Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
I had a related post a few days ago about finding poults and several people mentioned that certain breeds of heritage turkeys are more (or less) aggressive than others. I'm new to turkeys and will be starting with 10-12 turkey poults this spring for an expected Thanksgiving processing date. I've ordered 6 Bourbon Reds and 6 Narragansetts, but am now wondering if I should change my order to just Bourbons or Bourbons and another breed (Standard Bronze maybe?).
Any helpful hints for breeds that are easy to care for and not aggressive and co-exist nicely? I have 3 young children, and the turkeys will be sharing a field with 2 goats (who are due to kid about the same time I receive my turkeys).
Thank you, thank you!
We've raised heritage turkeys for several years now and have raised lots of Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze, Black Spanish, Chocolates, Narragansetts, White Holland and some Blue Slate. There's no right answer to the question of the "best breed" for any species, but regarding aggression, we consistently found the Narragansetts to be VERY aggressive toward other birds. As a result, we stopped raising them after two years.
Bourbon Reds are easy to raise and are beautiful, but they're carcass size will be small compared to Black Spanish or Standard Bronze...or Narragansetts for that matter. At this point we're concentrating on Standard Bronze and Bourbon Reds since we do all breeding on farm and don't want to deal with lots of breeders.
BTW, we never found the turkeys aggressive towards us...only toward other turkeys.
This is exactly the kind of information I'm looking for--the "unofficial" research that comes only from experience. I'd like to ensure a smooth adventure as much as possible (so as to ensure I'm inspired to do it again next year!), so I'm going to skip the Narragansetts this time.
If the turkey venture goes well, I will definitely look into breeding on the farm, but for the first go-around I'll be ordering from a hatchery. Changing my order may alter the timing, but from what I've read an early June poult delivery will be close but probably fine for Thanksgiving. I'd rather have small birds, or even Christmas birds, than worry about aggression issues.
Many thanks again!
I've raised the Black Spanish... and can't honestly say why I still don't have them. I suspect it's because they ones I got weren't fertile (I don't belame it on the breed, just where I bought them from... I suspect they were real popular at some point in time, and breeders weren't as concerned of their natural traits as how they looked). Also because they aren't a "flashy" as the other breeds of heritage turkeys.
I've also raised the Royal Palm, and while they are very flashy, they are a small bird. I've also had blue slates in the past, and am ordering them, the sweet grass and the mottled black this year.
Also a side note (I added to another dsiscussion on turkeys, but will add it here also.
Turkeys soon became valuable hired hands on colonial farms. Some farmers today, if they're over 50, may recall how they were sent into tobacco fields as kids to remove big green worms by hand. But even George Washington, in his time, had a better idea. Both Washington and Thomas Jefferson used turkeys for insect control in tobacco. A flock of turkeys will move through a field as a single unit, equally spaced so as not to miss a single plant, and systematically devour the insect culprits. The use of turkeys to find and destroy insects may again some day prove useful as a safe and inexpensive non-chemical approach to bug control. The turkeys our ancestors ate were healthy, free-ranging birds. They had the native intelligence of their wild cousins and could subsist on insects, green grasses, and legumes.
So, if you also garden, allow them to free range in it... I noticed when I had turkeys (most years since I've moved here lol) I never have a problem with tomato horn worms etc.
I like something that can do triple duty (meat, eye candy and insecticide (for caterpillars and other "crawly" insects)
I ordered 15 poults this past summer. Some arrived dead and I lost one. Now I have 10: 3 Narragansett gobblers, 1 bourbon red gobbler, 2 narragansett hens and 4 bourbon reds. They co-exist very well together and mingle with my chickens during the day. They do go back to whatever roost they were set up as poults (much to my disdain). In my experience the Narragansetts are more aggresive while the Bourbon Reds are more playful. As far as breeding, which is my challenge this year, I think the Narrangett gobblers will do better than the Bourbon red I have. This is where I have a problem - will they mate out of their breed? I know I need to cull my gobblers, but which ones do you toss from the house? Our weather has been so off season this year, I figure the hens will start laying soon, so I better get off the proverbial pot and make a decision.
We have been raising Beltsville Small Whites for the past two years, and got some Bourbon Red poults too. They all got along fine, and neither breed seemed aggressive at all towards each other, us, or the chickens. We let them free-range all day with the chickens. Last spring we set some eggs, at that point we only had one BR tom left with the Beltsvilles. Four of the poults turned out to be crosses, so yes they will mate outside their breed. They were pretty tasty, though not very big. This year, on a whim, I ordered some broad breasted bronze, not sure if it's a heritage breed, but I'd like to try something larger. I will also try to set some Beltsville eggs, but I only have one pair left, so I won't likely get very many.
We're fans and breeders of Midget White turkeys. We brought them onto the farmstead originally to help control the endless waves of grasshoppers we have out here in the Nebraska panhandle. We start the poults our in the garden as soon as they are big enough and, if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't even have a garden since we don't use chemicals. We've also raised Bourbons and Royal Palms but stuck with the Midgets.
Besides the pest control they are very hardy (easily overwintering here), excellent foragers, surprisingly good layers (we mostly eat turk eggs so the chicken eggs can go to market), and due to their smaller size much easier to process for my wife and I. We've never had an aggressive bird and the toms will eat out of your hand. There have been a couple cranky hens when they were broody of course. And our flock is pastured with llamas, a milk goat, chickens, guineas and Muscovy ducks....and they all get along fine.