“Chickens are played out,” says food truck owner/chef and facial hair blogger Gerry Hildebrand of Brooklyn, NY. “I mean, shit, the other day my mom was asking me about the best brand of chicken coop for her tract house in the ‘burbs. Keep in mind this is a woman who still asks for ‘the Rachel’ at her hair salon.”
Many poultry owners say they have grown dissatisfied with the nutritional content of chicken products. Proponents of switching to turkeys often cite several health benefits of “going gobble.”
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that turkey eggs are actually much healthier than chicken eggs,” says graphic designer and Etsy-preneur Sophia Szydlik of Portland, Oregon. “They have less cholesterol, more protein and a ton of antioxidants. And if you’re into butchering, the meat is leaner and has a crapload of Omega-3 [fatty acids]. Plus, a tom turkey isn’t going to wake the whole neighborhood at sunrise like a rooster. It’s kind of a no brainer, really.”
It’s not always easy, though. Making the switch can come with a steep learning curve and often entails significant added expenses.
“When I started experimenting with turkeys two or three years ago, I thought I could just use my old chicken coop,” said Alexis Little, a San Francisco barista and author of the self-published DIY guide/epic poem A Turkey in Every Pot. “Yeah, not so much. Turns out turkeys are a very different sort of fowl. They need a lot of space and a diverse diet or they’re just going to taste like some bland, Globo-market crap you’d get at Safeway.”
It’s also important for potential turkey owners to consider their resources and lifestyle when selecting a breed.
“Newbies will often see a picture of a Bourbon Red or a Royal Palm in Turkey Country and go buy some poults without really giving any thought to whether they have the space, time and patience for a breed like that,” says Allyson Cole, a poultry expert who runs the Butterball™ Chicken and Turkey Rescue in Brooklyn. “All the time I get turkeys from well-meaning rookies who got in over their heads and just gave up.”
Still, most seasoned turkey enthusiasts say that if you’re willing to make the commitment and do your homework, it can be well worth the effort.
“I roll my eyes every time I hear someone talk about how great their fresh chicken eggs are,” said Szydlik. “Please, it’s 2015. I suppose you think your Prius is still super cool, too? Turkeys are where it’s at now. I wouldn’t give up my Joseph Gobbles or Eddy Gizzard for a whole flock of chickens.”