog, and foggy mornings keep the turkeys in the trees until the fog lifts.

When wild turkeys go off the roost, they move to open fields. Some reasons for doing this include keeping their feathers dry or seeking out bugs for food.

They also do this so they can spot predators from afar. Such predators would probably go unseen in the damp woods where the turkeys don’t have distances to see across.

Proper Housing for Turkeys to Protect Them From Rain and Cold Weather

Size and Spacing

turkey on the the green grass meadow

Garden sheds are the ideal housing for turkeys to live in. If you have three turkeys, for instance, a small 6 by 8-foot shed should do just fine.

Ensure to allow enough extra space to keep them in when the weather is bad.

The type of pen used to house a turkey must be considered when keeping turkeys during the winter. The type of turkey being housed must also be considered.

Turkeys on free range, for example, like to exercise and burn a lot of calories. They also eat to support their activities, and this leaves them in a better position to withstand winter winds and temperatures.

Small pens will not provide turkeys with many opportunities to exercise.

Hence, they must have features that make up for this; they must do a good job of protecting the turkey from the weather.

The roosts should be built with turned 2 x 4 boards placed 2ft high and 4ft across. Setting the roost boards like this ensures that the turkeys will have plenty of support for their breastbones.

It also ensures that their feet are covered and remain warm while they sleep, keeping their toes from suffering frostbite.

Aside from their toes, turkeys can also have frostbite on their faces and snoods. So, when a turkey chooses to sleep in the open, it will tuck its head under one wing during extreme cold or precipitous weather.

Ventilation and Protection

Pens should be built to withstand prevailing winds but allow for proper ventilation.

Due to lack of exercise, turkeys in pens are susceptible to frostbite of the face and snood.  A lack of exercise causes their circulatory system to run slower, and it also causes the moisture in the air to increase.

Frostbite on the face and snood is more likely to occur with increased moisture because moisture removes body heat faster.

Rather than just keeping turkeys warm when it’s cold, you also need to keep the air fresh and flowing.

Proper flow of air prevents the buildup of ammonia and moisture and makes exercising easy for the turkeys.

turkeys in the farm

Turkeys can withstand heavy winds better than a draft. Air movement in the roost area is crucial to the turkeys’ health.

Cold and winter rains can chill turkeys. Therefore, ensure the turkey shelter has built-in covered areas even if they do not use them.

Wood Shavings

It is also important to cover the floor with wood shavings as it provides many advantages. The shavings absorb moisture from the droppings making the air better to breathe.

Wood shavings also provide cushioning for the turkeys as they land from their perches. The cushion, in turn, reduces the chance of them having foot problems like bumblefoot.

Are Turkeys Smart?

Turkeys have been regarded as dumb and stupid birds for the way they look up at the sky, but they are actually quite intelligent.

Turkeys have a knack for geography and can learn the important details of a large area. This ability is particularly useful when looking for food.

They are curious, inquisitive, and good at problem-solving, and they are usually eager to check out new sights and smells.

Turkeys can recognize each other by sound, make a visual map of their territory, and memorize patterns. They are also good at coming up with plans.

Final Thoughts

Turkeys will not drown if they look up during a rainstorm. The habit of turkeys that involves looking to the sky when it rains is caused by a genetic condition, and this phenomenon does not kill them. While looking up during a rainstorm will not kill turkeys, you should still shelter them to avoid them dying of cold.


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