Why the Midget White Turkey is the Perfect Homestead Turkey

Breeder Bernard Wentworth, who holds doctorates in poultry science and avian physiology, shares his thoughts on these special, great-tasting, little turkeys.
By Troy Griepentrog
August 21, 2008
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In 1971 only six specimens of the midget white turkey were alive. In 2008, they’ve won a taste test and have a reputation as an excellent homestead turkey.
HILARY CHESTER/ALWAYS SOMETHIN' FARM


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The white midget turkey is rapidly developing a reputation as an amiable, small-flock turkey. Bernard Wentworth, who holds doctorates in poultry science and avian physiology, is credited as saving the breed from extinction. We wondered what was so special about the breed, so we asked Wentworth a few questions.

What made midget white turkeys so memorable from your early work with them?

It is a very attractive bird. Can you imagine a senior citizen couple sharing Thanksgiving alone and still having a beautiful roasted 10-pound turkey at their table?
 
In your experience, is there a flavor difference between midget whites and other breeds?  

The midget white turkey develops very slowly (not economical). Consequently they would likely be older than the commercial turkey when consumed. Therefore it is likely the flavor would be more apparent.

Can you tell us more about if/how the temperament of midget whites differs from other breeds?

I do not know why this is true, but the midget white turkey is friendly, tame and likes people a great deal. Several people have had them as a pet trio (one male and two females) and they are enjoyed by the entire family. They can be a watchdog and a playmate around children. 

What are the differences between midget whites and Beltsville whites?

The midget white and the Beltsville white (another small breed of turkey) are very different. The Beltsville white has longer legs and less breast muscle development. There is no comparison between the favorable appearances of the process midget as compared to the Beltsville white. The ready-to-eat Beltsville white is not as appealing as the midget white. The breast of the Beltsville is not very plump, and the keel bone is apparent and not hidden as a dimple of breast, as in the midget. Most likely the Beltsville white will lay more eggs in the season. I also do not believe the Beltsville white would make a good pet like the midget, for they tend to be rather high-strung.

How small are mature midget whites?

Our selection criteria for the midget white at 20 weeks of age were a 13-pound tom and an 8-pound hen.

What advice would you give someone who wants to keep a backyard flock of midget whites?

Protect them from predators when they are young. Since they are small, they are more subject to predation by cats, dogs, raccoons, hawks and owls while growing up.
 
Is raising turkeys more challenging than raising chickens?  

Yes, raising turkeys is more challenging than raising chickens. Poults do not learn to eat as quickly as chicks do. Sometimes I even feel that poults do not learn to use the source of water as readily as do baby chicks. I also believe that turkey poults may pile up onto one another when frightened or cold more frequently than do young chicks.

Is it feasible for a homesteader to keep a tom and a couple of hens and expect the hens to hatch poults in the spring?

Yes, the midget hen is a good mother and she will do a good job incubating and raising the poults. I would suggest that while she is incubating that you remove the tom so he will not harass her while incubating. Watch the hen and poults carefully when she leaves the nest to make sure the tom does not injure the poults.


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Post a comment below.

 

Paula Griffin
3/28/2013 2:32:59 PM
I have midget whites they are smaller than slates and a little bigger than royal palm, I only have female to compare . They lay eggs in the chicken nests. They do look big especially the males who are full of hot air most of the time. I got mine from a hatchery [meyers] many hatcheries have them. They are very sweet birds, have no problem with them piling up. I fed them boiled egg and starter dropped in box to start them eating and put shiny glass stones in the water. They instinctively peck at things that move on ground.

Wayne Gaudin
2/26/2013 10:54:27 PM
Hi, The MW may appear in size somewhat the same as a larger breed turkey, just pick it up and you can tell they are for sure not as heavy and dress one out and you will see their size is almost like a capon very large chicken, you were mislead and you were sold something other than a Midget White Turkey / I had both and I know, Thanks

LINDA EKBACK
9/23/2011 11:25:45 PM
I was disappointed that my so called midget whites grew as large as a regular turkey. I want to purchase poults from someone who has true midget whites. Does anyone know of anyone?

maggie.henry
12/9/2008 5:11:07 PM
I would like to maintain a flock of midget whites to preserve them. Where can I get poults from? Maggie

Eric_1
8/24/2008 11:27:24 AM
I have kept heritage turkeys in the past though never midget whites. Next spring I am planning on getting a fair number of poults and midget whites will be among them. I have several potential customers interested in smaller heritage birds for the holiday season. www.heartlandmarket.us








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