Anyone who meets The Gentle Barn’s feathered friend, Adeline, is surprised by how affectionate and intelligent the turkey is.
“It’s really like being with feathered dogs,” The Gentle Barn’s Founder Ellie Laks said of her experience with girl turkeys.
Adeline is not the average barnyard turkey; she is a cuddle turkey that enjoys spending time with humans, nestling against their faces and falling asleep in their laps.
“It’s always the No. 1 most surprising thing. It literally changes people’s lives,” Laks said. “The idea of cuddling a turkey it’s not a common thing.”
Laks discovered the idea of cuddle turkeys nearly 18 years ago when a girl turkey followed her around while she was doing her barnyard chores.
“She kept following me, so after about 15 minutes I thought she was telling me something,” she said. “I sat down at the ground and she climbed into my lap and fell asleep… Girl turkeys like to cuddle and we’ve been cuddling turkeys ever since.”
After Adeline was rescued from Thanksgiving in 2015, she was rehabilitated by workers at The Gentle Barn and began cuddling with its visitors and taking trips to schools.
“We take her to school and she rides in the car and looks out the window. She walks down the sidewalk right next to us,” Laks said. “When she hears the voices of the children she starts running and goes right into the middle of the school yard and sits down so everyone can pet her. She understands her job, she loves being with people and getting affection.”
Now, The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita has four total cuddle turkeys, Alice, Sun, Nalla and Adeline. However, the birds tend to fight for attention when visitors arrive at the animal sanctuary.
Because of this, and a need for a cuddle turkey at The Gentle Barn location in Tennessee, Adeline and Laks will make a five-day trip from California to Tennessee to bring Adeline to her new home and to raise awareness about the intelligence of turkeys.
The duo will also be making stops in each state to engage with the public before arriving in Tennessee for The Gentle Barn Fundraiser April 7 and the Veg Fest in Nashville April 8.
“We’re arriving just in time for our Gentle Barn Fundraiser at Kings Chapel and Adeline will be the star celebrity there,” Laks said.
Laks hopes the cross-country trip “puts turkeys on the map” and teaches people that turkeys have the same intelligence as dogs.
“I’m really hoping the experience with Adeline with help them realize that turkeys have the same personalities, wants and desires as any of us,” she said. “If I can accomplish that for one person, that will make the trip worth it for me.”
Individuals are welcome to meet Laks and Adeline at their various stops as they travel through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Laks will also be livestreaming their journey on The Gentle Barn’s Facebook.
Although Laks is excited for Adeline to be a star in her new home, she said it will be difficult to let one of her cuddle turkeys go.
“I can’t even think about this without crying,” she said. “I know they need a cuddle turkey and that she needs more attention but I don’t want to leave her. It’s going to be really hard.”
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