Have you ever heard of the phrase “turkey drop?” If not, let me explain! During the cold winter months, it is common for wild turkeys to molt: also known as ‘turkey drop.’ This means that in the colder months, turkey feathers begin to fall off and create problems for these beautiful birds. But don’t worry! I’m here to tell you all about it.
In this article I’ll explain how to spot molted turkeys in winter, go over the causes and then show possible solutions on how to help out wild-turkeys in need! Let’s get started!
The Molt Cycle of Turkeys: What Feathers Do They Shed?
Turkeys lack natural oils to keep their feathers conditioned in tact. Wild turkeys take dust baths to help keep up feather quality, but this is something that can’t be provided in captivity. It is essential to keep feathers properly oiled at all times to avoid brittleness, as 85-90% of them are made of keratin- the same material as human hair and nails- thus requiring similar care for optimal use. The best way to keep feathers healthy is by oiling them from the inside out! This also allows for keepers to check for any wounds on the bird at the same time.
Moulting in Show Birds
Most show birds have non-moulting breeds of turkeys, but it is advised to moult them once a year in late summer/ early fall to get rid of old and damaged feathers before they start becoming an issue for the bird. Since show birds can’t get rid of old/ damaged feathers naturally, it is up to us as keepers to take good care for it before it causes harm. For non-show molting birds, cold water can put an end to their moulting by tricking them into believing winter is here. But be careful not to put it under too much strain!
Knowing When and How to Spot the Signs of a Molting Turkey
Scruffy, Dull-Feathered Look
As it molts, a turkey can look quite unkempt with its feathers looking scruffy, dulled out of their usual color, maybe even having small bald spots on its head and body. But have no fear! This is all part of the natural process of old feathers being shed away and replaced with new ones.
Timing of Molt
The time it takes for a molt to be completed depends on the individual turkey but it typically ranges from about 3-6 months in total. Help give your molting turkey some good nutrition during this time by offering it food high in protein to help promote healthy feather regrowth.
Bald Spots at Bad Phase
If you seem to see bald spots on your turkey when it is molting, don’t panic! It is likely just at a tough stage in the molt right now where no feathers have begun to grow over some of these areas yet. Avoid stressing it out needlessly by reassuring that all is well; the bald patches will begin to fill up soon.
Common Signs of Molt
To get an idea of what you should expect out of a typical molt for turkeys, here is a list of some common signs to look out for:
- Scruffy, dull-feathered appearance
- Bald patches on head/body
- Losing color in old feathers
- Lifting off lightened in tone all over
- Irregular/patchy feather growth on wings/head/body
The Mystery Behind Turkey Molting: Investigating Causes & Effects
It can be strange to see a turkey show up with bald spots and lack of tail feathers in the wrong time of year- but it’s all part of nature! This is called molting- when turkeys replace old feathers with new ones to get through the winter in better condition before breeding season. Let’s take a look at why, and when, it is essential for your tom to go through this natural process.
Molting in Turkeys – Why Do Birds Molt?
Feathers play an important role for turkeys- literally! They are about 95% protein, which can be very expensive for them to keep up with the damage and wear-and-tear that accumulates over time. In tough times, it can be hard for birds to get enough nutrients, let alone have in on hand for mending old feathers. But replacing older damaged feathers is one of the best ways for them to stay healthy through tough times like winter.
It is also typically better for birds to avoid breeding right after they molt because creating eggs or raising chicks requires an immense amount of energy that could be put into building up shimmering new feathers instead! Energetically, it is more feasible to gain the energy before doing tasks like mating or egg production- making molting an essential process in any turkey’s life cycle. with and give it a compelling title
Winter Molting: A Review of the Benefits and Drawbacks for Turkey Owners
When Does it Happen?
Turkeys will molt at least once a year after the breeding season but it can also happen at other times of the year in response to stress or a change in lighting conditions, for example. During molting, old feathers are shed and new ones grow in their place to keep the bird’s plumage in good condition for protection from the elements. However, the length of time it takes for new feathers to fully develop means that the turkey is temporarily vulnerable to changes in the weather.
Feather Development is Affected by Weather
As the feathers on a turkey’s back and breast are longer than those on its wings and on the underside of its body, these areas are last to be fully feathered after a molt. This leaves the bird more exposed to fluctuations in temperature for a short period of time, especially in wet and windy weather, so care should be taken to keep birds comfortable and dry in such conditions. If you see a turkey sitting in a bush on a windy day, it’s likely because they are attempting to get out of wind and keep warm by using natural cover.
Provide Adequate Shelter
During periods of bad weather it is also important to make sure that turkeys have access to adequate shelter at all times and that their housing is in good repair to keep out bad weather and provide security.
Molting is Stressful for Turkeys
Molting in itself isn’t bad for turkeys but it does leave them temporarily more susceptible to bad weather and predators. As it is also an extremely stressful process for them, it is best to try to avoid it at all costs by keeping stress levels down at all times.
Turkeys have been known to start molting in mid-winter after being startled by something as innocuous as a child banging on window; anything which startles or stresses them like this – e.g fireworks, loud music or shouting – should therefore be avoided at all costs to help keep your turkeys happy and healthy during this time of year.
Protecting Your Turkeys From Unwanted Molts
Wild turkeys naturally go through a process of molting during the winter months in which they lose up to 5,000 feathers, giving them an unkempt look for a few weeks.
In domesticated turkeys, molting usually won’t start until after their first year of life, and can take up to six months on their backs to complete. But it typically takes longer for feathers on the head and neck to be replaced—up to two years!
Health-Related Reasons for Feather Loss
It’s important to keep an eye on any bald spots on your turkey, as in some cases, it can be related to poor nutrition, stress, worms and/or bacterial infections. If you think that may be the cause of your turkey’s feather loss, it’s best to call your vet right away for proper diagnosis and treatment!
Tips for Helping with Feather Loss in Turkeys
Nutrition is key in helping keep your turkeys healthy all-year-round—especially during molting season! Look into giving them plenty of organic greens for vitamins like calcium, magnesium and other good nutrients.
Also make sure you set up enough roosts for your flock so they have comfortable sleeping spaces which can help keep stress at bay.
Finally check in with a poultry specialist about any over-the-counter medicines that can help give your turkey additional protection against parasites like coccidia or worms.