Heritage Turkey Breeds for Homesteaders

Unlike factory-farmed turkeys that require mountains of feed and rarely produce young, heritage turkey breeds are often more self-sufficient, better breeders and more efficient growers.


| October 2014



Turkey

Heritage turkeys are a better choice for the homesteader than the breeds developed for industrial farming, with higher feed conversion rates and greater self-sufficiency than their larger relatives.


Photo courtesy Acres U.S.A.

While producing and selling chickens and eggs may remain the most common American poultry venture, Kelly Klober invites readers to explore the possibilities of other poultry varieties in Beyond the Chicken (Acres U.S.A., 2014). Practical advice interspersed with humorous personal anecdotes guides poultry producers through the process of creating or expanding an alternative poultry venture, raising and caring for each type of bird discussed and building a customer base in local markets. The following excerpt is from Chapter 2, “The Turkey: Beyond Thanksgiving.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Beyond the Chicken.

Benjamin Franklin considered it the noblest of all farm fowl, a bird better suited to be our national emblem than the American Bald Eagle.

The turkey and the Muscovy duck are the domestic fowl of the New World. The turkey has long been the first choice of entrees to center the table at the big holidays at the end of the year. The meat of the Broadbreasted, factory-farmed birds is being chopped and restructured to be used in everything from nuggets to hotdogs and luncheon meats.

Many would question the value Franklin placed on the turkey due to so many having sad experiences with the Broadbreasted White and Bronze varieties bred for micromanaged life in confinement housing. Those birds can no longer even naturally reproduce; that Thanksgiving turkey that needs a pop-up timer to guide inexperienced consumers was produced via artificial insemination due to the monstrous disproportions to which it is now bred. The Broadbreasted poults are still the most available at farm supply and feed stores, but watching even a handful of these grow and consume volumes of feed and then not produce any young has quelled many a would-be producer’s desire to raise turkeys. It is perhaps the ultimate example of what can be termed a man-made food item.

Due to their sad experiences with these gobbling hothouse orchids, many country folk have come to believe that turkeys hatch looking for a place to just lie down and die. My first venture into turkey production was with a dozen Broadbreasted Bronze poults bought to be a summer project while I was still in grade school. I raised two of the twelve, we ate both of them, and my progress as a turkey raiser was a topic at the family table for many holiday meals to follow. My kid sister was in a picky eater phase at the time, and she ate 100 percent of the drumsticks produced in my first turkey crop.

diana
8/10/2016 7:13:43 PM

I am currently starting my first year of turkeys, goal being NPIP certification(30 bird minimum) Have 1 yr olds obtained locally last July...kept 2 hens and 1 tom. We are on our 3rd hatch since Easter morning( !) on baby #29 as we speak (in process of hatching now)lots to learn lots of mistakes made..I need to start a journal to help others : not enough info out there really. Predator proof large enough housing seem to be the main problems plus predator safe pasture...dont think you will keep them inside unless you have a monster sized area! solve this BEFORE starting your venture. These birds get very big very fast ! Think chicken times 10. We are feverishly adding on and putting up anti-hawk netting and burying pen fencing against digging animals !!!


diana
8/10/2016 7:12:00 PM

I am currently starting my first year of turkeys, goal being NPIP certification(30 bird minimum) Have 1 yr olds obtained locally last July...kept 2 hens and 1 tom. We are on our 3rd hatch since Easter morning( !) on baby #29 as we speak (in process of hatching now)lots to learn lots of mistakes made..I need to start a journal to help others : not enough info out there really. Predator proof large enough housing seem to be the main problems plus predator safe pasture...dont think you will keep them inside unless you have a monster sized area! solve this BEFORE starting your venture. These birds get very big very fast ! Think chicken times 10. We are feverishly adding on and putting up anti-hawk netting and burying pen fencing against digging animals !!!






dairy goat

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