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NATURE: My Life As A Turkey

Airs Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A turkey perches on Jeff Palmer's head.

After a local farmer left a bowl of eggs on Joe Hutto’s front porch, his life was forever changed. Hutto, possessing a broad background in the natural sciences and an interest in imprinting young animals, incubated the eggs and waited for them to hatch. As the chicks emerged from their shells, they locked eyes with an unusual but dedicated mother.

Jeff Palmer and turkeys resting on a log.
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Above: Jeff Palmer and turkeys resting on a log.

A turkey makes itself comfortable as Jeff Palmer reads a newspaper.
Enlarge this image

Above: A turkey makes itself comfortable as Jeff Palmer reads a newspaper.

Deep in the wilds of Florida’s Flatlands, Hutto spent each day living as a turkey mother, taking on the full-time job of raising sixteen turkey chicks. Hutto dutifully cared for his family around the clock, roosting with them, taking them foraging, and immersing himself in their world. In the process, they revealed their charming curiosity and surprising intellect.

There was little he could teach them that they did not already know, but he showed them the lay of the land and protected them from the dangers of the forest as best he could. In return, they taught him how to see the world through their eyes.

Based on his true story, "My Life As A Turkey" chronicles Hutto’s remarkable and moving experience of raising a group of wild turkey hatchlings to adulthood. Hutto’s story also became a book, "Illumination in the Flatlands."

“Had I known what was in store—the difficult nature of the study and the time I was about to invest—I would have been hard pressed to justify such an intense involvement. But, fortunately, I naively allowed myself to blunder into a two-year commitment that was at once exhausting, often overwhelming, enlightening, and one of the most inspiring and satisfying experiences of my life.” – Joe Hutto, "Illumination in the Flatwoods"

NATURE is on Facebook, and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter. Past episodes of NATURE are available for online viewing.


Preview: NATURE: My Life As A Turkey

Based on the true story of writer and naturalist Joe Hutto, this film chronicles Hutto's remarkable experience of imprinting wild turkey eggs and raising the hatchlings to adulthood.


My Life As A Turkey: A Grasshopper Run

Turkey mom Joe Hutto joins his three-month-old turkeys on a grasshopper hunt.


NATURE: My Life As A Turkey: Turkey Fight

Tensions rise as the male turkeys begin to practice displaying.

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Avatar for user 'MargaretGehres'

MargaretGehres | November 20, 2011 at 6:13 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you for this video. It encouraged me to adopt a flock of Turkeys from a farm sanctuary I read about called Free; I hope allot of people will do the same. So touched by this Documentary. Not eating Turkey this year....Isn't it all about the sides anyway. Love the beautiful Birds!

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Avatar for user 'kimr4627215'

kimr4627215 | November 24, 2011 at 6:59 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I was deeply touched by your documentary. I had a similar relationship with a male wild red checker racing pigeon. Also recently in Florida a Sandhill Crane. She seems to be attached to me..andher mate a pair of them befriended me. They sleep on my lakeview lot...went in my garage...wait for my acorns that drop on my trees in lawn. Hand feed them bread. When I come outside they come over to me..make noise and wait...I also had a pet Parakeet years ago named Sweet Pea"...I have a way with birds...lots of bird stories..and I cried at ending of your documentary. I also had a pet Ringneck dove for 14 years named CAndi. I am on Facebook Kimberly Kimmy

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