Among the diversity of heritage turkey breeds you’ll find the charming Midget White turkey. This simple white bird may not be the biggest or the most colorful, but it does have four characteristics that make it a great homestead chioce: a smaller size that’s better for a single family meal, the ability to mate naturally, high production of fertile eggs, and a friendly temperament.
This turkey breed was originally created in the late 1960s by Dr. J.R. Smyth Jr. of the University of Massachusetts in response to commercial interest in producing a smaller version of commercial turkeys. After several years’ work, Dr. Smyth had to stop his breeding program at the university, but a former graduate of his, Dr. Bernie Wentworth of the University of Wisconsin, picked up where Dr. Smyth left off. Wentworth continued refining the birds with selective breeding until he produced the Midget White turkeys we know today — white birds with bodies in picture-perfect proportion to reflect the appearance of the larger commercial white in miniature. (For more on the background of this turkey breed, go to A History of the Midget White Turkey.
These birds mature to 8 to 13 pounds for market weight, with a plump breast that is not overly large. (Commercial turkey breeds produced in industrial systems have been bred to produce such large breasts that the toms can no longer mate naturally with the hens, so these turkeys have to be produced by artificial insemination.) The compact Midget White can be a real asset for smaller families looking for productive turkeys that are suitably sized table birds.
Unlike industrial turkeys, the Midget White turkey was selected for high production of fertile eggs, with hens producing up to 60 to 80 per year. After your hatching needs are fulfilled in spring, you will find that the turkeys’ rich and flavorful eggs are desirable for other purposes. They excel in the production of pastries and desserts as Chef Tina Casaceli discovered while experimenting with them at the French Culinary Institute. “The eggs produced one of the finest crème brûlées I’ve ever made,” she commented, but added that they’re not suitable for light recipes such as Angel Food or Génoise cake. Turkey eggs are also known to be a favored ingredient in egg noodles for the Amish.
Talk to an owner of Midget Whites and the conversation invariably seems to turn to personality. Victoria Miller and her husband, David, have owned a flock for years on their homestead in Washington state. “They follow us around like puppy dogs and always need to be a part of the action around the farm,” she says. The couple couldn’t be happier with the results of owning a flock and they have found a ready market for the birds they produce. Selling these small turkeys has improved the finances for the Millers’ Canyon Creek Farm and could be a fine addition to any small-scale producer’s offerings.
Interested in adding turkeys to your homestead repertoire? Learn more by reading Raising Turkeys at Home.
Check the following mail-order sources to find Midget Whites. The popularity of heritage turkey breeds has developed a strong market for Midget Whites, so place your order early.
Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms
P.O. Box 591
Cameron, TX 76520
626 State Route 89
Polk, OH 44866
Murray McMurray Hatchery
P.O. Box 458
Webster City, IA 50595
P.O. Box 176
Portales, NM 88130
Sandhill Preservation Center
1878 230th St.
Calamus, IA 52729
P.O. Box 77
Bancroft, IA 50517
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