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11 Turkey Breeds You NEED to Know About if You Plan to Raise Turkeys

Are you thinking about raising turkeys? If so, you need to know which turkey breeds would best suit your needs and desires. Below you will find the list to give you a great head start in which breed to choose!

Turkey breeds to consider

Turkey Breeds

This turkey and his sidekick, “work” at the ranch my husband rides for. They are continually in the middle of any action and “showing off” quite grandly. And despite their show of not wanting to be picked up, they secretly are vying for the attention.

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Their puffing, and circling call out, “pick me up! Gobble, gobble! Pick me up!”

Turkey being held by mom and kids. Turkeys can be friendly pets too!

Are you curious about what turkey breeds are wandering around our world and maybe even trying to decide which turkey breed is best for you?

**Turkeys are actually identified by VARIETY not breed. The list below will be the different turkey varieties that are available and the information about each one. 

Let’s explore the turkey options…

Heritage Turkey Variety List

The American Poultry Association (APA) Recognized Varieties:

BELTSVILLE SMALL WHITE

In the 1930s, this breed was developed and has become a great breed of prolific egg-laying turkeys. The hens set and hatch well. They make a good table bird, with a larger breast than the Midget Whites but it’s agreed that their meat is blander than other heritage turkey meat. 

Three white turkeys

 

BLACK

Black turkeys plumage is black. Their origination began in the 1500s as Mexican wild turkeys but then they were brought back to Europe by early Spanish explorers. They can be found in European nations. 

Black Turkey with red waddles

BLUE SLATE

This beautiful breed with slate-gray plumage (which can be a color somewhere between white and black) is also sometimes called Lavender turkeys. Depending on sex, they can weigh between 14 and 23 pounds.

Slate or Blue Turkey

BOURBON RED

Bourbon Red turkeys have an absolutely beautiful red plumage, but even better, out of all of the heritage bred turkeys, they have the best tasting meat with full flavor and deliciousness. This breed was developed in the 1800s in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Depending on sex, they can weigh between 12 and 23 pounds. 

Bourbon Red Turkey strutting

BRONZE

The Standard Bronze breed is the most popular heritage breed because of their size. They weigh in between 16 and 25 pounds. 

This turkey tom is strutting

NARRAGANSETT

This breed was the go-to breed before farm factory breeds became available. They weigh in between 18 and 30 pounds. 

Two Narrangansett Turkey Strutting

ROYAL PALM

These beautiful birds have black and white plumage and are usually not bred for their meat but for their colorful beauty and flare. They weigh in between 10 and 16 pounds and are great foragers, good insect controllers and they do fly. 

Royal Palm Turkey that is so black and white beautiful! 11 Turkey breeds to consider

WHITE HOLLAND

This breed began in Holland but migrated with early settlers in the 1800s. They are a large breed weighing in between 20 and 30 pounds. They are calm and good setters but the hens are so large that they tend to break their eggs easier than other breeds of turkeys. 

Turkeys roosting on a fence

When raising any type of poultry, it is important to keep really good records like can be kept with this Poultry Binder Bundle. It will keep you sane, organized, and give you the edge on raising poultry.

Livestock Conservancy Recognized Breeds (But not recognized by the APA):

JERSEY BUFF

These turkeys have rich reddish-buff-colored body feathers, their tail feathers are white with a buff bar near the end and their secondary and primary wing feathers are white with buff shading. These calm birds are good layers, mate naturally, and weigh between 12 to 21 pounds.

Jersey Buff Turkey

MIDGET WHITE

This breed, developed in the 1960s is a cross between the Royal Palm and the Broad Breasted Whites. They are calm and have a good disposition but are a smaller breed weighing in between 8 and 20 pounds. 

Why are Heritage Breeds Rare Turkey Breeds?

Heritage breeds, through the years, became less popular as modern agriculture took precedence. Most of the time, heritage breeds have slower and smaller growth gains and have fallen out of favor because of this. 

But the good news is that as people realize the importance of heritage breeds, the numbers are growing!

Heritage breeds offer such amazing benefits that we need to pay attention to:

  1. Disease resistant
  2. Parasite-resistant
  3. Better maternal instincts
  4. Better fertility
  5. Foraging abilities
  6. Longevity
  7. Better ability to mate naturally

All of those traits are very important factors when thinking about the future of self-sufficiency and growing food that is strong and sustainable. So, it’s no wonder that these heritage breeds are making a comeback!

Young turkey looking closely into camera

Largest Turkey Breed in the World

The broad-breasted white turkey is the most common turkey breed raised and eaten in America. Their large size and large breast, however, make it near impossible for them to breed naturally and therefore are artificially inseminated. Not only do they need help with breeding, but also are usually less intelligent and more disease-prone and they can’t fly or walk well. But because they grow abnormally fast, in 12 weeks, they have become the commercial breed of choice. 

If you are looking for a hardy, more natural breed to add to your property as a food source, then the standard bronze turkey is the largest heritage breed. This breed, on average, will weigh between 16 to 25 pounds. 

Turkey Breeds for Meat

This may come down to a personal decision on which breed would make you the happiest based on their beauty, disposition, egg production, and how large they get. If you want to help preserve a heritage breed and aren’t interested in how the turkey looks or egg production, the bronze turkeys would be a great choice.

Turkey Breeds for Eggs

Many have found that Beltsville Whites are great egg layers. But may have trouble with fertility without sufficient daylight hours. The Bronze and Jersey Buff turkeys are another good egg-laying option as well. 

Turkey Breeds as Pets

Any turkey breed can be kept as a pet. The more you work with them when they are poults, the more people-friendly they will be as they grow. Personally, I’d chose the breed that I think is the most beautiful. And an added benefit would be if they laid a decent amount of eggs, just so they weren’t completely useless.

Top Turkey Information

If you are interested in turkeys, then this is where you need to start. These articles will give you all the details you need to know about them from the egg on!

For more reading information:

Genetically Modified Turkeys, Egg Laying Turkeys, Definition of Heritage Turkeys, What are Heritage Breeds

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