Breeds of turkey

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Norfolk Black Turkey

The true Norfolk Black turkey is a dense black, without any other hint of colour in its plumage. The beak and eyes are black as are the legs. The head should be dark red with a bluish white colour which on a stag, changes to bright red when displaying.

The Norfolk Black, like most turkeys, love to forage in the hedgerows for blackberries and other wild fruits. A handful of windfall apples is always a welcome addition to their diet.

The Black variety originated in Europe from Mexican turkeys which had been imported beginning in the 1500's. These turkeys when crossed with wild birds, were the foundation for the Bronze, Narragansett, and Slate varieties.

The Blacks should not only be black but also have a greenish luster throughout. The shanks of the legs and toes should be a dark lead or slate black in color. These are very prolific in egg production, and vigorous in protecting of the nest, if a person was unable to incubate the eggs these would be a better selection for setting hens. The toms are usually less aggressive than the hens.

These are a meaty bird and great for eating but the pinfeathers are of coarse black, which gives the carcass the appearance of being darker where the feathers were removed but this does not hurt the meat because it is only the pigment that is left in the skin from the removal of the feathers. Melon is what gives the pigment to the feathers and Mellon is in the follicle and the follicle is not removed in the plucking process.

The Royal Palm is an attractive and small-sized turkey variety. the first birds in America to have the Palm color pattern appeared in a mixed flock of Black, Bronze, Narragansett, and Wild turkeys on the farm of Enoch Carson of Lake Worth, Florida, in the 1920s.

The Royal Palm was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1971. The Royal Palm is the most contrasting in color and the one that catches most peoples eye. The white with black barring with the gentleness of the toms is what most people like this variety for.

These birds make great yard animals. The toms usually show off for who ever comes up to their house. The hens tend to get very broody and usually need to be broken up to continue the laying season, but if you choose not to, they make good mothers.

These are not a meat bird and should not be raised with the intention of eating especially selling for meat because you would be disappointed. This variety should be used for show at this point. There is an estimated 600 to 700 breeding hens in the United States.


The Narragansett variety has much of the same color pattern as the Bronze but not the same colors. A person would need to replace the copper bronze to a steel gray. The edging should be narrow and metallic black. The shanks and toes should be salmon in color.

The Narragansett turkey is a great bird for just having around the house. Their temperament is mild and can be gentled down fairly easy if they are worked with from a young age usually under three weeks is best.

These are also a great bird for eating. The hens should average fifteen to eighteen pounds and the toms should be eighteen to twenty two pounds slaughter weight. To reach this weight greatly depends on the feed and nutrition. If the nutrition is not right the weight of the bird will never be achieved regardless of the parents.

The White Holland needs little description but if they have any other color than white should not be used as breeders. They are the least likely to roam far from home and usually like to stay within site of the place where they roost. The shanks of the legs and toes should be pinkish in color.

They are very gentle and tend to follow people like pups. When they are worked with they can be taught to eat out of your hand and easily managed without a lot of fencing.

They are the meat bird of choice because of the white feathers, which gives the cleanest-appearing carcass.

The Bourbon Red turkey is named for Bourbon County in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, where it originated in the late 1800s. The Bourbon Red variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1909. It was selected for utility traits, including a production-type conformation with a heavy breast and richly flavored meat which make them an excellent meat birds. The dressed bird appears to have whiter meat, due to the underpinning of the feathers.

The Bourbon Red is a great turkey for foraging and one of the hardiest eaters. They also seem to have cleaner eating habits. They are extremely aggressive toward insects of any sort.

They are a wonderful color. The contrast between the cinnamon red body and the white wings and tail make for an attractive turkey, but if there is more than one fourth of any color but white in the primaries or secondary in the wings or in the primary tail feathers should not be kept as a breeder. The leg shanks and toes should be reddish to pinkish in color.

Standard weights are 33 pounds for mature toms and 18 pounds for mature hens. They are a great bird for eating.

The Slate was accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1874.

The Blue Slate has a slate or ashy blue, plumage, but as the standard states, sometimes dotted with black, but less is better white should be disqualified.

The color is difficult to balance because the standards are not clear as to how much dots of black called splash is acceptable. I have found that if the hens have some splash and the toms should match. Once this is achieved the poults become less susceptible to blindness. (In my experience)

They are friendly by nature and do not have a tendency to roam far. If they are kept relatively close to the place where they were raised. They are a great bird for eating.

The Eastern Wild is the breed of turkey that people usually envision as the “real turkey”. These birds have a lot less meat than the others that I have, and are the most difficult to handle because of their flightiness. These birds require a fenced area with a net top of some kind.

The flavor of the meat is about the same because they are fed the same as the larger varieties, but they eat significantly less. They are hard to gentle down and are always “wild”. They are very hearty and prolific.