Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Turkeys have many of the same basic external parts as chickens—ears, earlobes, eyes, eye rings, beak, wings, tail, thighs, hocks, shanks, spurs, claws, and toes. However, some differences exist in the external anatomies of turkeys and chickens. For example, a turkey’s head (shown in Figure 1) differs from a chicken’s head in several ways. A turkey does not have a comb on the top of its head. Instead, it has a fleshy growth from the base of the beak known as the snood. The snood is longer in males and hangs down over the male turkey’s beak. A turkey has a wattle under its beak and fleshy growths on the head and neck called caruncles.

A male turkey, or a Tom, has a tuft of long, bristle-like fibers attached to the breast, as shown in Figure 2. This tuft is referred to as a beard.

Like chickens, turkeys walk on their toes, as shown in Figure 3. The hock is the equivalent of a human ankle, and the shank is the turkey’s foot.

Labeled parts of a turkey's head
Figure 1. Labeled parts of a turkey’s head (Image created by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky)
The beard of a turkey
Figure 2. Location of the beard on a male Bourbon Red Turkey (Image created by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky from original photo by lichko on Shutterstock.com)
Turkey leg parts
Figure 3. Parts of a male turkey’s foot (Image created by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky)


Poultry: A Guide to Anatomy and Selected Species, University of Illinois