When you have a 20-pound turkey who’s a member of the Bourbon Red bird family, you really can’t name him anything but Big Red.
Dr. Jack Zibluk, a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, did just that. The owner of Big Red, Zibluk brought him to his Mass Media History class in Derthick Hall to show him off.
The turkey doesn’t have anything to do with the course, Zibluk acknowledged. He just thought it would be cool to let students see him.
“Students have their families. He’s part of my family,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘Hey, I’m not just someone who stands up there and goes ‘blah blah blah.’ I love to share my life.”
Along with Big Red, Zibluk said he has dogs and chickens at his home on Lookout Mountain.
Coyotes, who would love to make a turkey their dinner, aren’t really a problem. “He’s figured out how to evade them. He is one smart bird,” Zibluk said.
When it comes to barnyard fowl, Janean Anderson, a student in his Mass Media History class, has a connection with Zibluk. A freshman majoring in communications, she has about 20 chickens from several species at her home in Kingsport, Tennessee. They’re “basically” pets, she said.
“I have names for the majority of them. Most of them I cannot remember because they do look pretty similar,” she said.
Despite her self-doubt, she’s able to rattle off such names as Honeybun, Cocolatte, Button, Harriet, Cicada and Iris. She also has several dozen chicken selfies on her phone.
On a leash, Big Red is mostly well-behaved, although he tries to get out of his leash a couple of times, wings flapping and backing up to try to pull the leash over his head.
“He’s very friendly. He’s just a little shy at the moment,” Zibluk said.
Neither is Big Red trying to break out of his leash from fear, even though Thanksgiving is only a few days away.
“He’s not going to be on the menu,” Zibluk said.