41 Things That Are Safe for Turkeys to Eat

When it comes to poultry, turkeys are becoming increasingly popular on homesteads around the country.

poults (baby turkeys)
poults (baby turkeys)

Aside from providing a mountain of delicious meat when harvested and really large eggs, turkeys provide other benefits in the form of guardianship over smaller bird species like chickens and ducks, and they can even keep the peace when roosters are getting a little too riled up.

Plus lots of people just like having these jumbo birds around!

Turkeys are fascinating birds, and also ones with highly varied diets whether they’re in the wild or in captivity. If you want to keep turkeys yourself, the first step begins with understanding what they eat.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you a lot more about what turkeys eat in the wild and in domestic settings.

What Do Turkeys Eat in the Wild?

Just because a turkey is living in the wild doesn’t mean it does not enjoy a varied diet. They still do, the difference is they have to take what they can find depending on the season.

The foods below represent a typical cross-section of a wild turkey’s diet…

Acorns and Other Tree Nuts

Acorns and other tree nuts are a common part of a turkey’s diet wherever they live, providing an excellent and sustainable source of protein and various vitamins and minerals.

Aside from acorns, turkeys can eat (and like!) beechnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, pecans, walnuts and peanuts. No, peanuts aren’t really a nut, but they are safe as long as they are cooked!

Plant Buds

Tender buds from all kinds of plants are a choice eating for turkeys. Like most omnivorous birds, such greenery is easy for turkeys to digest and supplies them with quick energy and abundant minerals.

From ferns, chufa and various wildflowers to pine, afalfa and burdock, there is a hardly a plant out there that turkeys won’t nibble on. They even eat certain species of hemlock!


Mosses are another food of opportunity for turkeys, and although most have very little in the way of nutrition every bit helps. In some forests, especially during the late fall and winter, moss might be one of the few foods that a turkey can reliably find…


Turkeys love all sorts of wild berries, but they are especially fond of cherries. Full of sugar and needed vitamins, berry bushes will be frequented by turkeys whenever they’re bearing fruit. Blueberries, elderberries, huckleberries, and more are all on the menu.


Ferns, and various other evergreens besides, are common targets for turkeys. These plants are typically tender and easy for turkeys to eat, and they can get some calories and a smattering of vitamins and minerals out of them.

This is another food source that’s especially important in the late fall and wintertime.


Pretty much every kind of seed there will be on the menu for turkeys at one point or another. Whether it is grass, shrub, tree, or something else, turkeys will gobble them up. Sunflower and flax seeds are their favorites, and highly nutritious. Seeds are invariably a great source of protein, fat, calories, and minerals.

Snails and Slugs

Slow-moving snails have no chance of getting away from a turkey, and their sharp beaks can easily extract the soft body of the snail from the shell, and sometimes turkeys will eat the shell and all, crushing up the shell for its minerals inside their gizzard.

Small Reptiles

Believe it or not, turkeys are prolific hunters of various small reptiles and sometimes amphibians. The payoff in protein is obvious, and most of these creatures aren’t quick enough to get away from a sharp-eyed turkey.


Beetles are a major food source for turkeys, supplying protein, fat and various minerals. All kinds of beetles are edible to them, and found all over the continent, meaning they are another mainstay for these big birds.

Other Insects

All sorts of other insects are likewise good eating for turkeys, although they can’t eat quite everything. Some creatures like caterpillars are quite toxic, but turkeys are pretty good about avoiding dangerous species.

As always, insects are a terrific source of protein and minerals, and some supply much-needed dietary fat and amino acids.

Worms, Grubs, and other Critters

Just like so many other wild birds, turkeys enjoy a great variety of other tiny creatures like worms, grubs, and various other creepy crawlies.

If they can find it, peck it out, or scratch it up, they will eat it. All supply protein and other nutrients that turkeys need in order to thrive.

Naturally, many of these sources are unavailable in the wintertime but turkeys will feast in the spring and summer.

What Can Domesticated Turkeys Eat?

If anything, domestic turkeys enjoy an even more varied menu than their wild cousins. They can still eat all the same things, make no mistake, but these domestic birds get access to all sorts of delicacies and treats that they would never conceivably get out in nature.

But just because that is so does not mean that these interesting foods aren’t healthy or good for them!

Turkey Feed

Turkeys kept in captivity have access, usually, to their own specially formulated just like chickens and ducks do. Turkey-specific pellets and other mass-produced food contain the ideal ratio of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals for their biology.

It’s often expensive, at least it’s more expensive compared to chicken feed, but it is a mainstay item for most domestic birds.

Chicken Feed

Your turkeys will probably prove to be inveterate thieves of chicken feed if they can get to it so it’s a relief to know that it won’t hurt them and contains much in the way of nutrition that they need.

However, chicken feed is nutritionally balanced for chickens and often medicated, so don’t let your turkeys get access to any medicated feed- since they eat so much more than chickens, it’s highly likely that they will overdose if they get it.

Chick/Starter Feed

Just like chicken feed above, turkeys can safely eat chick, also known as starter, feed safely as long as it isn’t medicated. But as I warned you above, because they eat so much more, they will easily clean out a small feeder of the stuff!


Domestic turkeys love to get all kinds of seeds, with black oil sunflower seeds being among their very favorites, though they will eat grass seeds, seeds from fruit and veggies, and anything else they can find.

Seeds are packed with protein and good fats along with tons of minerals that they need.


Acorns are a good item for domestic turkeys, and one they are used to eating in a wild setting. Contrary to popular belief, unless turkeys are eating tons of acorns day in and day out, they won’t hurt them.

Tannins, a toxic compound that acorns contain, are problematic but as long as your turkeys are getting a well-rounded diet there is no issue.


As genuinely omnivorous birds, turkeys can eat all kinds of meat- beef, pork, poultry, and more- and have even been known to peck at fresh carcasses in the wild.

Owners can serve their flocks all sorts of nutritious meat in captivity, but it should not be the majority item in a well-rounded diet.


Turkeys eat little reptiles in the wild, and they’ll eat them in captivity also. No matter where you live, unless you live someplace that is truly frozen all the time, there are always tiny little lizards, skinks, and other critters running around. Turkeys will eat them all!


Turkeys can eat all sorts of insects on the homestead. They will chow down on flies, beetles, ticks, centipedes, ants, termites, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, crickets and a whole lot more.

All have different nutritional profiles but you can generally depend on them containing plenty of protein, good fats and minerals.

A great source of energy that you can serve to your flock deliberately or let them forage for when free-ranging.


Just like lizards and insects, turkeys are always going to have access to worms and one form or another while in captivity. You can also supplement their diet with purchased mealworms or other types.

They’re full of protein and good fats and minerals that will benefit turkeys. Let your turkeys free-range after a good rain, and they will get lots of worms to eat.


Watermelons are greatly loved by turkeys, and they’re wonderful for giving them a boost of energy and additional hydration on hot days.

Watermelon is also a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A, but like most fruits should be a limited part of their diet because they are so sugary. And yes, turkeys can eat the seeds safely.


How do you do is another melon that is great for turkeys, and one that they love to get as a treat. Soft and easy to digest, it is a good source of vitamins.

But once again, watch the quantity because they are still pretty sugary even though they aren’t as sweet as watermelon.


Another melon, and another kind that turkeys love. Cantaloupes are very nutritious and easy to digest, and they also contain edible seeds that turkeys will be more than happy to eat for extra vitamins and minerals.


Turkeys can eat the skin and flesh of apples, and both are easy for them to digest though they should only get the flesh and limited quantities because it’s so sugary and has a tendency to cause upset stomach or diarrhea if they get too much.

Apple seeds are one of the few that turkeys shouldn’t eat, and that’s because they contain compounds that will turn into cyanide when digested. One or two aren’t going to harm your turkeys, but make it a point to remove the seeds prior to serving.


Another deliciously delectable treat for turkeys, peaches have a decent amount of vitamins A and C but aren’t as nutritious as some other fruits. Nonetheless, they are beneficial and are a wonderful treat.

Serve sparingly, and discard the pit: it is too hard even for turkeys to break down and it is also toxic if digested in the same way that apple seeds are.


Strawberries, like all berries, are truly beloved by turkeys and they make a wonderful snack or supplement for them.

Packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants, along with a surprisingly good amount of manganese, strawberries are another disease-fighting food that your birds can have.

But, as with all fruit, watch the quantity and the feeding schedule because too much sugar is bad for them.


No surprise here, turkeys can and will eat blueberries. But blueberries are even sweeter than strawberries, though they have even more to offer concerning vitamins and minerals.

Serve them to your flock on a limited basis and they will reap maximum benefit without risking diarrhea or other ill effects. These are a great treat to dole out one at a time for bonding with or trying to train your turkeys.


Grapes are a good option for giving your turkeys a sweet treat, some easily digestible carbohydrates for energy and a smattering of vitamins and other antioxidants.

Like every fruit on this list, the sugar content is a drawback, so turkeys should only get grapes occasionally as part of a well-rounded diet. They can also eat the seeds of varieties that have them.


Raisins are just dried grapes, but the drying process concentrates the sugar and removes moisture, meaning these should only be given to your turkeys as a rare treat or something to help them cope with stress.

They also supply some needed minerals, but make sure you watch the quantity!


Another food that turkeys would never, ever conceivably get in the wild, it is nonetheless a nutritious and sweet treat for them. But pay attention to what I said: it is a treat only!

Pineapple is great for helping turkeys resist disease thanks to its abundant antioxidants but it’s way too sugary and moist for them to have daily.


How in the world would a turkey ever get a banana in the wild? Doesn’t matter, because they can eat them! Bananas are a great source of nutrients that turkeys need like vitamin B6, potassium and other electrolytes. Turkeys can also eat the peels, but most don’t like them.


Tomatoes are rich, juicy and packed with vitamins, particularly vitamin A and vitamin C.

Loaded with other antioxidants, they are great immune system boosters for turkeys, however, they should be fed on a limited basis because they have a tendency to cause diarrhea and potentially crop problems if they get too much.

Caution: turkeys should never eat any other part of the tomato plant because they contain toxic solanine.


Pumpkin is a truly great food for turkeys, and is an easily digestible source of many vitamins and dietary fiber, with vitamins A, E and C being quite abundant. Compared to other fruits and veggies, pumpkins are also relatively low on sugar.

Turkeys are also one of the few types of poetry that can easily handle the large seeds of pumpkins. Although these birds are strong, you’ll probably need to bust open the pumpkin so they can access the soft flesh inside.


Carrots have a reputation as a healthy vegetable and that’s with good reason. They provide tons of vitamin A and beta carotene along with B-complex vitamins that will greatly boost the nervous system and eye health in turkeys. They have many other benefits besides!

Turkeys can eat the greens and the taproot itself, but make sure you finally chop or gently cook the latter because they can be a little tough to digest otherwise.


Don’t be fooled by the slander against celery: it’s a surprisingly nutritious veggie, and one that is easily digestible and greatly beneficial for turkeys.

Celery has lots of good vitamins including vitamin A, K and C, and minerals too. Greatly beneficial, but feed it sparingly compared to other veggies because of its water content. Too much moisture-rich food can give turkeys loose stools or diarrhea.


Lettuce, like lots of other leafy vegetables, is a good choice for turkeys although each variety has a different nutritional profile with some being better and some being worse. The more nutritious varieties will have lots of vitamins and a few minerals.

All lettuce is easy for turkeys to digest, but you still don’t want to overdo it because it is another food that contains a lot of water, which can cause gut problems.


One of the most nutritionally complete leafy vegetables out there, kale is chock full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that will benefit turkeys.

However, kale also contains oxalic acid in abundance, a compound that can interfere with the absorption of calcium and iron in birds. It must be fed sparingly and rotated with other vegetables for safety.


Potatoes can be a good source of carbohydrates and minerals for turkeys, but they can also be problematic. Ideally, potatoes will be cooked prior to serving and only served plain.

However, they’re too starchy for turkeys to eat on the regular, and green potatoes as well as all other parts of the potato plant are toxic because they contain solanine just like tomato plants elsewhere on this list.


Corn is a wonderful source of calories for turkeys, and is especially important for helping them beat stress or as a warming feed during the coldest months. It also has lots of minerals that are beneficial for them. Corn has a marked tendency to cause weight gain, so watch the quantities.


Turkeys can eat raw or cooked rice, but cooked rice, as long as it’s plain, is a little bit easier for them to digest. All kinds of rice are loaded with minerals and are a good source of calories.


Turkeys, like our ducks and chickens, can have bread as a treat every now and then. But you should keep in mind that it is junk food. That’s it.

It’ll give them a little bit of energy, but it’s tough for them to digest and is notorious for causing serious issues in birds when they get too much or get it too often. Don’t overdo it!

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