With the holidays around the corner I can finally see the end drawing near for my flock of heritage turkeys. They have been a labour of love and frustration. Each day a new hurdle emerges and each day we learn something new about raising these flighty birds. I am ready to put these birds to rest- 3 feet deep into our chest freezer that is (and a fresh one in the oven!).
Just yesterday, I looked up to find one on the roof of our barn! Time to clip the flight wings once again...
I have asked what the definition of a Heritage Turkey is and why I raise them, so I thought this would be a good podium to explain further.
I raise these animals because I have always had a keen interest in heritage breed animals, specifically poulty. I have been discouraged by the commercial raising of poultry and want to be able to give customers an informed choice and an alternative to industrial raised turkey. Also, I want to humanely raise healthy poultry for my growing family. I want to raise many different animals on our family farm and stick to the tradition of a mixed farm when so many others have turned to mono culture. It is a simple as that.
*What is a Heritage Turkey?
(As defined by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
Heritage turkeys are defined by the historic, range-based production system in which they are raised. Turkeys must meet all of the following criteria to qualify as a Heritage turkey:
1. Naturally mating: the Heritage Turkey must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating, with expected fertility rates of 70-80%.
2. Long productive lifespan: the Heritage Turkey must have a long productive lifespan. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years.Slow growth rate: the Heritage Turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth. Today’s heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in 26 – 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass. This growth rate is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century