A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Why can't you buy turkey eggs in stores?

March 6, 1998

Dear Cecil:

They sell chicken, duck, quail, and some other eggs in a lot of stores. Is there a reason I haven't seen turkey eggs being sold?

Cecil replies:

Barnyard economics, babe. Turkeys don't lay that many eggs, and the ones they do lay are used to produce more turkeys. The average egg-laying chicken lays 300 or so eggs per year, while the average turkey produces only 100 to 120. Chickens come into production at 19 to 20 weeks of age, but turkeys don't get cranking until 32 weeks. Turkeys are also much larger, averaging 16 to 17 pounds compared to 3.5 pounds for chickens. So you'd need a lot more room for a bird that would take a lot longer to produce a lot fewer eggs.

Another problem is that turkeys go "broody" easily — they want to sit on their eggs and incubate them. In contrast, egg-producing white leghorn chickens have had the broodiness bred out of them. They lay and lay and have no desire to incubate their offspring or otherwise be maternal. You want to play in traffic? Fine! Whatever! Now let me go lay some more eggs. Proof that just because you can make a good breakfast doesn't mean you're a good mom.

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