Roasts of nested birds or other animals have been documented for centuries. The Yorkshire Christmas pie, an English dish served in the 18th century, consists of five different birds either layered or nested, and baked in a standing crust. The pie was normally produced only by the wealthy.
In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière presents his rôti sans pareil ("roast without equal")—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a wood****, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler—although he states that, since similar roasts were produced by ancient Romans, the rôti sans pareil was not entirely novel. The final bird is very small but large enough to hold just an olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing placed in between the birds. Some of the species used are today endangered.
A November 2005 National Geographic article by Calvin Trillin traced the American origins of the dish to "Hebert's Specialty Meats" in Maurice, Louisiana, although readers immediately noted that the concept for the dish itself is centuries old. Hebert's has been commercially producing turduckens since 1985, when an unknown local farmer brought in his own birds and asked Hebert's to prepare them in that manner. The company prepares around 5,000 turduckens per week around Thanksgiving time.
In the United Kingdom, a turducken is a type of ballotine called a "three-bird roast" or a "royal roast". The Pure Meat Company offered a five-bird roast (a goose, a turkey, a chicken, a pheasant, and a pigeon, stuffed with sausage), described as a modern revival of the traditional Yorkshire Christmas pie, in 1989; and a three-bird roast (a duck stuffed with chicken stuffed with a pigeon, with sage and apple stuffing) in 1990. Multi-bird roasts are widely available.
Gooducken is a goose stuffed with a duck, which is in turn stuffed with a chicken.
The YouTube channel Epic Meal Time made their variation of turducken with what they call "TurBaconEpic." It is a roasted pig wrapped in bacon, basted in a mixture of butter and Dr. Pepper which is stuffed with bacon stuffing and a bacon wrapped turkey stuffed with a duck, chicken, Cornish game hen, quail, the bacon stuffing, and more bacon, all held together with "meat glue" (a mixture of ground bacon, veal, and pork sausage), and was garnished with Wendy's Baconators. The finished product yielded 79,046 calories, and 6,892 grams of fat (equivalent to 14.35 pounds of fat).
John Madden, noted NFL analyst, popularized the turducken in America when on air. During his announcing for CBS he presented a turducken to the viewers, then began carving it with his bare hands. Later he promoted it again on Fox by awarding a turducken to players on the winning team for the Thanksgiving Bowl. On the November 9, 2008 broadcast of NBC Sunday Night Football, Madden responded to a fan's sign reading "JOHN MADDEN, BRING BACK TURDUCKEN" by calling his fixation with turducken "a thing of the past," stating that he would return to a traditional turkey for subsequent Thanksgivings.