Walter is a middle-aged Heritage turkey who found his forever home here at Luvin Arms in 2016. Walter has escaped death twice. He was first purchased to be raised and then slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinner, but his family became attached after seeing his beautiful shadow one morning and decided to keep him. It was in that moment that they realized that Walter was more than just a meal. They spared his life because they saw how truly majestic he really was. Although the family decided to spare his life, they then moved and left Walter in a small enclosure along with Rocky, a rooster that has since passed, and 3 ducks that live on the sanctuary now too, Benjamin, Luna, and Oliver. Their living condition was horrendous. The drinking water was full of algae and there were bones on the floor of their small living space. It is unclear how long all of them were in there for, but considering there were bones on the floor and so much algae in the water it was probably a good amount of time. Thankfully, a concerned neighbor called Luvin Arms to rescue the birds and give them a safe and loving forever home.
When Walter first arrived at the sanctuary, he was extremely malnourished, scared, and distant. With everything that he had been through, it was only natural for him to outwardly show and express his distrust, caution, and sadness. When animals have experienced trauma such as abuse or neglect, it is very common for them to carry the pain and memories of that experience with them to their place of refuge. Some of our residents show signs of feeling comfortable and safe shortly after they’re rescued, while it takes some a lot longer – even years – before displaying signs of true trust and comfortability. Over the past four years, Walter has really opened up and is learning to trust humans again.
He was originally paired with some of our other bird residents, but they all weren’t getting along so we had to separate him. He then lived in a space by himself for a while until Starlet, a Chukar partridge who has recently passed, was rescued and became his roommate. They had one of those unlikely friendships stories where you wouldn’t think they would get along and be friends, but they ended up being best buds. They enjoyed hanging out in the sun, watching visitors go by, and sharing yummy snacks together. We were happily surprised to see the two of them getting along so well. They truly were the perfect duo. We would even sometimes find Starlet perched on Walter, which was an amazing thing to witness. When Starlet passed, it was incredibly heartbreaking, and we could tell that Walter was sad and grieving.
Just like humans mourn the loss of a friend and loved one, so do animals. We allowed Walter the time he needed to grieve while we worked on a plan to integrate him with some friends, so that he wouldn’t ever have to be alone again. Earlier this month, we rescued four beautiful female Heritage turkeys in hopes that Walter and all of them could be lifelong roommates. We’re still in the integration process and are currently doing supervised visits each day so that Walter and the girls can get used to each other before we have them live together permanently. Everything is going well, and Walter is thrilled to be with friends and have companionship again. He gets really excited when we walk him to the ladies area and happily goes in and says hello to everyone. We’re hoping to put them together permanently within the next few weeks and really look forward to watching them all live happy, fulfilling, and enriching lives together!
Walter is a shy, yet curious and attentive man. He is an intelligent wise soul who loves to share his beautiful music and teachings with all who come to visit him. He loves to say hello to people as they walk by and turns his head when you talk to him. If you go into his area and talk to him he will talk back with a variety of different noises. Although he really enjoys his space and isn’t much of a cuddlier, he does enjoy the company of others and human connection. Walter is always jumping up on his perch to get a better look at visitors and his bird friends.
I like to think of him as the guardian of the turkey barn, as he is always keeping an eye on everything and everyone. Walter is extremely handsome and has incredibly beautiful feathers and features. He will sometimes flare out all of his feathers and strut around showing off all of his beautiful colors. Walter has come a long way since he first arrived at the sanctuary and has truly opened up so much. Within the past 6 months, I have noticed a significant difference in the way he interacts with people. Before, when you would go into his area to hang out with him, he would nervously run away and make lots of noises, but today, you can go in there and he will slowly walk away or sometimes stay right where he is to say hello.
Turkeys have unique personalities and form loving relationships with turkeys and humans alike. They are naturally highly social, intelligent, curious, and very affectionate beings. They enjoy hearing music and will sometimes chirp along. Turkeys also have unique voices which is how they recognize each other. You will hear them talking to each other all day long making the cutest little noises. Some of our turkey girls enjoy human touch; are super curious and will peck at earrings, necklaces, and bracelets; will climb on your lap when you go in to sit down with them; and some of our girls have even learned to ring a bell for treats! Until one has spent time with turkeys, you wouldn’t know how truly magnificent they really are. They’re bright, beautiful, and have so much to share with us if we allow ourselves to listen.
Turkeys have been and always will be more than a meal. Walter’s story is very uncommon as he was one of the lucky ones. Millions of turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving. Please consider using turkey alternatives this year in honor of our sweet man Walter.
“Every animal has its own intelligence and sensitives. They’re all lovely, worthwhile, and deserving of our respect.” – Portia de Rossi