Watch Norfolk's talented turkeys play musical instruments in the countdown to Christmas
You’ve heard of turkey drummers – but these festive fowl are stuffed with many more musical talents as they count down the days to their Christmas swansong.
A free-range Norfolk producer has decked the halls of its turkey sheds with toy instruments so the performing birds can gobble up the limelight before meeting their dinner-table destiny.
By pecking out tunes and rhythms on plastic xylophones, tambourines and maracas, it is hoped they will be stimulated and entertained, improving their health and welfare.
It is all part of the “environmental enrichment” programme at Traditional Norfolk Poultry (TNP), based at Shropham, near Attleborough.
Jane Codling, the firm’s poultry welfare officer, said: “Turkeys are very curious and they test everything out with their beaks, so we like to find things that promote their natural behaviour.
“Every year I try something different. I went to charity shops and car boot sales and I found a xylophone, and the birds really loved it , so I went and bought a lot more instruments.
“It keeps them occupied and it really holds their interest. I am not sure if they are enjoying it, or if it annoys them – but it definitely stimulates them, which is good thing.”
TNP is one of the country’s biggest producer of free-range turkeys and, by the end of this week, a third of the 300,000 Christmas birds it has grown this year – including Norfolk Bronze, Norfolk Black and some heritage breeds – will have been slaughtered, processed and sent off to supermarkets.
Joint managing director Mark Gorton said the birds were given the best possible living conditions before they leave the farm, which benefits both animal welfare and consumer quality.
“Obviously the birds don’t know what’s coming, but all the way through before they meet their maker, everything is geared up for their welfare,” he said.
“We talk a lot about the quality of the turkeys but they are all being grown to eat, so they need to taste good. If the turkeys are happy in their environment it will come through in the taste and texture of the meat, so it is a benefit to the consumer as well.
“The whole idea of environmental enrichment is to stop them showing the vices associated with growing them on a farm, which is not their natural environment.
“You can see there is no feather-pecking here, which shows they are happy in their environment. If we can keep them stimulated they look after each other and keep themselves in pristine condition. Anything that can make them enjoy their surroundings is good, and that is what we always try to do.”
TNP celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and recently won the prize for best seasonal turkey product at the British Poultry Awards, as well as the grower of the year title at the 2018 National Egg and Poultry Awards.