While many others of their species are losing their heads, there are turkeys that have nothing to worry about as traditional Thanksgiving dinners approach.
These particular birds have transitioned from meat to pets and live in barnyard stays of execution.
A turkey may not be the first critter that comes to mind when thinking of a pet, but it turns out they make good live-in companions.
Just like dogs or cats, domestic turkeys — depending on the breed — can be docile, inquisitive, friendly and affectionate.
That’s exactly how Matt Sturtevant at The Switchback Farm in Nobleboro describes his turkey BFF Alice.
“She is so awesome,” Sturtevant said. “She is so cute. She talks to me, lets me pet her and there was no way I could send this turkey off to the butcher.”
The butcher was the original plan for Alice and her nestmates when Sturtevant hatched them out in the summer of 2021.
Likewise, there was just no way Will Panzino could follow through with butchering the turkey he purchased in summer intended for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
“She’s my girl,” Panzino said of the turkey he named Lady. “I know it is just weird having a farm animal as a pet, but she is such a good bird that will come right up to me and give me a hug if I kneel down.”
While Alice spends her days contentedly wandering the barnyard or following Sturtevant around as he does chores, Lady has the run of Panzino’s Hartland home.
“She’s just so friendly. We just let her in and she spends the whole day in the house,” Panzino said. “Sometimes she spends the night in the house.”
Being an indoor turkey is definitely Lady’s jam. She likes to roost on the back of the couch while Panzino games, lie flat to be petted, steal sandwiches when no one is watching and help herself to whatever is close when anyone opens the refrigerator.
Alice lives a bit more rough outdoors with the other domestic poultry on Switchback Farm, but that does not mean she is any less loved or spoiled.
“She walks around the farm and greets everyone,” Sturtevant said. “She also clucks to let us know if anyone is coming.”
One of Strutevant’s children was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Alice is something of a therapy bird for the girl, who can spend hours petting and hanging with the turkey.
“My wife once joked about taking Alice to the butcher,” Sturtevant said. “My daughter organized a protest and it was really cute.”
Lady gets her own share of youthful attention from Panzino’s 6-year-old son, who has painted her toenails and dyed her feathers with non-toxic chalk.
“She likes to get all dolled up,” Panzino said. “She is a real lady.”
Sturtevant said Alice will live out her life — which could be up to 10 years — on the farm.
Not so for Lady who will eventually wind up in the cooking pot.
“She’s going to live a lot of years, but when she is old and has less quality of life, I am going to eat this turkey,” Panzino said. “I don’t feel right wasting the meat. But she’s pardoned this year for sure.”