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Here in KY. we had 5500 turkeys freeze to death at a turkey farm, someone turned off the heat in their barn. Why didn't the turkeys and or chickens at the local farmers freeze? They have no heat in their barns at all. But yet at the farms raising only turkeys, thousands of them they freeze to death without heat.
Question Date: 2007-01-18
Answer 1:

When scientists get a question like this, we come up with several guesses, which we call hypotheses. Then we gather information and throw out the hypotheses that don't work. Here are my hypotheses:

1. The temperature at the "frozen turkey" farm was lower than local temperatures where they didn't freeze.
2. The turkeys that froze were in barns that were not as well insulated as the local ones.
3. There was a lower density of turkeys at the "frozen turkey" farm so there was less turkey body heat available to keep the turkeys warm.
4. The turkeys that died were used to warmer conditions. When animals, including us, spend a long time in a hot or cold environment, our bodies change a bit. (I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and it has been below freezing, sometimes close to zero, here for many days. Now it's nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit and it feels warm. If I were just getting back from a visit to the tropics, or it was summer, 40 degrees would feel cold to me.) Maybe the turkeys that live in the unheated barns all the time had time to slowly adjust to colder temperatures by growing more insulation in the form of fat and downy feathers.
5. The breeds of turkey are different and they have different sensitivity to the cold.

In order to test my hypotheses I would need to gather information on things like the local temperatures on the night of the big freeze, the type of barns, the density of the turkeys, and the types of turkeys. I could get rid of any hypotheses that didn't fit the evidence. For example, if the temperature was the same in all the areas, or if it was warmer where the turkeys froze than where they didn't, I would reject (throw out) the first hypothesis. If the evidence did fit, for example if it was warmer where they didn't freeze, I would say that my hypothesis was supported. I wouldn't know that I had the right answer just that I had a possible answer.

What are your hypotheses? How could you test them?
Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

Wow, how awful for the turkeys!Without knowing anything about the specific circumstances of this tragedy, it is difficult to say what exactly might be going on. However, your observation is a very interesting one, and you are right to infer that something was clearly different at the big farm compared to the local ones! By using some reason, we can try to speculate what the difference might have been.

First, we might wonder if there was something different about the turkeys. Its possible that the turkeys at the local farms were of a different type than the turkeys at the big factory farm, and the local turkeys might have been of a type that is more tolerant to the cold. That is one possibility. It also may be that the turkeys at both farms are the same, but the ones in the factory farm were used to having a heater, so they werent adapted very well to survive the cold, while the turkeys at the smaller farms were more used to it.

The other thing to consider is what might have been different at the actual farms. For example, in the factory farm the turkeys may have been kept in cages with concrete floors. Under such conditions, there is no place to go to stay warm: the cages are open to air flowing through, and the floor could be cold as well. This may be why they needed heaters in the first place! The local farms, in contrast, were more likely to have a smaller barn with straw on the floor and solid walls. This would allow the turkeys to snuggle into a corner or against a wall and the straw would help keep them warm. Also because the room is smaller it is easier to keep warm-- the body heat from the turkeys together can raise the temperature inside a small room, but a large room is just too big for the turkeys to be able to warm the air at all.

Whether these are the actual explanations are not is impossible to tell without more information, but certainly any of these could be the reason the turkeys in the smaller farms lived while the ones in the factory farm did not!

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