Wild Turkey Control: Managing Wild Turkey Pests In Gardens

By: Kristi Waterworth

Living close to wildlife offers some spectacular opportunities to see animals in their natural habitats, doing what they do best, but gardeners know that sometimes the wildlife starts to look back. If wild turkeys are starting to peer too closely into your garden, you’ve got a difficult battle on your hands, but one that you can win with persistence.

Wild Turkey Control

Wild turkeys in garden areas are certainly upsetting, but before you assume that the wild turkey you saw this morning was the same one that ate your corn down to nothing, you’ve got to do a little legwork. More often than not, crop damage is caused by wildlife other than turkeys; they’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Look around the damaged plants for signs of scratching or turkey-shaped footprints. If your crop attack happened after dark, you’ll know you have to look at other suspects, since turkeys roost at night.

Once you’re certain that wild turkeys are the ones eating your plants, you need to think like a turkey. Deterring wild turkeys works best when you use their own nature against them. For example, scare deterrents are very effective, but only if you vary them so the turkey doesn’t detect a pattern. Managing wild turkey pests is most effective when you do these things:

  • Make your garden less friendly. This means keeping your lawn cut short so there’s no grass seed to feed wandering turkeys and making sure that dense bushes and other vegetation are pruned and thinned. Without adequate cover or a decent place to roost, your garden might not be as easy of a target.
  • Remove temptation. If you’ve got a small garden, you can cover it with a wire pen or build a high fence to keep the turkeys out. Although turkeys fly, they usually won’t fly into a small fenced-in area unless they’re very hungry or the thing you fenced in is of high value to them.
  • Harass lingering birds. Any birds that continue to hang around after you’ve made it clear they’re not welcome can be sent on their way with simple, constant harassment. Sprinklers on motion detectors, fireworks, dogs and even shooting your rifle over their heads will eventually send these guys running, provided you use many different methods of harassment together. Pie pans and other basic noisemakers will lose their power as soon as the turkeys realize they don’t represent a real threat.

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Turkeys in mulch beds

Hint: Thanksgiving is just around the corner?

@Lyn D I have seen the motion activated sprinklers work on "My Cat From Hell" show on animal planet and it is the SUDDEN HARD burst of water that scares them away. It is not like a sprinkler but is designed as an "animal deterrent" device. Google "Video Animal Deterrent Sprinkler" and there are several videos you can watch. It shows everything from deer, raccoons to large birds fleeing.

Maybe @A-1 Watkins Pest & Termite Control or @Sarah Toney can help with your turkey dilemma?

Give them a pile of straw and mulch of their own to mess up, somewhere in your garden where you don't have to look at it so much. If they are like our brush turkeys, they like to build a big pile of garden crap such as straw and mulch and soil to make their nests in. They scratch everything up and make a huge pile and then they are happy. Would this work for your turkeys I wonder? Else try putting some bamboo sticks into the soil/mulch to keep them off of it. Hard for them to scratch amongst it if there are uprights sticks in the way. Unsightly, but how long will these turkeys stick around for? Till they have bred and laid eggs and then they might be off again?

Share "Raising Turkeys on Your Backyard Farm"

Turkeys can be a great addition to many backyard farms, but they aren't right for everyone. Before selecting chicks and starting a flock, it is best to understand what turkeys need and how they are different from other poultry.

The first step in raising turkeys is to be sure they are permitted in your area. While suburban and urban backyard farms are becoming more acceptable and widespread, not all areas allow turkeys as livestock. Check city zoning codes or homeowners association regulations to be sure your turkeys will be welcome.

It is also important to understand that turkeys are different than other poultry, and they may not be the best choice for your farm. Turkeys can be much louder than other fowl, as well as messier, and in tight neighborhoods, they may be less welcome. Turkeys do not generally lay many eggs, but they can be a great source of meat. Providing your turkeys the best possible care, however, can be more expensive than simply buying a ready-to-cook turkey at the grocery store, so if the only consideration is saving money, it may not pay to raise turkeys. If you are concerned about how the turkey is raised, however, such as avoiding growth hormones and opting for organic feed, it can be rewarding to raise your own turkeys.

Turkeys are social birds, and it is best to have at least 3-5 in a backyard flock so they feel comfortable. When you are ready to raise turkeys…

    Choose the Right Breed: Commerical turkeys (broad-breasted birds) are selectively bred for more breast meat, but they are noisier and can be more difficult to raise. Heritage breeds are a better choice for most backyard farming, and may have richer tastes after processing.

Start Early: If you plan to eat one of your turkeys for Thanksgiving, you should have the chicks no later than early to mid-June so they can mature and reach their full growth before the holiday. You can adjust when you start chicks to coincide with other holidays if preferred.

Provide Proper Habitat: Young chicks are best raised indoors until they can regulate their own temperature, and they will need heat lamps and good bedding to stay warm and healthy. Shelter should be draft-free, but as they grow, they will become more tolerant and can stay outdoors.

Control Garden Access: Turkeys will happily pick away at insects in the yard and garden, but they may nibble on plants as well. Fencing off the garden can keep the birds away from tender plants, but be aware that turkeys can fly and may invade the garden if they do not have enough room in the yard to forage or if their food supply runs short.

Provide a Nutritious Diet: Young turkeys need a protein-rich diet for proper growth, but their nutritional needs change as they grow. Monitor your turkeys' diet carefully and adjust feed proportions as needed, providing the occasional treat of fresh vegetables for variety and interest.

Provide Adequate Water: All poultry, including turkeys, needs a constant supply of fresh, clean water for drinking. In winter, use warm water or a heated dish to keep the water from freezing, but dishes should always be shallow so there is no risk of young birds drowning. As the turkeys mature, larger dishes can be used.

Learn How to Dress the Turkey: If you plan on processing the turkeys yourself, learn how to butcher them properly. It may help to observe another farmer's techniques, or get tips from local turkey enthusiast groups. Before processing, do not feed the turkey for 24 hours, and do not give it water for the last 12 hours to make the task easier and neater.

  • Keep Emotions in Check: Backyard turkeys can be charming, and may quickly seem like feathered pets as they follow you around the yard and develop their own personalities. The more emotionally attached you get to the birds, the harder it will be to butcher them at the appropriate time. Keep your own emotions under control, and be sure that other family members, especially children, are not growing too attached to the turkeys.
  • It can be rewarding to raise turkeys on a backyard farm, and many urban farmers enjoy how much more delicious their home-grown turkeys can be. By understanding the characteristics that make turkeys unique and what is necessary to raise them comfortably, these fun fowl can be a great part of your small farm.

    Feeding Wild Turkeys the Natural Way

    Wild Turkey’s Range provided by Nature Serve

    1. Plant Native Oaks: Acorns are a key food source for wild turkeys. By planting native oaks, like red oak, chestnut oak and black oak, you’ll supply them with plenty of acorns to eat. Turkeys eat acorns in fall and winter and in many oak forests you can even notice a V-shaped scratching in the leaf litter (a sure sign of wild turkeys). Many other wildlife species rely on acorns as a food source too, so you’ll be feeding more than just turkeys when you plant native oaks.
    2. Plant Other Nut and Berry-Producing Plants: In addition to oak acorns, other staples of the wild turkey diet include beech nuts, pecans, hickory nuts, crabapples, and hackberries. By planting native nut and berry-producing plants you’ll provide turkeys with the natural foods they’ve consumed for thousands of years. Other planting suggestions include black cherry trees, blueberries, wild grapes and dogwood. They’ll consume cacti fruits in arid areas. They will even consume poison ivy berries (along with dozens of other bird species).
    3. Offer Seeds and Browse: Turkeys browse on plant buds and shoots in the early spring and feed off fern fronds, club mosses, and weeds such as burdock, especially when there is a lot of snow cover and other foods are hard to find. Grasses, sedges and many wildflowers provide wild turkeys with seeds to eat. We don’t encourage attracting turkeys with birdseed from feeders, mostly because artificially feeding turkeys causes them to lose their natural fear of people*.
    4. Grit and Gravel: Turkeys will swallow grit to help them digest their food. Offer grit by placing a shallow bowl filled with sand, fine gravel, sterlized ground eggshells or ground oyster shells. Or just keep a patch of sandy soil free of plants.
    5. Stop Using Pesticides: Aside from the direct harm you can cause wildlife by using pesticides, by not using these chemicals you’ll make sure that turkeys have plenty of much-needed protein in the form of insects. About ten percent of an adult wild turkey’s diet consists of small animals, including insects such as stink bugs, grasshoppers, and ground beetles, as well as snails, slugs, worms, spiders and other invertebrates. Turkey chicks, called poults, begin foraging shortly after hatching for invertebrates, which make up a large portion of their diet as they grow. Turkeys will actually help keep invertebrate pests in check for you, and there are many organic gardening techniques you can also use to control pest outbreaks.
    6. Leave the Leaves: By leaving some dead plant matter in your garden, you’re providing habitat for the small animals that are a key part of a turkey’s diet. Turkeys forage for invertebrates in the leaf litter and also enjoy eating salamanders, frogs, snakes, and lizards that also live in the fallen leaves or decaying logs.

    Bonus Tip: Provide a water source in addition to providing natural food sources. By providing a backyard pond or even a birdbath placed directly on the ground you’ll supply clean drinking water for the turkeys.

    This year, learn more about turkeys than just the best recipes cook them. Discover the intriguing natural history of the wild turkey, make turkey-inspired crafts and laugh at amusing turkey trivia.

    Wild Turkey Chick. Credit: Nick Kerosky.

    *Male wild turkeys are territorial and can occasionally become aggressive, especially during the spring breeding season. This often happens when wild turkeys are being artificially fed with feeders and have lost their natural fear of people, so avoid doing that. If turkeys are cleaning up spilled seed from songbird feeders, take those feeders down. If you have plenty of native plants in your yard, all the birds will have plenty of natural foods to eat.

    If you encounter a turkey that’s got something to prove, assert your dominance by standing your ground and chasing it away by walking towards it with a broom or rake or spraying it with a garden hose, to remind it where it fits in the pecking order. Male turkeys are large and intimidating and do have sharp spurs on their legs, but generally pose little actual threat of harm to humans. If you find that the wild turkeys in your yard are too much trouble, we recommend putting automatic sprinklers in your yard to scare them off whenever they show up. They also don’t like larger dogs and avoid yards where they are present.

    A wild turkey in a field of buttercups. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Monte Loomis.

    Sign up for our free Garden for Wildlife newsletter. You’ll get great wildlife gardening tips and learn how to have your yard your garden recognized as Certified Wildlife Habitat.

    How to Deter Wild Turkeys

    • Do not feed wild turkeys. Both direct and indirect feeding can reduce the animals’ fear of people, making them more likely to return to residential areas. Wild turkeys can survive well on natural food sources and don’t need food from people.
    • Do not let turkeys intimidate you. Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten an aggressive turkey with loud noises, swatting with a broom, water sprayed from a hose, or opening and closing an umbrella.
    • Cover problem windows and shiny objects. Turkeys may respond aggressively to their reflection or shiny objects. If a window or object frequently attracts wild turkeys, covering or disguising the object can address the issue.
    • Protect your garden and crops. Polypropylene bird netting can be an effective way to protect garden plants. Strategically placed reflective tape, predator decoys, or mylar ribbons can also deter turkeys.
    • Keep bird feeder areas clean or remove feeders if necessary. Spilled seed from bird feeders can attract wild turkeys.

    Morcom Rose Garden Temporarily Closed to Protect Wild Turkeys

    July 28, 2020: Fourth Update to Temporary Closure of Morcom Rose Garden

    On June 18, 2020, consistent with the Oakland Animal Service’s original request and community-led outreach, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the agency charged with regulating wildlife in the state, approved the relocation of the male turkey from the Morcom Rose Garden.

    In July 2020, CDFW staff made several attempts to capture the turkey, relying primarily on trapping using food attractive to turkeys. The park is full of accessible food, including evidence of human feeding, so this effort has been ended.

    CDFW has now authorized staff from Oakland Animal Services to continue the effort, with a plan for CDFW to transport the turkey to a local wild area that has minimal human access and no access to hunters. This effort is ongoing.

    As soon as the turkey is safely removed, the park will reopen immediately.

    In the hopes of preventing another such situation, we will continue to work with our park volunteers, neighbors and visitors to educate everyone on the dangers of feeding wildlife.

    June 19, 2020: Third Update to Temporary Closure of Morcom Rose Garden

    On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the agency charged with regulating wildlife in the state, approved the relocation of the male turkey from the Morcom Rose Garden.

    This reversal of an earlier decision against the City’s request for relocation came about largely as the result of a community-led effort. CDFW will move the turkey to a location in the Oakland hills.

    While it appeared that the human feeding had stopped, and the retraining efforts were having some positive impact, reports of attacks continued. The City recognizes the strong desire of many people for this turkey to remain in the park, but had to weigh that against the ongoing threat to public safety.

    As soon as the turkey is safely removed, the park will reopen immediately.

    In the hopes of preventing another such situation, we will continue to work with our park volunteers, neighbors and visitors to educate everyone on the dangers of feeding wildlife.

    June 4, 2020: Second Update to Temporary Closure of Morcom Rose Garden

    On June 3, 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the agency charged with regulating wildlife in the state, approved a depredation permit to remove a male turkey from the Morcom Rose Garden. The City is not currently proceeding with depredation and considers the removal, and humane euthanasia, a last resort.

    After hearing from numerous people from the neighborhood who had witnessed or experienced attacks by the turkey, including of young children and seniors, the City temporarily closed the Rose Garden out of concern for public safety.

    The turkey, and other wildlife in the park, had been fed by humans, which is believed to have contributed to many animals in the park becoming habituated to people, or losing the natural instincts to keep their distance from people. The feeding may also have contributed to the male turkey becoming more aggressive. CDFW has advised its essential that all feeding stop for the well-being of the wildlife that remain in the park.

    The City continues to explore options, and with support from CDFW, Animal Control Officers from Oakland Animal Services were trained to work with the turkey to attempt to train him to revert to natural behaviors. This training is ongoing.

    The situation resulted in strong feelings from Oakland neighbors and residents, with some in favor of protecting the turkey and others removing him. One neighbor repeatedly threatened to kill the turkey and was seen more than once trying to harm him. Ultimately, the City’s decision to proceed with the depredation permit was made after advice from CDFW and out of concern for the turkey and protecting the health and safety of our park visitors.

    For now, the Rose Garden will remain closed for up to two additional two weeks, and Animal Control Officers will continue efforts to retrain the turkey with the hope that he may remain in the park. If it is determined that the retraining efforts have failed, humane euthanasia may be the only remaining option.

    In the hopes of preventing another such situation, we will continue to work with our park volunteers, neighbors and visitors to educate everyone on the dangers of feeding wildlife.

    Update May 30, 2020:

    Oakland’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Development, Department of Public Works, and Oakland Animal Services have collaborated on the decision to temporarily close the Morcom Rose Garden.

    The City is aware of and is taking seriously several incidents of attacks by a male turkey in the park and considers this a public safety concern.

    Wildlife is regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). CDFW has denied the City’s request to relocate the turkey, indicating that is not a solution, nor allowed by State law. The City has reported to CDFW the incidents of attacks on humans.

    Currently, the City has been instructed by CDFW to keep the park closed, to prevent feeding of wildlife, and to attempt to train the turkey to keep distance from humans. We have been advised this will only work if all feeding of the turkeys and other wildlife stops completely.

    It is hoped that visitors can return to the Rose Garden soon. The City will continue to abide by California State law and will follow CDFW instructions regarding when the park may reopen.

    Learn more about the dangers and consequences of feeding wildlife here.

    Posted May 23, 2020:

    Oakland’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Development has temporarily closed the Morcom Rose Garden to provide some time and space to work to prevent human – wildlife conflicts. We understand there is a family of turkeys in the park and the male has become aggressive toward humans. We also understand that some humans have been feeding the birds regularly in the park.

    Out of concern for the public safety and the turkeys’ well-being, Oakland Animal Services, working closely with the Parks Department, has contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for guidance and support.

    Following the State’s Keep Me Wild campaign, the City is asking people to please stay out of the park, to respect the prohibition against walking dogs in the park, and to never feed wildlife of any type. In the meanwhile, Oakland Animal Services will work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife on opportunities to help retrain the turkeys and will work to educate our residents.

    As has been seen across the globe, the retreat of humans as they shelter in place has led to an increase in the visibility of wildlife in urban areas. The City of Oakland respects the rights of wild animals to inhabit their natural homes and encourages all Oaklanders to support the right of our wild residents to remain wild.

    Learn more about helping wild turkeys here and take a look at a useful handout here.

    Many perceived problems concerning wild turkeys are related to humans putting out food for what can soon grow to be a large flock.

    Wild turkeys do not need handouts from humans. Once turkeys are habituated to receiving supplemental food from humans, it is difficult to change their habits. Established habits of both birds and humans are hard to break!

    Therefore, efforts to de-habituate wild turkeys must involve everyone—including your neighbors and people you never may have met who are buying birdseed or bags of corn and scattering it in their yard or in places where no one sees them. Some people may be allowing wild turkeys to pick up the spilled seed under their birdfeeders or be feeding turkeys their kitchen scraps. If wild turkeys are receiving food from someone in your area, it will make it much more difficult for the following suggestions to be effective. Nevertheless, here are some strategies that can work. It’s best to take action when the turkeys first show up.

    1. Remove backyard bird feeders if turkeys have been eating spilled seed under them.
    2. Turn on the water and with a hose direct a stream at the turkeys’ feet.
    3. Opening an umbrella will frighten turkeys if they seem not to be afraid of humans. So will chasing them with a broom.
    4. Farmers have frightened away wild turkeys by flying predator kites from tall poles.
    5. Garden supply stores sell iridescent reflector tape that can be tied to trellises, trees, and bushes and startle the turkeys. It flutters and glitters in the breeze. (Some people prevent songbirds from hitting their windows by attaching this same reflective tape from a string weighted with a small pinecone and hanging the string from the eaves in front of their windows.)
    6. Metal poultry wire can be placed over berry bushes and fruit trees. Do not use polypropylene bird netting as it can entangle and trap nocturnal wildlife such as opossums and skunks. It’s not easy to release a skunk trapped under bird netting!
    7. Wild turkeys are perceptive and notice changes in their habitat. Unusual objects (such as rope, boxes, balloons, reflector tape, an old fashioned “farmer John” scarecrow) placed in a garden and moved to new locations in the garden from time to time can alarm them.
    8. Light up the roosting area with bright lights or install a motion sensitive sprinkler there.
    9. If a turkey is pecking at a shiny object such as a vehicle or window, cover the object and chase the turkey away.
    10. Do not use inhumane, sticky substances that trap wild creatures when they touch or step on the sticky substance. Wild creatures that become stuck sometimes tear off their own legs trying to escape. Sticky substances should not be used to deter turkeys or any other wildlife.
    11. Install a motion-sensitive sprinkler such as ScareCrow or Spray Away in areas frequented by wild turkeys and activate it only during the day. It shoots out forceful squirts of water when turkeys pass near it. Keep in mind that other wildlife and pets may also set it off. Use it only as a last resort after trying all other methods of deterrence.
    12. A dog on a leash will frighten turkeys away. Do not allow dogs to harm turkeys.
    13. Request that your community make it illegal to feed wild turkeys.

    Keep wild turkeys wild. Problems arise when turkeys lose their fear of humans. This happens when they become accustomed to living in human habitat (with human-supplied food, highways, decks, parked cars, and railings).

    Prevent most problems by chasing them off and not feeding them when they first show up in your area.

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