How to Tell If a Turkey Is Dying: A Comprehensive Guide

Losing your turkey poults can be a heartbreaking experience, especially when you’re unsure of the cause. This guide will help you identify the signs of a dying turkey and understand the potential reasons behind their demise.

Understanding the Symptoms

Turkeys exhibit various symptoms when they are unwell. Recognizing these signs early can help you intervene and potentially save your birds.

Common Symptoms of a Dying Turkey:

  • Lethargy and Weakness: A turkey that is losing energy and appears sluggish is likely unwell.
  • Loss of Appetite: Refusal to eat or drink is a significant indicator of illness.
  • Changes in Droppings: Diarrhea, discolored droppings, or excessive urination can signal internal issues.
  • Respiratory Distress: Difficulty breathing, gasping, or coughing are signs of respiratory problems.
  • Swelling: Swollen joints, face, or wattles can indicate various illnesses.
  • Unusual Behavior: Changes in behavior, such as isolation, trembling, or head shaking, can be warning signs.
  • Sudden Death: In some cases, turkeys may die suddenly without exhibiting any prior symptoms.

Potential Causes of Turkey Deaths:

Several factors can contribute to the death of turkey poults. Identifying the cause is crucial for preventing future losses.

Common Causes of Turkey Deaths:

  • Blackhead: This parasitic disease causes severe liver damage and often leads to sudden death.
  • Coccidiosis: A parasitic infection that damages the intestines, leading to diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Hemorrhagic Enteritis: A viral infection causing bloody diarrhea and rapid death in young turkeys.
  • Mycoplasma: A bacterial infection causing respiratory problems, lameness, and swollen joints.
  • Avian Influenza: A highly contagious viral disease that can cause severe respiratory distress and death.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Lack of essential nutrients can weaken turkeys and make them susceptible to other illnesses.
  • Stress: Environmental stressors, such as overcrowding, extreme temperatures, or predators, can compromise turkeys’ immune systems.
  • Predators: Attacks by predators, such as foxes, raccoons, or hawks, can cause injuries or death.
  • Poisoning: Accidental ingestion of toxins, such as pesticides or poisonous plants, can be fatal.

Diagnosing the Cause of Death:

If you suspect your turkey is dying, it’s crucial to seek professional help from a veterinarian or poultry specialist. They can conduct a thorough examination and perform necessary tests to diagnose the cause of illness or death.

Preventing Turkey Deaths:

Taking proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk of losing your turkeys.

Preventive Measures:

  • Maintain Hygiene: Regularly clean and disinfect your turkey’s housing and equipment to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Provide Proper Nutrition: Ensure your turkeys have access to a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.
  • Vaccinate: Vaccinate your turkeys against common diseases like Blackhead and Hemorrhagic Enteritis.
  • Reduce Stress: Minimize stressors by providing adequate space, comfortable temperatures, and a calm environment.
  • Predator Protection: Secure your turkey’s enclosure to prevent attacks from predators.
  • Monitor Regularly: Observe your turkeys daily for any signs of illness or distress.
  • Seek Professional Help: Consult a veterinarian or poultry specialist for any health concerns or unusual symptoms.

Additional Resources:

Losing turkey poults can be a devastating experience. By understanding the symptoms of a dying turkey, identifying potential causes, and taking preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of losing your birds and ensure their well-being. Remember, early intervention and seeking professional help are crucial in saving your turkeys’ lives.

Clinical Signs of Hemorrhagic Vasculopathy in Turkeys

Courtesy of Dr. Robert Porter.

Similar, noninfectious cardiovascular disorders, perirenal hemorrhage syndrome and aortic rupture typically affect fast growing male turkeys 8–19 weeks of age and are characterized by sudden death and acute internal blood loss. Mortality is usually 1%–2% but can be higher, sometimes spiking over several days. Birds are usually in excellent body condition and often die without premonitory signs. PHS is apparently unrelated to pulmonary function or hypertension. The turkey’s death was probably caused by an inadequate or inappropriate cardiac response to exercise, which led to systemic hypotension, vasodilation, and ventricular arrhythmia in PHS. Although it is thought to be a classic disease of turkeys, aortic rupture has also been reported in hens, ostriches, and waterfowl. Since aortic rupture is more common in specific commercial turkey breeds and is linked to hypertension, it is most likely a genetic condition.


Courtesy of Dr. Robert Porter.

Courtesy of Dr. Robert Porter.

Courtesy of Dr. Jean Sander

Perirenal hemorrhage syndrome is often associated with acute congestive heart failure secondary to cardiac enlargement/hypertrophy. Microscopic changes of perirenal hemorrhage syndrome include renal perivenous and parenchymal hemorrhage along with pulmonary congestion and edema, which are consistent with the gross findings. The kidney, spleen, and lung of PHS turkeys have been found to have intimal vacuolation and medial hyperplasia of arteries and arterioles; however, tissues from healthy turkeys also exhibit some degree of these lesions. Aortic rupture, which frequently results in a laceration close to the cranial mesenteric artery branch, can cause microscopic changes such as intimal thickening or large, sclerotic plaques along with elastic fiber fragmentation and degenerative changes to smooth muscle cells at the site of the gross lesion. The aortic tunica intima and media are thrown into deep folds and separated from the tunica adventitia. Accumulation of lipid in the thickened intima and in the fibrous plaques can be identified by special stains. Fibers of the tunica media may show degeneration and infiltration with heterophils and macrophages.

Are My Turkeys Dying??? (Fowl Pox)


Why would a turkey suddenly die?

Inadequate or inappropriate cardiac response to exercise, resulting in systemic hypotension, vasodilation, and ventricular arrhythmia, are factors that likely contribute to the death of the turkey. Acute congestive heart failure secondary to cardiac hypertrophy is often associated with PHS.

Why is my turkey not walking?

There are several possible causes of foot problems in turkeys, such as bumblefoot, arthritis, gout, injury, infection, or genetic malformation. The first thing you should do is examine his foot carefully and look for any signs of injury, infection, or abnormality.

How do I know if my turkey is stressed?

Signs of heat stress include open-mouth breathing, drooping combs or heads, and collapse. If you notice any of these, work quickly but handle your turkey gently to avoid further stress. Move the bird to a shaded area and direct a fan toward it on a low setting.

Why are my turkeys dying?

So your turkeys are dying. Why is this happening, and what can be done to prevent it? Baby turkeys often die because they are not getting enough protein, they are too hot or cold (or there is a fluctuation in temperature), there is a lack of shade, they aren’t getting enough water, or because predators get to them.

What are the health benefits of ground turkey?

Ground turkey has multiple benefits. It is a good source of minerals, and B vitamins, rich in proteins, low in fat and it is lower in calories than common turkey.

How do you know if a Turkey is bad?

Open the bag or package the turkey is in and take a whiff. If you smell anything rancid or rotten then your turkey has gone bad. Turkeys may also smell sour or sickly sweet when they go bad, so basically, if you smell anything other than raw turkey, toss it out. If you haven’t decided whether or not your turkey is bad yet, there is one final test.

Does a Turkey go bad?

Turkey, like most other meats, does go bad after some time. Especially if you leave the turkey in your freezer, or worse, your fridge, for an extended period of time. Do you know how to tell if a turkey has gone bad? You will know that your turkey has gone bad when it begins to turn grayish brown or grows mold.

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