How to Distinguish between Female and Male Turkeys?


Turkeys are fascinating birds with distinctive features. They can be found in both domesticated and wild forms. One of the common questions that arise when dealing with turkeys is how to differentiate between the sexes. In this comprehensive article, we will explore various methods and characteristics that can help identify female and male turkeys.

1. Physical Differences

Turkeys exhibit several physical differences between genders. These differences can be observed in their size, coloration, and physical attributes.

1.1 Size

Male turkeys, also known as toms or gobblers, are generally larger than females, referred to as hens. Adult toms can weigh between 16 to 24 pounds, while hens typically range between 8 to 12 pounds.

1.2 Coloration

Coloration is another important factor in distinguishing between male and female turkeys. The feathers of male turkeys are usually more vibrant and colorful compared to those of females. Male turkeys have iridescent feathers with shades of red, green, and bronze, while female turkeys have duller feathers with shades of brown and gray.

1.3 Physical Attributes

Male turkeys have several physical attributes that set them apart from females. One of the most notable features is the presence of a beard. A beard is a cluster of long, coarse feathers that protrude from the chest of a male turkey. These beards can grow up to 8 inches in length and are absent in female turkeys.

Another distinguishing feature is the presence of a snood. A snood is a fleshy protuberance that hangs down from the forehead of a male turkey. It can extend and retract depending on the turkey’s mood. Female turkeys have shorter and less prominent snoods.

2. Vocalizations

Turkeys communicate through various vocalizations, and their calls can differ based on their gender.

2.1 Gobbles

Gobbling is a distinctive vocalization produced by male turkeys during the breeding season. It is a deep, resonating call that can be heard from a considerable distance. Gobbling is primarily done by male turkeys to attract females and establish dominance among other males. Female turkeys do not gobble.

2.2 Clucks and Purrs

Female turkeys produce clucking and purring sounds as a means of communication. These calls are softer and more melodic compared to the deep gobbling of males. Clucks and purrs are often used by female turkeys to indicate contentment or to gather their young ones.

3. Behavior

Observing the behavior of turkeys can also provide clues in determining their gender.

3.1 Strutting

Male turkeys engage in a behavior called strutting during the breeding season. Strutting involves puffing out their feathers, spreading their tail feathers into a fan shape, and dragging their wings on the ground. This display is done to attract females and intimidate rival males. Female turkeys do not strut.

3.2 Nesting

Female turkeys are responsible for nesting and incubating eggs. They construct nests on the ground and lay a clutch of eggs, typically ranging from 10 to 12 eggs. Male turkeys do not participate in nesting activities.

4. Determining the Sex of Young Turkeys

Determining the sex of young turkeys, known as poults, can be more challenging as they do not exhibit the same physical characteristics as adults. However, there are methods that can be employed to determine their gender.

4.1 Feather Development

Feather development can provide insights into the gender of young turkeys. Male poults tend to develop feathers at a faster rate compared to females. By examining the presence and growth of feathers, one can make an educated guess regarding their gender.

4.2 Vent Sexing

Vent sexing is a method commonly used by professionals to determine the sex of young turkeys. It involves carefully examining the vent area, which is the opening where the excretory and reproductive systems converge. This method requires expertise and is typically performed by trained individuals.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

FAQ 1: Can turkeys change their gender?

No, turkeys cannot change their gender. Once their gender is determined genetically, it remains constant throughout their lives.

FAQ 2: Are there any other methods to determine the gender of turkeys?

While physical characteristics, vocalizations, and behavior are the most common methods to differentiate between male and female turkeys, DNA testing can be used to accurately determine their gender.

FAQ 3: Do female turkeys have beards?

No, female turkeys do not have beards. Beards are exclusive to male turkeys and serve as a secondary sexual characteristic.

FAQ 4: Can female turkeys gobble?

No, female turkeys do not gobble. Gobbling is a vocalization predominantly performed by male turkeys.

FAQ 5: At what age can the gender of young turkeys be determined?

The gender of young turkeys can usually be determined between 8 to 12 weeks of age when their physical characteristics start developing.

FAQ 6: Are there any visual differences between male and female turkey chicks?

Male turkey chicks may have slightly larger and more defined wingtips compared to females. However, these differences are subtle and become more apparent as they grow.

FAQ 7: Can turkeys change their vocalizations?

Turkeys have distinct vocalizations that are specific to their gender. These vocalizations are genetically determined and do not change throughout their lives.


Distinguishing between female and male turkeys can be accomplished through careful observation of their physical characteristics, vocalizations, and behavior. The size, coloration, presence of beards and snoods, as well as the specific calls produced, provide valuable clues in identifying their gender. While determining the sex of young turkeys may be more challenging, methods such as feather development and vent sexing can be utilized. By understanding these various methods, individuals can accurately differentiate between female and male turkeys.

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