Find out all about different heritage turkey breeds, what they look like and their characteristics.
The turkey has become a major source of meat worldwide. In the United States alone, turkeys account for over $1.5 billion in annual sales. This makes them the third largest poultry species behind chickens and ducks.
Turkeys are raised commercially for their meat.
They are usually fed corn, soybeans, wheat, and other grains. Commercial turkeys are bred to produce large quantities of meat at a young age. The average weight of a mature male turkey can reach up to 10 pounds. Female turkeys weigh about 2-3 times as much.
Heritage turkeys are raised for their eggs or meat. They are not bred to grow quickly like commercial turkeys. Their meat is leaner than that of commercial turkeys. They have been selectively bred to be more docile and easier to handle.
In addition to being raised for their meat, heritage turkeys are also raised for their eggs. Some heritage breeders raise only turkeys for egg production. Others raise both turkeys for meat and hens for eggs. These turkeys are called dual purpose birds.
Bourbon Red Turkey
The Bourbon Red is a breed of domestic turkey. It was developed in the United States by crossing two other breeds, the Narragansett and the Bronze Partridge. The original Bourbon Reds were produced from turkeys that had been bred for meat. However, they were crossed with partridges to produce another type of turkey which was used for breeding.
The Bourbon Red is a medium sized bird weighing around 6-7 lbs. Its plumage is red with black barring on its head and neck. It has a white beard patch under its chin. Its legs are orange/red in color.
The Bourbon Red was first introduced into the United States in 1867. Since then it has spread throughout North America and Europe. Today there are several varieties of this turkey. There are three main types:
• Bourbon Red Meat
• Bourbon Red Dual Purpose
• Bourbon Red Egg Layer
Bourbon Reds are known for their excellent flavor. They are very tender and flavorful when cooked. They are good producers of high quality eggs.
Bourbon Reds are easy to care for. They require little space and do well in confinement. They are relatively quiet and calm. They are generally friendly towards humans.
Heritage Bronze Turkey
The Heritage Bronze Turkey is a heritage turkey breed developed in the United States. It was created by combining two breeds of domestic turkeys, the Rhode Island Red and the New Hampshire White. The first Heritage Bronze turkey was produced at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1971.
This turkey is a medium sized bird with a body weight of 7-8 lbs. Its plumage colors include bronze with black barring on its face. Its legs are dark brown.
The Heritage Bronze Turkey originated in the United States. Today there are several different varieties of this turkey. Most of these varieties are kept for their meat.
These turkeys are easy to care for because they require little space and do fine in confinement. They are fairly quiet and calm. They tend to be friendly towards people.
Bronze Partridge Turkey
The Bronze Partridge is a heritage turkey breed. It was developed in England in the early 1900s. This turkey is a medium sized chicken with an average body weight of 5-6 lbs. Its plumage color is silver gray with black bars on its head and neck, and black barring on its breast. Its legs are yellowish-orange.
The Bronze Partridge originated in England. Today there are several variations of this turkey. Many of them are raised for their meat.
Bronze Partridges are easy to care for as they require little space and can live in confinement. They are not aggressive or noisy. They are generally friendly toward people.
Heritage Buff Turkey
The Heritage Buff Turkey is a heritage turkey variety. It was developed in Canada in the 1950s. This turkey is also called the Canadian Buff. It is a medium sized bird that weighs between 4-5 lbs. Its plumage has buffy-gray coloring with black barring on its back and wings. Its legs are light pink in color.
The Heritage Buff Turkey originated in Canada. Today there are many different varieties of this turkey including some that are dual purpose. These birds have been selectively bred for egg production.
Buff Turkeys are easier to care for than other heritage varieties. They require less space and do well in confined environments. They are fairly quiet but still make noise if you get too close. They are generally friendly.
Heritage Black Copper Turkey
The Heritage Black Copper Turkey is a heritage turkey species. It was developed in Australia in the 1970s. This turkey is medium sized with an average body weight between 6-7 lbs. Its plumage is black with copper coloring on its head and neck. Its legs are orange.
The Heritage Black Copper Turkey originated in Australia. There are currently three different types of this turkey. All of them are raised primarily for their meat.
Black Copper Turkeys are easy to care because they require little space. They are generally very docile. They are good around children and pets. They are friendly towards people.
Black Copper Turkeys are known for being hardy. They are able to withstand temperatures up to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Harvey Spotted Heritage Turkey
The Harvey Spotted Heritage turkey is a turkey developed in England during the 1800’s. Today it is quite rare but still found across Northern Europe and the US. This turkey is a medium weight bird that ranges from 16lb to 28lb.
These turkeys have creamy white feathers everywhere with some light cinnamon stippling. Their legs and feet are Salmon pink that brown as they age. The females are similar but are less heavily speckled.
Narragansett Heritage Turkey
The Narragansett turkey was originally developed in Rhode Island, USA. Today it is found throughout North America and in selective places across Europe (Such as our smallholding!). This turkey is a medium sized bird weighing about 7 lbs. Its plumage includes a grayish brown base color with darker streaks on its head and neck region. Its legs are yellow.
The Narraganset turkey originated in Rhode Island, USA in the early 1900s. Today there are four different types of this turkey: one for meat production, one for breeding, one for exhibition, and one for show.
The Narraganset turkey is a dual purpose bird. It can be used both for meat and eggs. It requires little space and does well in confinement. It is docile and gentle. It is easily handled by children and adults alike.
Norfolk Black Heritage Turkey
The Norfolk Black Heritage turkey was originally developed in England. Today it is found all over the world. The Norfolk Black Heritage turkey is a medium sized turkey that weighs 5-6 lbs.
Its plumage has a deep black base color with lighter colored feathers on its face and neck. Its legs have a reddish tinge.
The Norfolk Black Heritage Turkey originated in England in the late 1800s. Today there are several different types of this turkey including ones bred for meat and others bred for egg laying.
The Norfolk Black Turkey is a dual purpose bird that can be used for either meat or eggs. It needs little space and is tolerant of cold weather. It is docile, gentle and friendly.
Suffolk White Turkey
The Suffolk White Turkey is a heritage turkey from England. It was developed in 1892. Today it is found worldwide. This turkey is a medium-sized bird weighing 6-8 lbs. Its plumage consists of a light blue base color with a white belly and tail. Its legs are yellow with a pinkish tint.
The Suffolk White Turkey originated in England in 1892. Today there are three different types of this turkey. One is used for meat production, another for breeding, and the third for exhibition.
The Suffolk White Turkey should only be kept in captivity if you plan to use it for meat. If you intend to keep it solely for eggs then you will want to find a breeder who raises them for egg product.
Pied Heritage Turkey
Pied is a breed of Heritage Turkey bred in Europe during the mid 1800s. They can range in size from 16 lbs and 22 lbs when they are fully grown.
Their necks are white with every feather ending in a fine black edge. Their backs are white with metallic black over saddle, which is more than often fringed with white.
Their tails are pure white with a wide black band across each feather near the end, ending in pure white at the end.
They are stunning birds, very docile and will breed naturally without assistance.