What Do Turkeys Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Turkey Nutrition

Each year, 230 million turkeys are produced in the US, with around 46 million eaten on Thanksgiving alone. Although eating this bird has become a holiday custom for many, there is more to these creatures than meets the eye. We want to consider the diet and living circumstances that turkeys are subjected to in order to change the narrative surrounding turkey consumption.

As the holidays approach, turkeys are probably everywhere in our neighborhoods and homes, and many people may still have pleasant memories of these birds living in grassy fields. Unfortunately, the reality is that 99. 8% of turkeys in the US are raised in cruel factory-farmed conditions.

Turkeys are naturally omnivorous, eating a diverse variety of plants, insects, and worms. In their natural environments, they forage and explore, gaining access to a diverse diet that provides them with the nutrients they require for survival and growth. In the wild, turkeys live ten years on average–much longer than the 14-18 weeks for factory-farmed turkeys.

Turkeys are fascinating creatures, known for their impressive size, distinctive gobbles, and delicious meat. But what exactly do these feathered giants eat? Whether you’re raising a flock of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner or simply curious about their dietary needs understanding what turkeys eat is crucial for their health and well-being.

From Poults to Adults: A Turkey’s Nutritional Journey

Just like humans, turkeys have different dietary needs at different stages of their lives. Let’s delve into the specific food requirements of turkeys throughout their development:

Poults (0-8 Weeks):

  • High-protein starter feed: During their early weeks, poults require a diet rich in protein to support their rapid growth and development. Look for starter feeds specifically formulated for turkeys, such as Purina® Game Bird & Turkey Starter feed, which contains 30% protein.
  • Fresh water: Ensure your poults have constant access to clean, fresh water. Dehydration is a serious threat to young turkeys, so monitor their water intake closely.

Growing Turkeys (8-20 Weeks):

  • Grower feed: As your poults mature, their protein needs decrease slightly. Switch to a grower feed like Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser® feed, which provides the right balance of nutrients for continued growth and development.
  • Grit: Turkeys lack teeth and rely on grit, which consists of small stones or sand, to grind their food in their gizzards. Provide your turkeys with access to grit, especially if they are raised on wood shavings.

Adult Turkeys (20+ Weeks):

  • Commercial turkey feed: Commercial turkey feeds are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of adult turkeys, providing the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients.
  • Pasture or range grass: Turkeys can obtain up to 50% of their nutritional needs from grazing on pasture or range grass. Ensure the grass is unsprayed and free of harmful parasites or bacteria.
  • Kitchen scraps: Supplement your turkeys’ diet with kitchen scraps like lettuce, tomatoes, sweet corn, and summer squash. These provide additional nutrients and variety to their diet.

Special Considerations:

  • Calcium for laying hens: If you’re raising turkeys for eggs, provide laying hens with additional calcium sources like Purina® Oyster Shell to support eggshell formation.
  • Integration with chickens: While some people successfully integrate turkeys and chickens, be cautious as disease transmission can occur. Research proper integration techniques and monitor your birds closely.

Feeding Tips:

  • Regular feeding schedule: Establish a consistent feeding schedule to ensure your turkeys receive adequate nutrition.
  • Monitor feed intake: Observe your turkeys’ eating habits and adjust feed amounts as needed. Overfeeding can lead to health problems.
  • Clean feeders and waterers: Maintain clean feeders and waterers to prevent contamination and the spread of diseases.

Understanding what turkeys eat is essential for their health and well-being. By providing them with the right diet at each stage of their development, you can ensure they thrive and reach their full potential. Whether you’re raising turkeys for meat, eggs, or simply for the joy of their company, remember that their nutritional needs are unique and require careful attention.

Additional Resources:


  • What do wild turkeys eat? Wild turkeys are opportunistic foragers and consume a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including leaves, grass, seeds, berries, insects, worms, snails, frogs, and small reptiles.
  • Can turkeys eat bread? While turkeys can eat bread, it should not be a staple in their diet. Bread provides little nutritional value and can contribute to health problems.
  • How much water do turkeys need? Turkeys require constant access to clean, fresh water. Their water intake will vary depending on their age, activity level, and environmental conditions.

The Truth for Turkeys on Factory Farms

Every element of a turkey’s life, including its diet, is managed in factory farms with an emphasis on maximizing profits and finding economical solutions. Turkeys are raised in cramped, cramped quarters and given a diet primarily consisting of corn and soybeans, which is intended to cause them to gain a lot of weight as quickly as possible. This forced weight gain causes painful and debilitating health conditions, compounded by their restricted movement in confinement. Factory farming transforms turkeys from curious, independent birds into mere commodities.

Since corn, soy, and other grains make up the majority of a factory-farmed turkey’s diet, artificial supplements are added to make up for the nutrients that are lacking. This unnatural diet raises the risk of infection, weakens immune systems, and weakens bone structure, among other health problems.

Additionally, turkeys’ diets are routinely dosed with antibiotics mixed in to ward off the illness and disease that would otherwise make these conditions unbearable due to the ongoing stress and unnatural diets on factory farms.

The treatment turkeys receive in factory farms is a sharp and upsetting contrast to their natural life and surroundings. Instead of treating these animals as sentient, unique, and intelligent beings, factory farming views them as commodities to be produced and sold for maximum profit.

A Tragic Toll on the Environment

It is crucial to emphasize that the US’s excessive reliance on animal products, particularly those from overproduced animals like turkeys at certain seasons of the year, has a negative influence on the environment. The resources used to produce turkeys, such as the enormous amounts of corn and soybeans planted to feed factory farm turkeys, put stress on our natural ecosystems and wipe out biodiversity. Pesticides and fertilizers leach into soil and runoff into waterways, threatening wild animals. Climate pollutants are emitted at almost every stage of production. Factory farming is a threat to all animals, farmed, wild, or human.

What Do Wild Turkeys Eat? Feeding Habits And Cool Diet Facts

Leave a Comment