Wild turkey toms (males) reach sexual maturity about seven months of age, whereas females (hens) need one to two years. Young turkeys are called chicks or poults, while juveniles are called jakes (males) or jennies (females). Male turkeys are sometimes referred to as “gobblers.”
Wild turkeys breed throughout the late spring and early summer, from roughly mid-March to June. Once old enough, the males are primarily concerned with turkey sex from this moment.
The older males’ days are devoted to exhibiting, which for a turkey involves standing tall with tail feathers fanned out, wings dragging on the ground, and swelling and brilliant red wattles and snood. It is a strange animal behavior that fascinates many who watch this bird species. Domesticated turkeys differ from wild turkey, but much of their mating rituals are the same.
Many questions are asked, and one of the more common is, do wild turkeys mate for life? In our guide, you can learn more about how do turkeys mate, what are there rituals are, and do the male take more hens or stay with one?
By the end, you’ll know much more about the turkey mating rituals, so it all makes sense and also makes quite a spectacle to watch. (Read Do Goats Produce Milk Without Being Pregnant)
Are Turkeys Monogamous?
In the wild, wild turkeys have multiple mates and are polygamous. A male turkey will mate with several females in a season, while a female will not mate with more than one tom or one male.
Because turkeys rarely breed naturally on factory farms, many people wonder how a turkey reproduces. The modern farmer instead carries out artificial insemination of the domesticated turkeys.
In the wild, the males pursue turkey hens in the early spring by performing a courtship dance. They perform this dance to win a female by fanning their tail feathers and puffing up their bodies.
The Courtship Dance
Spring is mating season, and when wild turkeys mate. Male turkeys gobble loudly just before sunrise during the breeding season to attract females.
When the females approach, the males fan their tail feathers and raise their body feathers while dancing.
Their dancing attracts females to mate with them. Polygamous turkeys mate with many spouses, and a female turkey will lower herself in front of the male if she accepts his advances.
The Mating Act
Turkeys can be enormous birds, so how do turkeys mate, or how do turkeys fertilize eggs? To mate, the male jumps on top of the female. Then, the male cloaca transfers sperm to the female cloaca. The cloaca is the vent leading to the turkey’s genital organs.
The turkeys do this to facilitate sperm transmission. As a result, the dominant male will have the most mating opportunities, although other males can also reproduce.
Females look for a decent turkey nest after mating, and you’ll see that a turkey hen will nest in the earth. They select brushy nesting places to hide from predators where they will lay eggs for up to 11 days. The turkey eggs hatch in about 28 days. (Learn How Much Does A Queen Bee Cost)
For the first two weeks of their existence, poults or baby turkeys sleep in a ground nest with their mother. Then, they fly up to tree branches with their mother at two weeks old for safety from predators.
Unlike factory farm turkeys, which cannot fly because of hormone excess, wild turkeys can fly. Turkeys are social animals, and a day with their siblings and mother is spent playing. The mother protects, plays, and educates the young. Poults stay with their mother until the next breeding season.
Do Turkeys Stay Together As A Family?
Turkeys flock together. These turkeys breed with their female offspring. Several hens and their young often form flocks of 50 or more birds.
The breeding season is ended by the time the spring turkey shooting season opens on April 15. Timing is everything in the spring and early summer. As the eggs hatch, the hen builds a ground nest near a suitable brood habitat, usually opening in the forest cover.
To lay a whole clutch of nine to thirteen eggs, a hen has to lay one egg every 24–32 hours. The hen will feed and bulk up between egg-laying to prepare for the forthcoming incubation phase.
After laying eggs, the hen will incubate them for roughly 28 days. After that, incubation is only interrupted for a protein-rich bug snack.
Newly hatched chicks called poults can walk within 12-24 hours of hatching and leave the nest. Young poults may fly short distances and begin roosting in trees around 8-14 days.
She can re-nest without re-breeding if a hen loses a clutch within 30 days of laying. Late August or September hatchings of turkeys may fool hunters into thinking this is a hen’s second or third clutch. Instead, the hen has lost a brood and re-nested.
By mid-summer, hens and their maturing poults will be joined by others. Similarly, mature toms create bachelor flocks of similar ages. As a result, Turkey’s flocks might reach 200 birds by winter.
Winter is moderate in low elevation environments like valley floors; thus, turkeys don’t need to migrate. However, in the spring and fall, turkey populations travel between lower and higher elevations to avoid bad weather.
Winter is breaking up, and so are the turkey flocks. Hens return to nesting areas, and bachelor tom flocks split apart. Mature toms return to strut, while young males (jakes) seek outbreeding.
Do Male Turkeys Stay With The Females?
No, turkeys don’t mate with one partner for the rest of their lives. Toms aren’t loyal or monogamous in the least. A male turkey can mate with up to ten female turkeys at a time.
Following mating, a female turkey lays her clutch of viable eggs and sits on them for around 28 days.
She can mate with the former tom or another tom during the next mating season after hatching the eggs and caring for her babies until they reach adulthood.
Do turkeys mate all year round?
Turkeys have several breeding seasons based on where they live and the weather. However, turkeys usually start reproducing in late spring or early summer.
Turkeys begin breeding and mating in several parts of the world between late February and early March.
We’ve heard that turkeys start breeding and mating as late as April and May in some regions of the planet, particularly in the north.
The turkeys’ mating season typically ends in June or July, when they hatch their eggs and care for their offspring.
How does a male turkey fertilize eggs?
A male turkey fertilizes her eggs by injecting sperm into the female turkey’s body. Although male turkeys lack outward reproductive organs, their cloaca serves as a portal to these sexual organs. The cloaca is behind the tails of both male and female turkeys.
The male turkey attaches his cloaca to the females during mating. During this time, the tom injects sperm into the hen’s cloaca and then swims down to the female’s oviduct, where it penetrates an already ripe ovum. The hen can lay fertilized eggs for two or three weeks after this procedure.
Will hens sit on their eggs at night?
Yes, turkeys sit on their eggs at night, but she won’t do so until she’s laid the entire clutch of eggs. She won’t start sitting on all the eggs until she lays the last egg of the clutch.
You should provide care for your breeding turkeys during this time because they will rarely leave their nest to acquire food or care for themselves.
What time do turkeys mate?
When the sun is shining brightly, turkeys mate during the day. Turkeys mating in the evenings or at night doesn’t happen. Male turkeys must first attract female turkeys.
They do so by dancing, raising their tails, strutting, and making gobbling noises. This occurs early in the morning before the sun rises when the hens are awake. It’s self-evident that the hens can’t see them at night. (Read Are Crab Apples Poisonous To Dogs)
After that, the male turkey stays quiet long enough to mate with all the interested female turkeys. It may mate with over one person, which can happen in the afternoon.
These tasks will be completed by the evening. Then, the hens search for a suitable location to deposit their eggs, while the toms search for food and prepare to sleep.
Can turkeys impregnate themselves?
Yes, a turkey can conceive on its own. Female turkeys can impregnate themselves through a process known as parthenogenesis. It shows that a female turkey can produce fertilized eggs without mating with a male. If the eggs hatch, the turkeys will almost certainly be toms, and turkeys born by asexual reproduction are weak and short-lived.