When it comes to Turkey Breeds, there is actually only one breed of turkey. “The Heritage Breed”. is the only recognizable breed in the turkey kingdom! The APA (American Poultry Association) only recognises the Heritage as a breed of turkeys! The main difference between the turkey and chicken breed is that there are actually hundreds of breeds of chickens and many are recognized by the APA where there is only one breed of turkey recognized.There are several varieties of the Heritage Turkey Breed! Just as there are several varieties of certain chickens per each breed there are varieties of the Heritage Turkey Breed. In the Polish Chicken Breed alone there are bearded, non-bearded and frizzle varieties! Each is a Polish but have different characteristics and that is the way it is in the Heritage Turkey Breed. Each breed can have several varieties.
There are currently only eight (8) varieties of Heritage Breed Turkeys recognized by the APA.
The Heritage Turkey Breed is a beautiful bird and has the ability to survive and even thrive in the wild! They are great foragers and make great free range birds! Turkeys can thrive in the free range conditions. The free range turkeys diet will vary just like the free range chicken. They feed on bugs, snails, worms, and a variety of other insects. As with wild turkeys, they roost mostly up high in trees.
They like ” kitchen scraps” as well as chickens and will sift through it for any and all items they enjoy. They can get lots of nutrients this way and it helps the farmer or homeowner to get rid of table scraps. This can also help in the price of food you would have to purchase. Turkeys need calcium for strong bones. They weigh considerably more than chickens and need extra calcium to help grow large bones in the legs to hold the weight.
It is recommended that you feed your turkeys a calcium product weekly to keep up the bone strength and keep them from going lame. Oyster Shell is a great form of calcium and turkeys love it!
Turkeys that free range are going to be susceptible to “predators” of every kind. Wolves, Coyotes, Feral Cats, etc. Just like your chickens, they can and will be eaten if caught. It is jsut part of the price we pay for having wonderful free range meat. They will also suffer from more parasites because of the uncontrolled environment they live in. Roundworms and mites are a common thing in free range birds. They will need monthly treatment for these problems.
(This is for a small place, not someone who is trying to raise a farm of these birds)
The benefits of Free Range Turkeys are similar the benefits of Free Range Chickens.
(This is for those wanting to raise several numbers of these birds)
Even though Heritage Turkey Breed are a wonderful Free Range bird, if you plan on raising them you will want to provide certain things to make life a little easier on them.
You will still need a good Large, Sturdy Coop. This needs a strong wood or concrete floor and strong doors and good tight latches. Insulate the floor with a good absorbent material as you would a chicken coop. You will need to have feed and water available. Make it “predator proof”! Remember, if you are raising these for meat or production of any kind it is necessary to help keep them safe!
Some folks are fortunate to own barns. These make great shelter and coops. Stalls can be blocked off for brooders and doors to the outside put in at the appropriate time for older turkeys to come and go as needed.
They need space to roam while they are on the free range. They need at the least 10 square feet of space per bird!
I have seen pictures of Turkey Farms so crowded that the workers can hardly walk through them. This creates an environment for parasites and disease! Turkeys, like everything else need space!
Supplement their daily feeding with good whole grain feed..
Have shelter available for them through the day! They need shelter from the elements just like anything else.
Put them out every morning and train them to search for food so they will become free range and not completely dependant on you feeding them.
Remember, the term Free Range and Free Roaming will no doubt have a different description for the USDA than it will you. Most of us picture free range or free roaming as turkeys roaming around on the farm all day without a care in the world. We see them as birds of leisure and plenty to eat and drink!
Actually the term Free Range means, that a Turkey has been outside for at least half of their lives. Half can be kept indoors in a crowded environment to fatten them for Thanksgiving. The outdoors can even mean a run and they never get in the true outdoors! Outdoors is a loose term here. A free range facility can be a turkey farm of large proportions with crowded housing with only a small yard for the turkeys to go out into. This allows them to label them as “Free Range Turkeys”. Many of these still experience a lot of parasites, disease, and death.
Yes, I know, this is kind of disturbing. You thought you had been buying a turkey who had lived a life of luxury… Sorry, it just isn’t so. Good news, there are some good growers out there. Search for them online to find good quality “Free Range” birds!
Here is as link I think you may enjoy. “Mary’s Turkeys”, this is a Free Range Turkey Farm in California that raise the large Breasted and Heritage Breed Turkey but does not over crowd or feed antibodies. They appear to be a very straight forward Farm and have lots of great information on baking, preparing, roasting, cooking videos, etc! I think there is sufficient information on this site to help anyone make some well informed decisions on what and how to, when it comes to turkeys in general or the Heritage Turkey Breed!
I found 13 major News Sources with positive articles on these folks. In my mind, this helps their credentials of being an up front operation and respectable.
Heritage Turkey Breed photo above by, “Turkey in the Straw”.
Thank you for reading our article on Heritage Turkey Breed. I hope you have learned something from it and will be able to make your own educated decisions from our writeup and links to other with great information. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.