by Jennifer Sartell
Photos by author
I thought I liked chickens… until I raised turkeys. And while chickens will always have a special place in my heart, if I had one piece of advise to give to people who are wondering if they should raise turkeys, my answer would be YES!
They are wonderful!
If you’ve been following along with me this month, I’ve been talking turkey quite a bit. In this post I’d like to talk a little about different turkey breeds, which ones have sparked my interest, and which ones we are thinking about adding next year. I can’t give a ton of advice of which breeds are better, as this is our first year and I only have experience with Black Spanish. But I welcome those of you who have raised different breeds to share your experience by leaving a comment below, on the Community Chicken’s Facebook Page or at our blog Iron Oak Farm. Those of you who have raised multiple breeds and can give a comparison would be especially welcome to give your opinions and experiences.
Now that the processing is over, I’m excited that I can allow myself to become attached to the remaining birds. These selected turkeys will sustain our flock and I’m excited at the prospect of hatching poults in the spring and allowing our beautiful hens and remaining tom the chance to breed.
I have no complaints with our first year experience with the Black Spanish breed. The birds were a little small, but we knew that going into this breed. Some heritage breeds can take 2 years to reach full maturity, and according to the Mother Earth News article Raising Turkeys at Home by Herman Beck-Chenoweth they don’t develop the layer of basting fat until 22 weeks of age.
So we’re learning. I tease my husband Zach that we should just about have everything figured out by the time we’re too old to do this anymore.
One of the other breeds that has peeked my interest is the Bourbon Red and I plan on adding some of these birds in the spring. My job this winter is to line up a local breeder. This was our second choice for turkeys last spring. I think they are beautiful birds, maybe more beautiful than the Black Spanish. The taste is supposed to be fabulous and they are larger which would be nice for the holidays. But this year, the Black Spanish won out because we found a great opportunity to get our hands on some of these rare birds.
My other choice would be the Standard Bronze. Mostly for it’s size and beauty. The toms weigh in around 25 pounds! And I love the traditional look of the Bronze.
The Broad Breasted Bronze VS the Standard Bronze.
There seems to be some debate in the turkey world as to the authenticity of the Bronze Turkey as a heritage breed. Similar to the chicken world debate with Araucana, Ameraucana or Easter Eggers.
It is a confusing topic and understandably, can leave a turkey enthusiast wondering what exactly they are buying. So hopefully, with the help of the Livestock Conservancy, I can shed some light on the subject. According to the LC description, the Bronze turkey, which was developed from the North American Wild Turkey, became the commercialized breed of choice in the early 1900’s. Breeding habits that encourage size (and other things) resulted in a bird that could “barely” reproduce naturally, much like the white factory turkeys we see today. The original breed however, the ones that escaped commercialization, are considered a heritage breed. “Niche” breeders kept the lines going outside factory farms and the Standard Bronze is still being bred naturally. The Broad Breasted Bronze is also being watched as factory farms have shifted to the Broad Breasted White and the Bronze is loosing numbers. For more information on the subject, visit the Livestock Conservancy.