Glossary of commonly used turkey terms

Never heard of that poultry term? This glossary of terms can help
calendar icon 27 October 2022
clock icon 11 minute read

We want to give credit to the original authors of this listing. It comes from USDA's Poultry Industry Manual: The Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (FAD PReP)/National Animal Health Emergency Management System (NAHEMS) Guidelines

Please note: these terms will lean toward those used in the North American turkey market. 

All In/All Out

Management system in which all birds are placed on a farm at the same time and they are all removed from the farm at the same time; provides a period of “down time” between flocks when there are no birds on the farm

Barrel Surveillance

Examination of fresh mortality that has been placed into a plastic bag and a barrel by the roadway for foreign animal disease sampling


A tufted mass of long, black, hair-like bristle feathers that extends from a specialized area of skin on the lower neck; length of the beard determines trophy status of wild turkeys; some hens may also have beards but they are small

Brooder Hub

Farm dedicated to brooding that provides turkeys to finishing farms at around 5 weeks of age; off-site brooding; one brooder hub supplies turkeys to several finishing farms


The period in the production cycle when poults are in the brooder house; they will require supplemental heat for 2-4 weeks depending on environmental temperatures

Broodiness, Broody Hen

Hen in the early stages of ceasing to produce eggs. A number of procedures are used to identify affected hens and prevent them from going out of production.


Hard, dry crust composed of manure, moisture, and litter that forms on the litter surface especially around feeders and drinkers where turkeys defecate most frequently


Young replacement breeder that has the desired characteristics for becoming a parent breeder


Fleshy, round protuberances on the unfeathered skin of the neck


10 to 12 week period between selection and transfer to the laying house when breeder hen candidates are maintained on 6 to 8 hours of light


Individuals on the platform of a turkey loader who place turkeys into coops


Everting the vagina of the breeder hen in preparation for insemination


Birds that are non-responsive to stimuli, do not move away when approached, runted or markedly stunted, cannot eat or drink, are a disease risk for the flock, are severely persecuted by other birds, are not marketable, or need to be removed from the flock for humane purposes

Curtain House

Part or all of the house wall is open but covered by a curtain that can be raised or lowered to control ventilation; fans often supplement air movement

Dark-Out House

Light-proof housing used for conditioning replacement breeder hens

Demand Organs

Tissues that are critical for survival and normal function, e.g., brain, heart, lungs, digestive organs, etc.


Fold of skin that extends from the lower beak to the middle of the neck


Acronym for “dead-on-arrival”, birds are dead when they arrive at the brooder hub, finishing farm, or processing plant; flocks with respiratory disease or adverse environmental conditions during load out and hauling are associated with more DOA birds at processing

Down Time

Interval between when a house or farm is cleaned and disinfected and the next flock is placed.  Minimum recommended down time is 10 days. Longer the down time the more opportunity there is for infectious agents to die.

Exotic Disease

Disease that does not occur naturally in the U.S.. Syn. Foreign disease

Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Virus

An avian paramyxovirus 1 that has an intra-cerebral pathogenicity index (ICPI) of at least 0.7, or has multiple basic amino acids at the hemagglutinin cleavage site typical of a virulent Newcastle disease virus. Viruses previously classified as mesogenic, viscerotropic velogenic, and neurotropic velogenic are included.


Sterile diluent used to dilute semen to the optimal concentration of spermatozoa for insemination

Finishing (Grow-Out)

The period of time in the production cycle between brooding and processing; turkeys are in the finishing house on a finishing farm

Finishing Farm

Farm dedicated to growing the turkeys from brooding to processing. Syn. Grow out farm.


Poles with one or more strips of plastic or cloth attached to the end used for moving turkeys


Young poults less than a few days old that get over on their backs and cannot right themselves

Floor Eggs

Eggs not laid in the nest that usually are more soiled and contaminated than nest eggs


Common name for diarrhea in a flock. May result from enteric disease, nutrition, or following a period of feed deprivation.

Foreign Animal Disease

Disease that does not occur naturally in animals in the U.S. Syn. Exotic disease


Common name for the skeleton of a turkey; used to select potential breeders

Germinal Disc

Small white spot on the yolk where fertilization and embryo development occurs. Syn. blastodisc


Distinctive sound made by an adult male turkey


Common name for an adult male turkey. Syn. Stag (European), Tom (North American)


Female turkey that is no longer a poult; term used for both immature and mature female turkeys


Specialized incubator that provides specific conditions for hatching, typically during the last 3 days of incubation


Facility that is dedicated to the storage, incubation, and hatching of fertile eggs to produce poults

Hatch Residue

Material left behind in hatching trays after the poults have been removed

Heritage Turkey

Specific pure breeds of turkeys recognized in the Standard of Perfection judging guide including Black, Bronze, Narragansett, White Holland, Slate, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White, and Royal Palm. Term may also be used to describe other color varieties. Characteristics are ability to mate naturally, long reproductive period, ability to thrive in free-range systems, and slow growth

High Pathogenicity (Highly Pathogenic) Avian Influenza (HPAI) Virus

H5 or H7 avian influenza viruses that have an intravenous pathogenicity index (IVPI) in 6 week old chickens >1.2, causes mortality in at least 75% of intravenously inoculated 4-8 week old chickens, has multiple basic amino acids at the hemagglutinin cleavage site typical of a virulent influenza virus, or can infect cell cultures in the absence of trypsin

Hospital Pen

Separate area where weak, flip-over, and other poor growing poults can be placed for recovery; they have access to fresh feed and water, but are kept at a lower temperature


Machine that provides conditions necessary for normal embryo development, typically during the first 25 days for turkeys; may be single-stage (contains a single age group of eggs) or multi-stage (continuous flow of different age groups of eggs); common name = setter

Intracerebral pathogenicity index (ICPI)

Ten one-day-old SPF chicks are inoculated intracerebrally with 0.05 ml of a 1:10 dilution of allantoic fluid from infected chick embryos and observed for 8 days. Each day, chicks are scored as 0 (normal), 1 (sick), or 2 (dead). An average score of 0.7 or higher during the observation period confirms an avian paramyxovirus 1 is Newcastle disease virus.

Intravenous Pathogenicity Index (IVPI)

Ten 4-8 week-old SPF chickens are inoculated intravenously with 0.1 ml of a 1:10 dilution of allantoic fluid from infected chick embryos and observed for 10 days. Each day, chickens are scored as 0 (normal), 1 (sick), 2 (severely sick), or 3 (dead). An average score of 1.2 or higher during the observation period confirms an avian influenza virus is highly pathogenic


Percent of flock placed at hatch that is processed; opposite of mortality. Livability + mortality = 100.


Process of removing turkeys from the finishing farm to take them to the processing plant

Low Pathogenicity (Low Pathogenic) Avian Influenza (LPAI) Virus

An avian influenza virus that does not meet the definition of a high pathogenicity avian influenza virus

Lux (lx)

A standard measurement of light intensity, one lux is the amount of light cast by one lumen over a square meter; one foot candle equals 10.8 lx


Process of collecting semen from male turkeys to be used for insemination


A poult that was identified as the wrong sex in the hatchery, typically these will make up less than 2% of a flock


Percent of the flock showing clinical signs


Percent of the flock placed at hatch that is not processed; opposite of livability. Mortality + + Livability = 100.

Multiplier Breeders

Parent breeders that produce commercial turkeys; usually owned by the integrator

Nutrient Budget

Distribution of nutrients for maintenance, immune stress, demand organs, and supply organs


Toms from the hen line parents (females from the tom line are retained by the breeder company)


Immature female reproductive cell in the ovary; ovulated and becomes an ovum after meiosis


Haploid female reproductive cell that develops from an oocyte after the second polar body is formed during meiosis; occurs in the infundibulum of the oviduct


Purposeful persistent harassment and infliction of injury on a bird by one or more birds in the flock; commonly erroneously called cannibalism


Hen or tom does not respond to light stimulation by sexual development or production of eggs or spermatozoa; normal in the juvenile bird


Hen or tom responds to light stimulation by developing secondary sex characteristics or behavior and initiates production of eggs or spermatozoa


Increasing the duration, intensity, and/or wavelength of light exposure to bring a flock into active reproduction


Internal: penetration of the beak through the shell membrane into the air cell; External: penetration of the beak through the shell in preparation for hatching

Polar Body

Small nuclear remnant of meiosis in the ovum that results from asymmetrical cell division, contain excess chromosomal material and typically degenerates


Young turkey of either sex; there is no agreement on the age at which a turkey should no longer be called a poult; generally young turkeys that are still being brooded are called poults. It is inappropriate to call a young turkey a chick.

Poult Bus

Vehicle that transports poults from the hatchery to the brooding facility


Acronym for Personal Protective Equipment worn to protect against contamination and spread of infectious agents from one flock to another and to protect against infection with zoonotic agents

Primary Breeders

Lines of breeders owned and managed by the primary breeding company that produce the pedigree, great-grandparent, and grandparent generations

Range Turkeys

A production system that was common when turkey consumption was seasonal. After brooding, flocks were placed on pastures with shelters, feeders, and drinkers during the summer and marketed in the fall. Range production of commercial turkeys has been replaced by year-round confinement rearing.


Hens in a second lay cycle following a molt; term also used for a molted hen

Replacement Hens/Toms

Young parent breeding stock that is being raised to replace existing parent breeders after their production cycle has been completed


Fluid and spermatozoa produced by the male reproductive tract


Procedures done to poults in the hatchery to prevent diseases and trauma and prepare the poults for placement on the farm; includes sex determination, beak trimming, toe trimming, and injections of nutrients or pharmaceuticals

Settable Eggs

Normal sized and shaped, clean fertile eggs that can be placed into the incubator and are likely to hatch


Common name for an incubator


Amount of weight lost between load-out and processing.


Eggs that are laid without a shell; usually only the flattened shell membrane remains

Slicking Over

Litter that rapidly becomes wet and slimy when a flock develops diarrhea (“flushing”)

Snick, Snicking

Noise made when turkeys have an upper respiratory disease, equivalent to sneezing in mammals


An elongated, erectile appendage in the form of a tapering cylinder located in front of the eyes that hangs over the side of the head; prominently displayed by dominant males

Spermatozoon (- zoa, pl.)

Haploid male reproductive cell that unites with the ovum to produce an embryo; commonly called sperm


Percentage of packed spermatozoa in semen; compared to mammals, avian spermatocrits are very high because of the concentrated nature of avian semen

Sperm Holes

Multiple perforations in the vitelline membrane caused by spermatozoa entering the yolk; used as an indicator of fertility and normal spermatozoon function; a minimum of 50 sperm holes indicate fertility

Sperm Host (Storage) Glands

Specialized glands located at the base of tubules in folds at the junction of the shell gland and vagina that can maintain the viability of spermatozoa for as long as 2-3 weeks


Characteristic sitting position with lowered wings that signals a turkey hen is receptive for breeding


Male turkey, term used primarily in Europe. Syn. Tom.


Thin tube used for inseminating the hen with semen from a tom


Male breeding display, tail is erect and fanned out, wings are drooped, and often a “booming” sound accompanies strutting

Stud Farm

Farm where breeder toms are kept

Supply Organs

Tissues that are not essential for survival and normal function, e.g., muscles


Hens out of production, refers to the small, round, dry, contracted vent of these birds


Male turkey that is no longer a poult; term is used for both immature and mature male turkeys. Syn. Stag.

Tunnel House (Ventilation)

Solid wall housing that has evaporative cooling in one end and fans in the other end; negative pressure ventilation

Turkey Loader

Specialized machine that has a conveyor belt and can be raised and lowered to match coops on a trailer; used to transfer turkeys from a brooder hub to a finishing farm and from the finishing farm to the processing plant

Vent Sexing

Method to determine the gender of a poult by everting the vent and determining the presence or absence of a primordial phallus

Reference: "USDA APHIS | FAD Prep Industry Manuals". Aphis.Usda.Gov. 2013.

The manual was produced by the Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, College of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service through a cooperative agreement.

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