Experts and owners, however, are aware of at least one problem: owing to their large breasts, commercial turkeys have little balance and can fall easily. One of Roberts' turkeys, Turks, had to be put down after its weight caused a split sternum, she said.
Commercial turkeys are usually the ones that get adopted as pets: Coston said most turkeys rescued by the Farm Sanctuary come from factory farms and have been debeaked, detoed and fattened. Many arrive as victims of neglect, cruelty or hoarding; they fall off farm trucks; or they mysteriously show up in boxes on doorsteps, she said.
The sanctuary, which has locations in California and in New York, places about 50 turkeys a year and has found homes for more than 1,500 birds since it started 26 years ago, Coston said. Hundreds of other birds, including the weakest or those with special needs are not adopted out because the rescues can deal with their problems easier than adopters can, Coston said.
Such sanctuaries are the final stop for the most well-known turkeys to escape the dinner table: the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey (and an understudy), who are pardoned the night before the holiday. After much fanfare and a White House ceremony, this year's turkeys will live on George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, with last year's birds, Liberty and Peace.
Karen Dawn, an author from Los Angeles, gets two turkeys every year and socializes them before they move on. This year's birds are going to live in Malibu.
They arrive stinky, so she gives them a bath and blow dry. "They relax like this is the best day they have had so far," said Dawn, who wrote "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals."
Turkeys make great outdoor pets and "make better pets than other birds that you have to keep in a cage indoors," she said.
Dawn said her two 20-pound turkeys will be at her Thanksgiving dinner — but as guests. Rosie and Martha will greet two dozen human guests in the garden and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, while Dawn serves up Wild Turkey bourbon — and tofurkey.