Today I had an amazing encounter with a family of turkeys in our yard. Two baby turkeys and their mother spent more than an hour relaxing and walking around. I wrote all about the encounter here (turkey vs. bird garden statue) but as I was writing I kept wondering what are baby turkeys called? Well now I know! So let’s jump in and find out the proper name for a baby turkey.
What is the Correct Name for a Baby Turkey?
The correct name of a baby turkey depends on which kind of turkey you’re talking about. There are only two wild species of turkey in the world, the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is the one Americans are likely to find walking through their yard and is found in every U.S. state except Alaska. The Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) is only found in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Any wild baby turkey is called a chick. That shouldn’t be hard to remember, it’s just like a chicken!
However, there is a slightly different answer if you’re talking about domestic turkeys, the kind raised on a farm that you might eat for Thanksgiving. Domestic turkeys are actually descendants of the Wild Turkey which were probably first domesticated by the Mayans in Mexico up to 2,000 years ago! So what are baby turkeys called if they’re domestic? You can still call them a chick, but a more common name is a poult. It’s like the word poultry with the end cut off.
Poult can be used for the babies of any domesticated fowl that’s being raised for food, like chickens or pheasants, but is used most frequently for baby turkeys.
So What is a Group of Turkeys Called?
A group of turkeys is called a flock. Some folks may tell you that a group of turkeys is called a rafter, but much like a “murder of crows” it’s not really used by researchers or in common language, only by folks who like to show off their knowledge of obscure trivia from very old books (like the Book of Saint Albans 1486).
While chick and flock seem like pretty common bird names, there are a few more unusual turkey names. An adult male turkey is called a Tom or a Gobbler. An adult female turkey is a hen. A juvenile male turkey may be called a Jake while a juvenile female turkey might be referred to as a Jenny (according to the Maryland DNR)
So let’s put some of our new lingo into use with an interesting turkey fact! Tom’s take no part in raising the chicks. The hen will raise them by herself and eventually may band into a flock with other hens and their broods! (find other cool turkey info from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Most Importantly, What’s the Best Name for a Baby Turkey in MY Yard?
There is a story that Benjamin Franklin proposed the Wild Turkey to be the national bird of the United States instead of the Bald Eagle.
Yes, he did exalt the virtues of the turkey as “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America” and also decried the bald eagle as “a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…(and) is too lazy to fish for himself.” But sadly, proposing the turkey to be the national bird is just a myth.
In honor of this famous turkey supporter, I’m naming our turkeys Benjamin and Deborah after Ben and his wife.