While most people plan to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary will honor its rescued domestic turkeys with pumpkin pies. The event will take place Saturday, November 18, from 12 to 2 pm, at the sanctuary, 542 Gardner Hollow Road, Poughquag, NY. The party is open to the public.
The special honoree will be Emma, who, at 9 years of age is probably one of the longest-living domestic turkeys anywhere.
Emma arrived at Safe Haven in 2008 along with three other young turkeys. They were dropped off anonymously, so we had no official knowledge about their background. But they had all-white feathers and other characteristics of turkeys born on factory farms; they were probably among the nearly 68 million baby turkeys destined to be killed for holiday dinners.
To maximize profits, factory farms have genetically manipulated domestic turkeys to rapidly gain weight. Because they become so heavy, they frequently suffer from leg and heart problems. They also experience respiratory problems from the ammonia fumes emanating from piled waste. Many die even before they are slaughtered. (Domestic turkeys are typically slaughtered at about four months of age.) Even if they are rescued and taken to a sanctuary, they rarely live more than two or three years.
Emma’s original friends passed away at six years of age, and Emma just keeps on going! She now has two new turkey friends (also rescues). To help them stay healthy, we keep them on a diet of fresh greens and a small amount of organic egg layer pellets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Despite her harsh beginnings, Emma is sweet and friendly. She is always willing to let humans, especially children, feel her soft feathers or give her a hug.
Early on, we discovered that turkeys quickly sense humans’ attitudes toward them. When Emma’s first friends felt that a human disliked them, they frequently became angry and pecked the person. But whenever they did so, Emma pecked them back, as if to say, “Stop that, you should to be nice.”
When Emma was younger, she spent her days outdoors, chasing bugs in the pastures, taking dust baths in the dirt, and resting under bushes. But as she has aged she has lost much of her sight, so she stays in or near the barn. She likes to rest in the sunshine at the barn’s entrance. Every day her gentle presence brings comfort to us.