Acorns are a favorite of turkeys, especially wild turkeys. After summer, as fall closes in and other food sources begin to dwindle, turkeys and other wildlife turn to acorns as their major food source all through winter.
Some have wondered how turkeys eat acorns, however that is not hard for them as they eat the acorns whole and then their gizzard carries out the grinding process and digests it for them.
This post will discuss what exactly acorns are, their health benefits to turkeys, if baby turkeys can eat acorns, how you can feed them acorns amongst other questions you might have.
What Are Acorns?
The acorn is the oak trees’ fruit. It is a nut with a single seed enclosed in a hard, crusty shell, and carried in a bowl-shaped cupule.
Acorns range in size from 1-6 cm long and 0.8-4 cm wide. Acorns mature in 6 to 24 months (depending on the species).
Many woodland creatures such as mice, badgers, squirrels and birds forage and eat acorns as a snack.
Each acorn that falls in autumn can produce a new oak seedling the following spring. Most acorns, however, do not have this opportunity because they are a rich food source for wildlife
Acorns are poisonous to humans as tannins in raw acorns can be toxic and cause a bitter taste.
However, they can be made edible by leaching them to remove the tannin.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Acorns To Turkeys?
Acorns have been classified as a superfood for wildlife and it’s a major food source for many animals including our beloved turkeys.
Some of the nutritional values turkey can get from acorn include:
Protein is found in acorns in significant quantities. As we all, turkeys require a high protein diet usually often more than other poultry birds.
Protein is necessary to them to enable them to grow and survive.
Protein provides them with the necessary fatty acids which serve as building blocks in their bodies. Adding acorns to their diet as a treat can help improve their health generally.
Acorns provide turkeys with an approximate carbohydrate serving of about 14 grams.
Carbohydrates are important energy sources for turkeys. They give them the energy and propel them to go throughout their day.
Acorns contain healthy unsaturated fats and the level of fats found in each acorn usually depends on the species of oak tree it came from.
Healthy fat is a type of necessary nutrient, and the turkey’s body requires some fat for energy, vitamin absorption, and to protect the heart and brain.
Healthy fat such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known to reduce cholesterol levels
Calcium is in essence very necessary for bone, egg and muscle development. A deficiency of calcium in turkeys can lead to nutritional rickets and lower bone density especially in poults.
Calcium is very important for turkeys, especially the laying hens. It helps improve their egg and chick quality, and makes the egg laying process easier for them.
Phosphorus is a required mineral for many functions in turkey physiology and health.
Phosphorus usually works hand in hand with calcium to improve bone health and density.
Because of the phosphorus requirements for skeletal growth, young growing turkeys have a higher phosphorus requirement than adults.
The laying hen requires phosphorus not only for skeleton and soft tissue preservation, but also for reproductive performance.
Check out this comprehensive list of foods and treats for turkeys
How Often Should I Feed Them Acorns?
Acorns are a fine and natural treat for your turkeys especially during winter.
Turkeys in the wild feed often on acorns throughout wintertime as it is often plentiful and available for them.
Turkeys in captivity however are a different story.
Domesticated turkeys are often raised on a turkey growers game bird diet. Introducing acorns to them would be as a snack and not their main diet.
Acorns would serve as supplements to their basic diet and overeating acorns can make them have more than the necessary amount of nutrients they need.
Just like every other treat, restrict feeding of acorns to about once or twice a week and ensure that it doesn’t surpass more than 10% of their diet.
The remaining 90% should be gotten from their basic diet.
Can Baby Turkeys Eat Acorns?
For wild turkeys, acorns were their favorite fall food as other food sources such as vegetation, insects and fruits disappeared.
They learn to eat it and most often by early to mid September, their poults are already joining in eating acorns.
Turkeys eat acorns whole and their gizzard does the grinding and digestion process.
Poults of wild turkeys are able to develop and strengthen their gizzard while relying on their parents for food and also foraging from time to time.
They are able to acquire the grit necessary for their gizzard to complete the digestion process.
Before feeding domesticated poults acorns, it is important to let them mature till about 6 weeks so they can effectively digest the acorns.
You can also cook the acorns before serving it to them to aid their digestion.
Do Turkeys Eat Acorns Whole
Turkeys can eat acorns whole. In the wild, acorns form a significant amount (up to 38%) of the turkeys diet during fall and winter.
Acorns are much more populous during that period when other food sources have reduced drastically.
Turkeys start eating acorns as soon as they come across them in the fall. Acorns are swallowed whole by turkeys and ground in their gizzards.
The grinding and thumping sounds produced by turkey gizzards are often said to be heard from a distance when they are feeding on acorns.
This makes it easier for the turkeys to deal with as their gizzards are up to the task and there is enough grit for it to easily digest every part of the acorn.
Also check out this article I wrote on can turkeys eat corns
Do Turkeys Eat Pin Oak Acorns?
There are various species of oak trees from which acorns come from including; white oak, red oak and the pin oak. Wild turkeys eat the acorns of all of these types of oaks
For the pin oaks, they have acorns that are nearly round, measuring only 0.5 inch in diameter, and have thin scaly caps.
Pin oaks are a subspecies of the red oak which have a higher tannin level than the white oaks.
As such, most wildlife including wild turkeys tend to pass them over till late in winter when other food sources and white oak acorns are scarce.
Because of the higher tannin levels, acorns from the pin oak and other red oak species have a more bitter and unpleasant taste.
However much the turkeys might pass them over when food is abundant, it is always a sort of last resort for them in winter.
Things To Watch Out For Before Feeding Them Acorns
Acorns are a great treat for turkeys and usually serve as a good food source for their wild counterparts.
Even though they can eat it in large amounts, domesticated turkeys do not have the same systems as their wild cousins.
Having been raised on poultry feed, they might not do greatly if acorns are then made as their major food source.
Even if you have oak trees in your backyard, you should still watch how your turkeys eat them. Give them in moderation from time to time.
Also if you are purchasing acorns, always ensure to buy those from white oak trees. They have a lower level of tannin in them and are more palatable to eat for the birds.
How Can I Feed Acorns To My Turkeys?
Turkeys usually eat acorns raw and whole. They swallow it whole and their gizzard gets around to digesting it for them.
They cannot crack it open so they swallow it whole. If you throw a few acorns on the ground for them, they end up swallowing it.
During winter, you can also hammer or ground acorns into powder and mix with their feed from time to time.
Acorns are a favorite food source for wild turkeys out in the forest and their domesticated turkeys also love to have it as a snack.
They tend to swallow it whole and it is ground down by their gizzard.
Acorns have great nutritional benefits and you can serve it as a treat to them from time to time.
It is preferable to give them acorns from the white oak tree species as those contain lower levels of tannin and have a much palatable taste for the animals.