Turkey Breeds

The broad-breasteds: The biggest of the turkey breeds (also known as the "heavies") are the broad-breast-eds, either the traditional Broad-Breasted Bronze or the newer Broad-Breasted White. The Broad-Breasted Bronze is the brown- or black-feathered turkey, but since dark-feathered birds end up looking "dirty" when plucked, the white varieties are becoming the commercial choice.

Broad-Breasted Whites grow large, even larger than Bronzes. These birds grow very fast, have exceptionally large, meaty breasts and may ultimately dress out to 25 lb. (hens) or even 45 lb. (toms). (Other poultry breeds don't have such a striking difference in ultimate weights between the sexes.) You can reasonably send one of these to roast any time from 12 lb. on up. Both Bronzes and Whites make good large roasters at 24-28 weeks. As turkeys (and other poultry) get larger, their feed conversion efficiency and rate of gain decreases. The usual goal is to grow an 18-lb. torn (12-lb. hen), in about 5 months, or a 25-lb. torn in 6 months. Hens can be butchered at only 13 weeks as fryer-roasters or at 20 weeks to make medium roasters (about 14 lb.). If left to full maturity, they get heavier yet. Toms can weigh 50 to 60 lb. at maturity, but by then the meat is toughening. Because the Broad-Breasteds can put on more flesh weight than the others they should be started a month earlier than a medium or light breed.

Many formerly abundant turkeys breeds are now extinct or very near extinct due to the extent to which the market has become dominated by the 2 broad-breasted breeds. But some still exist.

Not broad-breasteds: If you want a turkey variety that can be fertilized without human assistance, and has good setting and mothering instincts, it keeps getting harder as more and more genetic lines are losing that ability. You can get small-sized Beltsville Whites that will reproduce naturally. And you can get naturally mating Bronze turkeys from Wish Poultry, Box 862, Prairie City, OR 97869, spring hatch only. The Bronze is a large bird that does relatively well either in confinement or on range. Beltsville Whites. These are smaller turkeys; they make good broilers at 15-16 weeks and good medium-size roasters at 24 weeks. Beltsvilles do not convert feed as efficiently as the Broad-Breasted varieties, but they are usually cheaper to buy as poults.

Bourbon Reds, Royal Palms. The reds and palms are both medium-sized turkeys. The Royal Palm is the only major turkey breed whose hens are dependable brooders. Others. Some sources sell Wild Turkeys. These are hardy, good flyers, and smaller than the commercial breeds—a "light" variety. Because they are being raised in order for the bird to make a comeback in the wild, check with your state game regulatory agency before ordering any. You may need a permit. The Wild Turkey breed needs a high-protein feed, like game-bird starter. Other turkey breeds are Black Spanish, Narragansetts, Blue Slates, and a rare Guatemalan turkey, also called the "ocellated turkey."

Continue reading here: Turkey Reproduction

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