Do Turkeys Have Beards? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Do turkeys have beards? Ever wondered about this and what purpose it serves?

Yes, turkeys have beards. A growth of long fibrous hairs hanging down from a turkey’s chest is called a beard or tassel.

Both wild and domestic turkeys have it. And it isn’t unusual for a turkey to have more than one. Some even have up to four.

Turkeys have beards with different lengths depending on their age.

It could grow as long as 14 inches or more, though few turkeys’ beards ever grow this long.

Male turkeys begin growing beards at about 5 months of age and it keeps growing 4-5 inches ever year.

A tom of about 2 years of age could have a beard length of 14 inches.

A turkey’ s beard could help one determine its age since it grows as they grow.

Most times, the tip of the bristles/ hairs break or wear off as the beards grow, that is why it rarely grows very long.

Can female turkeys have beards?

Do Turkeys Have Beards

Yes, female can turkeys have beards.

But it isn’t something very common. Female turkeys usually have bare chest, devoid of hairs or any kind of bristle growth unlike the males, but about 10 %of them do.

No one knows why this is, but it is suspected that it may be a form of genetic mutation.

A female turkey can even have more than one beard.

As this is something rare, turkey sex can still be determined through beards or lack of it.

Related: Here is a comprehensive guide to learn all about raising turkeys

Do turkeys lose their beards?

Male turkeys usually have beards which are in different sizes.

The beards grow as they grow which makes it a good way of determining a gobbler’s age.

Occasionally we come across turkeys with no beards and it is also possible for turkeys to lose some hairs. Wild turkeys especially.

Due to its length, a turkey’s beard can drag on the floor when it’s feeding or moving about which can make it break off at the tips or wear off.

A turkey that lacks vitamin can also have beards that is rusty in color.

This is not to say it is rusting or rotting. It just loses its luster, look short and kind of bronze in color, as opposed to the normal black.

Wild turkeys also often lose their beards during winter.

This isn’t likely to happen to your domestic ones however, since you keep them indoors when it’s too cold.

Do turkeys’ beards fall off?

Yes, turkeys’ beards fall off but usually not completely.

It is rare but sometimes you may see a male turkey without a beard but it may not be because it fell off. Most times, it probably didn’t have.

A turkey’s beard can become brittle and break off at the tip or wear off as it drags through the ground and snow.

A turkey  whose diet is vitamin deficient can also have its beards fall off.

The lack of vitamin makes the beards weak and brittle, so when it drags on the floor, the friction makes some of the hair fall off or break.

Without the friction the beards could still fall off.

Though not entirely, but you would know the beards are not right when you see them. They’ll be shorter than normal and also lose their dark color and shine.

What is the tuft of hair on a turkey?

The tuft of hair on a turkey is called a beard/ tassel. It is not hair actually but modified feathers hanging down from its chest.

The beard usually grows out of an area in a turkey’s chest called papilla.

Male turkeys usually have this, and a male turkey with more than one papilla will have more than one beard.

Occasionally, hens also have beards. And it’s possible for hens to have more than one too.

What is the red thing hanging on a turkey?

That red hanging thing on a turkey is called a wattle. It is a bright red fleshy skin that hangs from the turkey’s neck. It is different from a snood.

Both male and female turkeys have wattles but it is more prominent in male turkeys.

A turkey’s wattle can depict its emotions.

They are usually a bright red when the turkey is excited, blood flows to its wattle and it appears bright red. It appears blue when the turkey is frightened and it appears pale or white when the turkey is sick.

Male turkeys also use their wattles to attract females during the mating season.

They also help turkeys release excess heat on a hot or sunny day.

Turkeys do not sweat so this is a huge relief for them.

What is the purpose of a turkey’s beard?

The turkey’s beard is a sign of virility and maturity.

Often times the male turkey uses it to attract females during the mating season.

The hens seem to be more attracted to a tom with a full and long beard.

The male turkey’s beard often becomes erect when it is aroused.

A long and dark beard can also be a way to know a turkey is healthy and of a good breed.


Turkeys have a set of bristles or hair hanging from their chest which is called beard.

It grows in inches annually as they grow and it is mostly seen on a male turkey.

Some hens have but only a small fraction of them.

A turkey’s beard can wear off if its beard grow long enough to drag on the ground while it feeds or walks.

The friction makes it break or wear off at the tip.

Some of the beards can also lose their dark color, break and fall off if the the turkey’s diet lacks vitamin.

Male turkeys also use their beards to attract females during the mating season.

Turkeys have wattles which hangs from their neck and it is always red in color when they are excited.

It appears blue when they are scared and white or pale when they are sick.

The pale color could mean the turkey has anemia or another illness. It should not be taken for granted.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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