Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming

Turkey breeds are extensive and are reared for their meat, eggs, feathers and ornamental purposes. Heritage turkey breeds on the other hand are 10 classic and beautiful turkeys with a history they have retained over the years despite evolution.

As a poultry or intending poultry farmer, knowing the best breed for your business is a step towards having huge ROI. A turkey breed that is suitable for egg production will not yield much when farmed as a breed meant for meat.

Some ecotourism attractions have beautiful turkey breeds that can be mistaken for peacocks if not for their head. Some breeds have smaller body structures and colourful feathers.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming

Turkey Birds

Turkey is a domesticated large bird farmed for its meat, egg, feathers and as pets. They are usually bigger than chickens with the males having fleshy wattle hanging from their beak.

Turkey birds are native to North America and the domesticated species have the wild species as their ancestors. This wild trait of attacking other animals is still evident in the domesticated species as they have been observed attacking humans.

Just like most animals have breeds within the same species, there are various turkey breeds available with slight differences in appearance. Turkeys are farmed in many countries of the world.

Turkeys are farmed for various reasons both for commercial consumption of their flesh and eggs or for commercial use of their feathers and for beautification.

Turkey Farming

Turkey birds were first domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico and introduced to southwest America. They were initially farmed for meat and their beautiful feathers, an addition to robes and blankets.

Turkeys are farmed in many countries of the world and the meat commonly used in the US thanksgiving holiday. Turkeys are similar to chickens in captivity although they require more space to move around and they usually do not incubate their eggs.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Turkey For Thanksgiving Holiday

Turkey farmers need to ensure that their birds are fed with nutrients for growth and development as well as boost their immunity against diseases. Common disease of turkey breeds include:

  • Blue Comb Disease
  • Arizonosis
  • Chronic Respiratory disease
  • Fowl Pox
  • Fowl Cholera
  • Newcastle Disease
  • Turkey Venereal Disease

Heritage Turkey Breeds

Heritage turkey breeds are those breeds that have retained their historic characteristics not available in the present domesticated breeds. They have a slow growth rate and a longer lifespan. Heritage turkey breeds include:

Auburn Turkey Breed

This very rare breed is native to northeastern United States and discovered in the 1700s. It is also referred to as the Light Brown species. A variant in the species which is even extremely rare is the Silver Auburn. This is one of the rarest of all available turkey varieties.

Bourbon Red Turkeys

Another beautiful heritage turkey breed, the Bourbon Reds notable for its flavour and delicious meat. Natives of Kentucky and Pennsylvania and as a result of crossbreeding Buff, Standard Bronze and White Holland breeds.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Bourbon Red Heritage Turkey Breed

Black Turkey Breed

This name is befitting for the black feather and plumage coloured turkey breed. They are also called Black Spanish Turkeys or Norfolk Black Turkeys.

Black turkeys are wild breeds brought from Mexico and domesticated in Europe in the 1500s. They are now farmed throughout Europe.

Standard Bronze Turkeys

The standard Bronze turkey is the most farmed breed in the history of America. Also referred to as Cambridge Bronze Turkeys, they have a bronze-like plumage and are results of crossbreeding wild turkeys and domestic turkeys from England. They are tamer than wild turkeys and larger than European turkeys.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Black Heritage Turkey Breed

Royal Palm Turkeys

They are farmed basically for ornamental purposes because of their beauty. They are relatively small in size compared to other turkey breeds and their plumage is white with metallic black bands.

Royal Palm turkey breeds are natural insect control agents due to their intense foraging status. They are also tasty with a distinct flavour.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Royal Palm Turkey Breed

Midget White Turkeys

Developed as a result of crossbreeding the Broad-Breasted Whites with the Royal Palm turkey breeds, the Midget White turkey breed was created in 1960 by Dr J Robert Smyth of the University of Massachusetts. They are the smallest heritage turkey breeds with size as small as chicken.

Narragansett Turkeys

Native to the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island USA, and named thereafter, this heritage turkey breeds were developed as crossing between Native Eastern turkeys and Norfolk blacks. They are breed majorly for commercial consumption across Connecticut and their Rhode Island home.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Narragansett Bay Turkey Breed

Blue Slate Turkey Breed

The blue slate turkey breed is a unique breed with three colour phases: blue with black specked feathers, solid black, and solid bluish-grey. They are rare heritage turkey breed that were first domesticated in Mexico centuries ago.

They are classic and splendid for ornamental purposes due to the beautiful colour gradient of their plumage.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Blue Slate Turkey

White Holland Turkey Breed

Originated from Holland as seen in their name, the White Holland turkeys are an old variety of the domestic white turkeys developed from crossbreeding white European turkeys with the native North America turkey.

They are excellent in incubating their eggs by sitting well on them. They are however now listed as threatened specie by The Livestock Conservancy.

Beltsville Small White turkey

These domestic heritage turkey breeds are native to United States and developed in 1930 for their flesh. They are similar to Midget Whites in size but with wider breasts.

They are excellent breeders as the hens can sit well to hatch their eggs. They are however not as social as other heritage turkey breeds.

Commercial Turkey Breeds

The major breed for commercial farming is the broad breasted white turkeys. Other heritage turkey breeds can also be farmed for their meat, they are however expensive.

Broad Breasted Whites

They are farmed everywhere in the world and widely consumed for their flesh. They are large sized with shorter breast bones making them meatier. They also have the highest food conversion ratio in turkey breeds.

Importance Of Heritage Turkey Breeds In Turkey Farming

Without much ado, heritage turkey breeds have amazing traits that make them suitable for commercial farming especially for sustainable agricultural practices.

Regardless of their characteristic slow growth and smaller sizes, heritage turkey breeds are becoming acceptable in commercial turkey farming for the following reasons:

Disease And Parasite resistant

Heritage turkey breeds are notable for their ability to resist disease and survive in extreme harsh environmental conditions. They are also able to resist parasites that affects turkey.

Maternal Instinct

Heritage turkey breeds are diligent mothers. They sit properly on their eggs and hatch them successfully and can as well take care of their poults.


Heritage breeds are able to mate without help and produce healthy eggs. They also have a better fertility rate as their eggs have a higher chance of hatching.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Midget White Turkey


Heritage turkey breeds have extensive foraging abilities making them a natural anti-insects. Having them on a chicken farm can reduce insect invasion.


Heritage turkey breeds are smaller in size compared to their wild varieties. They are excellent breeders with a high level. They can be farmed for meat and ornamental purposes.

Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming
Heritage Turkey Breeds In Poultry Farming

The broad breasted white breeds are good for meat in commercial quantity having a high food conversion ratio.

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