Differences Between Tom and Hen Turkey (With Table)

Are you prepping to host a memorable Thanksgiving dinner but can’t decide on the type of turkey you need for the table? From selecting the desired size to deciding whether to buy a frozen or a fresh one, cooking a delicious turkey requires a lot of thought to be put into it. Before making a hurried purchase, it is imperative to know the difference between a tom and a hen turkey, as knowing the gender of the turkey is the key to buying the right turkey.

Tom Turkey vs Hen Turkey

The difference between tom turkey and hen turkey is that while the former is a male turkey, the latter is a female turkey. A tom turkey is varied from a hen turkey not only in the aspect of gender but also in weight, appearance, bone to meat ratio, and in time taken to mature.

Tom turkeys are matured male turkeys and are also known as Gobblers. A tom turkey weighs between 8 to 10 kgs and ideally matures within 20 weeks. Tom Turkey has bigger bones and isn’t quite meaty. Studies reveal that tom turkeys have poor leg health in comparison to hen turkeys despite being the same age. This is because the toms grow rapidly in their early days, which increases their potential to develop leg disorders.

Hen turkeys are full-grown female turkeys. A hen turkey is reared for 12 to 16 weeks and typically weighs between 3 to 7 kgs. However, if a hen turkey weighs about 10 to 12 kg, it develops a layer of fat that adds a flavor to the turkey on being roasted. Hen turkeys are smaller in size and weigh lesser than a tom turkey. They have more meat and fewer bones.

Comparison Table Between Tom and Hen Turkey

Parameters of ComparisonTom TurkeyHen Turkey
GenderMaleFemale
Size and WeightBig and weighs within 8 to 10 kgsRelatively small and weighs between 10 to 12 kgs
Physical AppearanceHave larger spurs and caruncles. During the breeding season, its snood extends and darkens in colorTheir snoods, spurs, and caruncles are small. The feathers on their head and neck are small and either white or blueish-grayish in color
Color of FeathersBlack in color with hues of bronze, copper, gold, green, blue and redBrownish in color with buffy, gray, or white-tipped breast feathers
Bone to Meat RatioHave larger bones and less meatHave small bones and is meatier

What is Tom Turkey?

Tom turkeys are adult male turkeys. Along with making about 30 types of calls, a tom turkey is also called a Gobbler as it makes gobble sounds. It takes a male turkey about 20 weeks to mature and typically weighs between 8 to 10 kgs. Their bigger size is a result of their bigger bones and lesser flesh.

A full-grown tom turkey is usually black with iridescent gold, bronze, copper, red, green, and blue hues. It has big caruncles that are fleshy, red bumps covering its neck and head. Developing blue skin around the caruncles is unique to tom turkeys, and a brightly colored, large caruncle is an indicator of the bird’s sexual fitness.

A bit of skin from the base of a tom turkey’s beak hangs loose and is called a snood. This is its most striking physical feature because, during the breeding season, the snood extends past the beak and darkens in color depending on the turkey’s level of excitement. Hen turkeys are more attracted to tom turkeys with a longer and larger snood as it is a sign of their good health.

They also have beards that are 5 to 12 inches long. In an effort to please the hen turkey, the tom turkey fans out its tail feathers magnificently.

Not all tom turkeys can sire poults. Only the dominant ones can sire whilst the subordinate tom turkey assists the dominant one in mating.

Cooking a tom turkey would mean that the bones will be bigger and the meat little. However, the meat will be tender if the turkey isn’t too old.

What is Hen Turkey?

Hen turkey is an adult female turkey. It is smaller than a tom and weighs about 3 to 7 kgs. It takes approximately 12 to 16 weeks to rear up a hen turkey.

They are not as attractive as their male counterpart. Hen turkeys are brown and have gray or white-tipped breast feathers.

Their caruncles and snoods are small and not as brightly colored as the tom turkeys. Unlike the tom, the hen turkeys cannot extend their snoods but find males with longer, larger, and brighter snoods more appealing as it is an indicator of being physically fit.

Though rare, a few hen turkeys can grow beards too. They also do not fan their tails to attract tom turkeys.

The females are capable of laying nine to thirteen eggs. The healthier hen turkeys nest earlier in comparison to females who aren’t in good condition.

Ideally, a hen turkey should weigh between 3 to 7 kgs, but if it weighs around 10 kgs, it suggests that the turkey has developed a layer of fat which, after being roasted, adds a juicier texture and flavor to the meat.

Main Differences Between Tom and Hen Turkey

  1. A tom turkey is about 3 feet tall and weighs 8 to 10 kgs, but a hen turkey is approximately 2 to 2.5 ft tall and weighs around 3 to 6 kgs.
  2. While tom turkey has bigger bones and lesser meat, a hen turkey has small bones and is meatier.
  3. A tom turkey has brightly colored snood and caruncles. In contrast, a hen turkey has small snood and caruncles, which are dull in color.
  4. A tom turkey grows faster in its early days and has relatively low mobility. Whereas a hen turkey’s growth in the initial days isn’t as rapid as a tom’s and has high mobility.
  5. While only the dominant tom turkeys can sire poults and the subordinate tom turkeys can only assist the former in mating, all hen turkeys can lay eggs.

Conclusion

Even though tom and hen turkeys are both turkeys, their gender and appearance are not all that differentiates them. A tom turkey has more bones, and a hen turkey is meatier. Therefore, whether you wish to purchase a tom or a hen depends on whether you require a big turkey to host a big gathering or whether you prefer a turkey with fewer bones and more meat.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0032579119306297
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1056617119313819
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