Meet the Turkeys - Walle


You would have liked Walle, the baby. Trust me on this. Your lap would have been his bed. You could fumble in your words with him, and he would understand. He was patient.


You would have fallen more in love with Walle the adult. Although he followed Morris, he did not emulate his larger friend's aggressiveness with humans. He could make his own choices. You would have marveled at his velvet soft head, his strange drooping snood, his grandiose attempts at puffing himself up to show off.

Walle lived a year with us. He had been mutilated. He had been bred for the sole purpose of getting fat to be killed young. The farm's overcrowding increased his risk for disease. He struggled the time he was with us. Struggled to grow. Strained to breath with compromised lungs. Too much damage had been done. With one heaving breath, he died, watched over by those who cared and respected him deeply.

Trust me, you would have loved Walle. And in his perfect avian way, he would have loved you back.

Meet the Turkeys - Creek

Being a baby turkey is serious business. You have to puff up big and strong when weird humans take your picture. You have to make your head change colors so the human taking your picture knows you're mad. Mostly, you have to act like a grownup when you should be mothered.

Creek is a baby turkey. He is the size and weight of a turkey raised for Thanksgiving slaughter. He bears the scars of from wherever he came - the tip of his beak has been cut off as have the first digits of his toes. This is done without pain relief and to minimize overcrowding and handling issues.

Unlike his sister, Miwok the Ewok (who you will meet next week), Creek is a moody turkey. Like all turkeys, Creek can change the color of the skin around his head and neck in a millisecond! The color changes indicate mood. Really red and vibrant can mean angry or "I'm hot stuff", depending on other cues. A very pale face can indicate stress or shyness or "I'm not really here, don't look". A happy turkey is one who has a mix of red, especially alongside his neck, and some blue around his face.

Creek tends to be angry.

Except when he's hanging with Miwok the Ewok. Then he's all sweet and lovey-dovey.
Creek and Miwok

Meet the Turkeys - Serena and Zarriah

I am Zarriah. Obey my commands!
In case you were curious how long turkeys could live, meet Serena and Zarriah. They turned 11 this year.

For two turkeys who spend most of their time together, I have no pictures of them doing just that.

Both turkeys came from the same farm (probably as Maya). They were being raised for Thanksgiving dinner. Most likely sisters, the two turkey poults escaped the farm and were saved by an individual.

Neither turkeys are particularly fond of people. And it's been like 11 years, so they really hold a grudge.

Unlike large production birds, Serena and Zarriah can fly. They can mate normally. They self-regulate their diet, so they can be free-fed. Their longevity stems from a strong tie physically to that of their wild cousins.

Speaking of wild turkeys. When settlers arrived in what would be the United States, they did what people do best and proceeded to nearly wipe out all wild turkeys (and everyone else who was a native). The great irony is that the reason numbers increased from 30,000 in 1900 to 5 million now is through the efforts of hunters who wanted to hunt the birds. Weird!

SerenaBack to Serena and Zarriah. Obviously they are not wild turkeys. Being black and white in woodland brush is not a highly survivable coloration.

Serena here is sporting a nifty thing called a beard. It's the hair hanging from her chest. You can guess how old a turkey is from their beard. Both males and females may sport a beard, although it's more commonly found in males as it is also a way for older tom turkeys to attract females (I'm alive and successful, yo).

Serena and Zarriah hang out with Maya. They don't care for Willow, ignore Margaret, and completely ignore the big white-breasted turkey hens and toms. Sometimes they snuggle with the chickens, although I think in this photo, Serena was just being lazy.
Dust-bathing buddies

Since Serena and Zarriah are sort of a mystery to me, I figure their recipes should be about casseroles, which are also a mystery to me (as in I'm befuddled by their popularity).
And well, that's all you are going to get from me. There is a Serena and a Zarriah, so there is a Green Bean Casserole and a Green Bean Casserole #2.

Meet the Turkeys - Wild Side

Wild turkeys are the only native North American species to be domesticated (probably not their proudest moment). I want to share a few stories of my experience with them at both sanctuaries. These moments encapsulate the wildness of these animals and the cruelty of humans as much as they do the mystery of turkeys and the compassion of people. Wild turkeys don't like recipes, so look for more in tomorrow's edition.

Finding a Safe Spot
We do not know from where she came, this wild turkey hen. She is not with her clan. Instead, she flies, all muscle and pure grit, into the domestic chicken and turkey enclosure. The toms display, she ignores. At the time, we assume she is looking for comfort. A month passes and we see the reason why she has chosen the predator proof pasture. Four healthy poults. She flies over, they are stuck. She flies back, encourages them to follow. They cry their frustration. Finally they find a space to fit through. Off they go.

Wild Turkeys
Ruffled Feathers and Buckshot
She sat stunned along the road. It looked as if she had been caught in the force of speeding cars. Pulling over, a towel is draped over her huddled form. She does not resist. We give her time, antibiotics, pain medications. She does not get better. We have a vet look at her. She finds buckshot embedded in her small body, infection gone systemic, ravaging her organs. No one talks much about these hunted animals, the ones who "get away". Who take weeks to die, in prolonged agony and suffering. We give her the only comfort we can - a peaceful death.

The Wretched Fence
Eight turkey poults wander up and down the sanctuary fence, crying angry and annoyed. Scared to push them closer to the road, time is spent reading a book while the turkey babies figure out this novel device. Finally - oh thank goodness finally - one looks up instead of straight at their moms. She cocks her head to the side, crouches low, and in a gust leaps over the fence. One by one they figure it out, except for two. Book closed, time now to watch these amusing babies learn something about their world. At the same time, the two poults pace five feet back, run forward, and leap on the fence. But! One cannot fairly share the same moment in space and time with another, so the two jesters fall tail feathers over soft heads onto the ground. Mom runs over, checks in on both, chastises them for their silliness, and wanders off. The two poults dust themselves off. Turkeys: 6 Fence: 2.

The Cry Louder Than The Shot
Feeding the potbellied pigs, their demands for attention damaging eardrums, the shot might have gone unnoticed. But it was not one, "clean" shot. It was three. The echo reverberated. The cry came next. It overshadowed the pigs. It's ache and tenor pierced the shotgun's power. The turkey screamed, struggling to stand up. A final shot ended his life. The other turkeys did not leave him. Surrounding their fallen brethren, they trilled and gobbled their anger and fear. Only when the one with the gun came close did they fly frantically away. It was Thanksgiving.

The Mighty QuinnThe Mighty Quinn
What an honor, naming this majestic bird. As a failed member of the Wildlife Rehabilitation School, Quinn made it known to all that he was still cooler than you. He took on the big toms. He wooed the ladies. He convinced his partner in crime, Maya, to roost up in trees, perch on buildings, and wander into the unsafe zone. Quinn was a revolutionary. Should have been named Che. Soon another turkey joined him, then another. Even the chickens were ready for a coup. The toms were ready for him to go, the roosters annoyed at his gumption. Caregivers stomped and waved arms wildly, demanding he stop trilling 25' off the ground. Like a good revolutionary, he flipped them the bird and went about his business. Wild animals are wild animals. Lesson learned. Quinn was run out of town, the dictators had won! He moved to a new city, where he could be safely fenced in but not cooped up, where he could roost in trees without fear of being shot out of one. Where he could make speeches to people and not worry they might kill him for speaking the truth. Plus he got a girlfriend.

Previous turkey entries

Meet the Turkeys - Margaret

From now until Thanksgiving, it's all about the turkeys who call Animal Place sanctuary home. As you meet the turkeys, I hope you will reconsider the main course for the upcoming holiday. To help you, I'll be adding recipes and purchase suggestions at the end of each post. All of these entries are in honor of the turkeys not lucky enough to end up at a sanctuary...spare them a thought this holiday.
Turkey lady serious
When I am in the mood to idolize turkeys, I think of Margaret. (According to Jamie, our animal care manager, one should always be in the mood to worship turkeys. She says they look like little angels.)

When I think of one reason why everyone should stop eating turkeys, I think of Margaret.

Margaret came to Animal Place in April of 2004 with eleven other poults. They were rescued from a breeding farm.

White breasted turkeys cannot mate naturally. They are too large, victims of an industry that favors large breasts and abnormal size over animal welfare.

All broad white and bronze breasted turkeys are artificially inseminated.

Margaret is the very first turkey I met. Ever. I was volunteering at Animal Place, trying to find my place in a world that simply didn't value or appreciate cows and pigs the way I did. Animal Place gave me hope, so much hope.

The first thing I noticed about Margaret, before I ever knew her personality, was the mutilations. I remember sitting and crying, watching these babies struggle to eat and walk normally. Their beaks had been cut off as had the first digits of their toes. All without pain relief. This is so they would not peck themselves to death in their overcrowded environment. Their toes are amputated so they would not kick scratch workers who swoop in and yank frightened birds up by their legs.

After that, I started to familiarize myself with the turkeys. Eliza was bold and precocious, MaryLou serious, Margaret social and interested in sitting in laps.

Sooner than expected, I learned the hard way how short their lives are, how humans twisted nature to create an animal who could barely survive puberty, let alone adulthood. Respiratory infections, common on industrial farms, wreak havoc on a "production" turkey's immune system. Heart attacks and congestive heart failure prey upon "production" turkeys lucky enough to last longer than a year. Feet infections, broken limbs, and arthritis steal away "production" turkeys who live three years or longer.

Only Margaret is alive now. She is seven, a crone filled to the brim with bird wisdom.

My favorite Margaret story is a recent one. Last year, we took in 140 hens, roosters and chicks from a Sacramento hoarder. Many of the chicks died, victims of neglect and improper medical treatment at the hoarder's home.

One of the chicks we thought would perish. Aurora was the tiniest chick and is now the tiniest hen at the sanctuary. When she was first introduced to the flock, she had a hard time. No one wanted to share their perch space with her. No one wanted to keep her warm. Even her mom abandoned her! We were not sure what to do but knew if things didn't change soon, we would have to pull her from the flock until she was strong enough to take care of herself.

But Aurora found a champion in Margaret. We lock all the chickens and turkeys up at night and do an evening head count. One night, staff counted, counted, and counted some more but were one chicken short. It soon became obvious who was missing. A search outside commenced and a more thorough investigation of all the crevices and nooks of the barn was implemented.

Then they heard the cheep. They noticed Margaret fluffed up on a bale of straw, her wings puffed out further than usual. Beneath her wing, nestled deep was Aurora. For weeks, Aurora slept nestled beneath the wing of Margaret. She gathered her strength and found her place in the flock. Now, as an adult, she does not need Margaret's care anymore, but I have a feeling that if Aurora wanted a warm place to bed down, Margaret would open her wing and welcome her home.

Because Margaret is so sweet, I figure she should get the dessert post!

Desserts are all about the pies. I love me some apple pie, but I know the holiday favorite is anything with pumpkin in it. You could try a pumpkin cheesecake, straight up pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie with chocolate, or double-layer pumpkin cheesecake (yeah, I love cheesecake).

But if you eschew pumpkins because they are creepy and orange, then try pecan pie, caramel apple pie, apple-walnut cobbler (for you wheat-free fans), and good 'ol apple! I suggest you have ALL OF THESE PIES at once!

Meet the Turkeys - Have a Little Hope

From now until Thanksgiving, it's all about the turkeys who call Animal Place sanctuary home. As you meet the turkeys, I hope you will reconsider the main course for the upcoming holiday. To help you, I'll be adding recipes and purchase suggestions at the end of each post. All of these entries are in honor of the turkeys not lucky enough to end up at a sanctuary...spare them a thought this holiday.
Hope the turkeyDid you know that when it rains, Hope goes inside a barn? And when she cannot do that, she hides her head beneath a wing? I am so serious. If anyone makes the moronic suggestion turkeys gaze fondly at rain clouds and subsequently drown themselves, refer them to Hope. She'll peck their eyes out. I AM SO KIDDING, Hope is not a hater.

Hope and Esperanza, a beautiful black hen, are the sole survivors of a cruelty case in Santa Cruz. Some would call it neglect, but I've always felt that when you withhold food and water from an animal solely reliant on your benevolence...that's cruelty.

More than a dozen animals were not survivors. They were victims, left to starve and waste away before help could arrive. Hope and Esperanza comforted each other and did their best to find food and safety while their friends died. When rescued, both were malnourished and sickly.

Now they are healthy and happy.

Did you know Benjamin Franklin wanted turkeys to be our national bird, because they don't go around plucking baby deer from their moms or fish from their streams. Geez, eagles.

White-breasted turkeys like Hope are bred to gain an enormous amount of weight in a short period of time. If human children grew at the same rate, they'd weigh like 250 lbs by the age of 2. RIDONCULOUS! Turkeys are not fed hormones, although they are given antibiotic-laced food. Antibiotics and antimicrobials are used as growth-promotants. They are not given to animals who are is one reason there are antibiotic-resistant bacteria out there.

But enough of that, we gotta have hope. Hope does, especially in the morning when caregivers bring food. She keeps the hope alive there will be a lot more. Make a lot of food in her honor...just don't include her sister as the main course, please!

I mean, how cute is Hope and her interspecies friendship with Esperanza:

Esperanza and Hope

Hope likes to share, which is why she'd like to make a toast with some tasty beverages for Thanksgiving.

Keep it cozy and warm with some mulled apple cider, or fire chai, or some creamy hot cocoa.

If you're a boozer, check out some mulled red wine sangria.

If you are one of those people who wants to spend five eons to make a tiny shot glass worth of drink, check out Ginger Juice shooters.

And remember to drink lots of water!

Previous Turkey-Friendly Entries include
Morris and the Main Course (of which he is not it),  
Willow of the French accent and cranberry side
Maya and the side dishes, which don't include any of her barnyard friends

Meet the Turkeys - Maya

From now until Thanksgiving, it's all about the turkeys who call Animal Place sanctuary home. As you meet the turkeys, I hope you will reconsider the main course for the upcoming holiday. To help you, I'll be adding recipes and purchase suggestions at the end of each post. All of these entries are in honor of the turkeys not lucky enough to end up at a sanctuary...spare them a thought this holiday.
Yesterday, I received an email update from an organization that accredits farms with less cruel treatment of animals. It was announced, proudly, that just in time for Thanksgiving, several farms that killed turkeys for a living had just received high marks.

There is no doubt that the life of a turkey on pasture is far different in degree of enjoyment and treatment than the life of a turkey on a large industrialized farm. You will not get that argument from me.

However, I cannot help but think of Maya. She is from one of those "really awesome" farms. I think she is one of the prettiest turkeys (next to Margaret who has an inner beauty that shines) I've ever met. Because the farm she lived on had poor fencing, she was able to wander off it as a young poult.

A wildlife rehabber found her, near death, along with a young wild turkey. Both found a safe haven with this person...someone who saw two young birds in need of compassion and respect. She could not bear the thought of either being felled by a hunter's arrow or butcher's knife.

Because both turkeys were so malnourished and dehydrated, they needed a lot of extra TLC. Which meant the turkeys imprinted on people instead of other turkeys. Releasing the wild turkey was out of the question and obviously Maya, with her white and black feathers, would fare poorly in the great unknown. So they came to Animal Place.

When Maya started doing this:
We had to rethink the whole keeping a wild turkey business. It was bad enough the wild turkey (Quinn) kept flying on the roof, refused to sleep in the barns at night, and routinely flew out of his enclosure and then complained about he was teaching Maya his "bad" behaviors!

Despite wing clippings, both turkeys managed to get into places they should not have. The decision to rehome Quinn was made, and he ended up at a nice 40-acre home with other wild turkeys.

Maya immediately stopped leaping over tall buildings. She stopped being faster than a speeding bullet. Oh wait. Anyways, she started to hang out with the other turkeys, finding solidarity with two other turkey hens we suspect came from the same farm years ago.

Maya is called a Royal Palm, a breed of turkey smaller than traditional production breeds. She is the smallest turkey at the sanctuary...even the best littlest turkey baby, Miwok the Ewok, is close to weighing more than her!
Fun fact, those "dots" on her head are called caruncles!

Maya likes to get her sharp beak full of side dishes for Thanksgiving!

She recommends tasty sides like Mac 'n Cheeze, hoity-toity Maple and Tarragon Sweet Potatoes, MASHED POTATOES FOR YOUR FACE, gravy for your mashed potatoes face, even more mouthwatering mashed potatoes and gravy. Maya is totally channeling me there - mashed potatoes are the best!

Previous Turkey-Friendly Entries include Morris and the Main Course (of which he is not it), Willow of the French accent and cranberry side

Meet The Turkeys - Willow

From now until Thanksgiving, it's all about the turkeys who call Animal Place sanctuary home. As you meet the turkeys, I hope you will reconsider the main course for the upcoming holiday. To help you, I'll be adding recipes and purchase suggestions at the end of each post. All of these entries are in honor of the turkeys not lucky enough to end up at a sanctuary...spare them a thought this holiday.


Look it up, it's French. Willow thinks it a lot. If she spoke French, she'd utter it frequently in a nasal tone. This is because she mocks others, please don't take offense.

Willow is from a junkyard. I cannot say she was being raised for her flesh - she was nearly a year old when we rescued her (most turkeys are killed when they are only four months old). I can say that her life before Animal Place was one of deprivation and danger.

The lot she lived on was littered with broken glass, wreckage from damaged cars and years' worth of garbage. She was not the only victim. The property also housed nine rabbits in a cage so small, they could barely turn around. Ducks and geese lived in deplorable, unsanitary coops with no access to water. When animal control confiscated all the animals, life changed for the better.

Willow is not a socialite. She does not curve her body to the contours of another on the perch at night. During the day, dust bathes are not social events spent gossiping with the other turkey hens. Willow is a loner. I am not sure if this is from her lack of socialization early on or if this is just who she is. The beauty of a sanctuary is it does not matter. Willow gets to be whomever Willow wants to be.

Unlike the big white and bronze-breasted production turkeys, Willow is a rangier, smaller bird. Her breed is raised for their flesh and called "heritage" as if this is something for which to be proud. While I have no doubt Willow is a proud bird, it's not for her flesh or because of her breed. Willow can fly and roost on the highest perches. If she wanted, she could fly into Morris' enclosure and mate naturally - a feat production turkeys cannot do. (She does not want.)

We don't know Willow's age, but I think we underestimated it. She suffers from recurring health problems normally seen in older animals. She receives special treatment, sometimes to include subcutaneous fluids. I can say she does not enjoy it. There is an ache in all of us here for causing a small discomfort in order to heal. Maybe I should try French with her.

On a side note, Willow reminds me of why turkeys are one of the closest living relatives to dinosaurs...those ancient animals who had more in common with birds than reptiles. Look at her! I have a public fantasy of attaching (humanely, don't hate) little tiny arms to the chickens and turkeys. Then I would create this amazing back drop of some big city but miniaturized and let the chickens and turkeys stomp their way through. It would be pretty awesome.
Alternatively, you could just make this Thanksgiving awesome with some animal friendly noms. If Willow sat down to eat with you, I think her favorite dishes would involve cranberries.

Willow approved cranberry dishes:
A moment of your time, please. I love the jellied cranberry goop - you know, the kind in a can with the can ridges in the middle of it. LOVE. I get mocked mercilessly for this. One year, there was an epic debate of jellied versus sauce and I lost big-time because APPARENTLY I'm the only one who likes the stuff. Which I doubt, because why is it always in the supermarket? And also, it lasts like forever.

So if you are a secret jellied cranberry goop lover, check out this vegan version!

Alternatively, you can go the non-jellied route (whatever).

Previous Turkey-Friendly Entries include Morris and the Main Course (of which he is not it).

Meet The Turkeys - Morris, The Man

From now until Thanksgiving, it's all about the turkeys, especially the ones lucky enough to call Animal Place sanctuary home. As you meet the turkeys, I hope you will reconsider the main course for the upcoming holiday. To help you, I'll be adding recipes and purchase suggestions at the end of each post.
Morris is the sole male turkey at Animal Place. He lives with Matt, the rooster. They make for an odd couple in size but not in personality. As my colleague likes to say, Matt and Morris are territorial. Which means, please do not stick your fingers near their beaks.

When Morris first arrived a year ago, he was not always so "territorial". He was downright friendly, the kind of turkey who would trill sweet nothings to anyone interested.

The story of Morris before Animal Place is not unique. Morris and four other turkeys were being raised for the California State Fair. None of the turkeys were seen as individual animals worthy of respect and compassion. They were "specimens" to be shown and slaughtered.

As the Fair approached, the man raising the turkeys decided it was too much work. These five animals were apparently so troublesome, so difficult to care for that he dumped them in the middle of the wilderness. I don't say "wilderness" in a vague, nonspecific way. I mean he dumped them in the middle of the woods and fields, left to fend for themselves.

The white feathers on production turkeys is a genetically recessive trait that rarely occurs in the wild. White is not a great predator deterrent. White feathers, however, leave the flesh of the turkey visibly  more appealing to consumers. This unnatural, poor adaptation is actively chosen solely to create a more physically appetizing flesh.

Morris and the four other turkeys tried to fend for themselves. Three of the turkeys died, killed by predators. Two, Morris and Marjorie (who you will read about later), lucked out. An Animal Place supporter saw the hapless birds and became their advocate. She rescued the two birds and drove them to us.

The two malnourished birds thrived under our care and both are healthy adults. Morris loves displaying his brilliant white feathers to anyone interested. The flesh around his face changes colors, depending on his mood. When it turns all red, Morris is especially angry at the world. When its red along the neck and blue/white around the face, Morris is in love with the world. They truly wear emotions on their sleeves, erm, snoods and wattles!

Here is a video of Morris showing off. No music, because turkeys sing beautifully on their own. His song is a mix of "hey ladies" to the female turkeys and a "i will be dictator of the universe" to me, behind the camera.

Celebrate this Thanksgiving for and in honor of the turkeys. Show your gratitude and compassion by omitting them at the dinner table.

Turkey Alternatives

I personally love Tofurky. I like to marinate it in an orange juice-soy sauce that is a mix of sweet and salty. There are a lot of marinades that enhance the flavor of Tofurky.This is probably the most accessible commercially available turkey alternative. The tofurky loves a grill as much as you do.

Field Roast has a Celebration Roast and Gardein has Savory Stuffed Turk'y

Or you can make a new tradition with a home-made main course. Think outside the box - butternut squash stuffed with wild rice, fanch-schmancy pants Tempeh Stew with Wine and Mushrooms, or homestyle Vegan Meatloaf.

Happy World Vegan Day

In 1944, the Vegan Society was founded. Every November 1st, vegans and those on the path to veganism celebrate World Vegan Day. Nearly 70 years late, those of us who choose a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle have so many more options. We have the founders of groups like the Vegan Society to thank for that.

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I were making home-made applesauce. The apples were fresh picked from a neighbor's tree. We decided to enter the 21st century and invest in a peeler, corer, slicer device that did it all - you just turn a handle. Really, it's a fabulous invention. I've never been a great peeler of apples.

As I turned the handle, my mom prepared the pot for the apple slices, a little bit of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg that transform apples into an even tastier treat.

I thought about my grandma. Any time I bake or make something "home-made" with my mom, I can't help but think of grandma. I see the lessons she taught my mom every day. My grandma recycled before it was cool. She loved to bake. She loved to make healthy, tasty treats. When my mom makes banana bread, I feel connected to my past, to all those mothers who made the exact same recipe years ago.

If my grandma was still alive, I think she would have loved the amazingly positive aspects of veganism. I don't know if she'd be vegan, but I do know she would have reveled in making me vegan bread and low-sugar deserts. She would have appreciated how healthy and sustainable a vegan diet is, how it nurtures growth of both body and heart. How it appeals to both our mind and soul.

I'll be honest, I don't think grandma would have understood my passion for animals. That's okay. I am vegan because I believe that when we are given the choice to cause less harm to others, we should. Others do it because it makes them feel healthier, because it's a diet based on sustainability and good stewardship.

Here is a recipe of my grandma, veganized. It's very tasty.

Vegan cookie pileIngredients:
Enough Ener-g egg replacer for 3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 c chopped walnuts
1 c chopped dates
1 c flaked coconut
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
Powdered sugar, enough to coat the balls

Add to the egg replacer the sugar, walnuts, dates, coconut, vanilla extract, almond extract. Mix together.

Place mixture into casserole dish and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Let mixture cool. When mixture is cool, form into small balls and roll in powder sugar. Eat.