Bourbon Red & Royal Palm Turkey hens
The Heritage Turkey and their ancient association with humans make them surprisingly good pets.
Our definition of the Heritage Turkey are most
turkeys that fall in between the two extremes of the Turkey spectrum: -That is
the wild turkey & the modern broad breasted white-meat heavy factory bird.
The ancestors of Heritage Turkeys have roamed portions of North and Central America for over for 18 million years! The resilience of the modern Eastern Wild Turkey (and its wild cousins to the west & south) is best represented by the amazing success in re-populating their original home ranges and spreading widely into non historical areas. In fact, many people will assure you that wild turkey populations have reached nuisance status in many regions of Modern America.
“Heritage Turkeys” of course are more recent phenomena as they represent some of the early varieties of turkeys developed from selective breeding of the original wild stocks. In fact the history of the history of turkey domestication parallels the development of the new world civilizations and the formation of the young United States of America. The Modern science of DNA analysis together with archeological studies are only now unraveling the fascinating the journey of turkeys: The original domestication by Native Americans both in central America and the pueblos of the American southwest; the turkey diaspora around the globe and their eventual return to the America’s during the European expansion into the new world.
Heritage turkeys have been a new world sensation since before the founding of our nation and were once a common feature of farm and ranch. As with other “Heritage” breeds, the Heritage Turkey population plummeted with urbanization & the demise of the family farm.
I do get the sense that the Heritage breeds are succeeding in the struggle to step back from the brink of extinction.
The majority of heritage turkeys are excellent flyers and readily roost at night in trees when allowed.
The feathers of these people friendly birds can vary in color patterns ranging from the original wild brown to various arrangements of red, black, gray and white.
Some of the more popular Heritage breeds (but not all) are the Royal Palm, Black Spanish, Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, and Eastern Wild turkey. We include the Domesticated Eastern Wild Turkey as they are commonly sold in modern hatcheries and readily interbreed with all the Heritage turkeys. In fact a common definition of the Heritage turkey is that they are biologically similar to their wild cousins in that most are admirable flyers and can breed without human assistance. (Beware of the wild tom turkey displaying his feathers and leading your domesticated hens away to his forest harem!)
How much do Heritage Turkeys weigh? Well the temptation was to repeat what the Internet sources say…..But instead I snuck wife’s new scale outside to weigh them for myself….