11 Heritage Turkey Breeds [With Pictures]

If you are thinking about raising turkeys, then you need to know which turkey breeds to rare.

There are many turkey breeds available throughout the world, the same way we have several chicken breeds and other animal breeds.

Some turkey breeds are good for commercial purposes like meat and egg production.

Many others serve as great pets or for beautifying the home.

Whichever the case may be, what you need is the best turkey breed that suits your needs and desires.

So, what are the different heritage turkey breeds and how do you go about selecting a good one that suits your needs?

Let’s get started.

What Are Heritage Turkey Breeds?

Heritage turkey breeds refer to domestic varieties of turkeys that despite being bred over a long time still retain their historic characteristics.

What makes the heritage turkeys stand out is that the characteristics they possess are no longer present in the majority of turkeys raised for consumption since the mid-20th century.

Why Are Heritage Turkey Breeds The Best For Turkey Farming?

The heritage turkey varieties possess some amazing traits.

These traits are very important factors when thinking about the future of self-sufficiency.

Also, they are very important factors when thinking about growing food that is strong and sustainable. 

So, even though the heritage turkey breeds have slower and smaller growth gains, people gradually accept them because of their amazing characteristics.

Some of the characteristics that make heritage turkey varieties the best varieties of turkey for commercial farming include:

1. They are disease resistant:

These heritage breeds can resist disease and are able to survive very well in harsher environmental conditions.

2. They can are parasite resistant:

Besides diseases, they are also able to resist parasites that tend to affect turkeys. 

So, they don’t easily fall sick as a result of parasitic attacks.

3. Heritage turkey breeds have good maternal instincts:

The heritage breeds make good mothers because they have awesome maternal instincts.

So, they sit on their eggs to hatch them and they also take care of their pouts.

4. They have better fertility and the ability to mate naturally:

Heritage turkey breeds are able to mate and produce healthy eggs. 

In addition, most of the eggs have a high chance of hatching.

5. They have foraging abilities:

This variety of turkeys has extensive foraging abilities.

As a result, they can help to control tiny pests and insects on your farm.

What Are The Different Types Of Turkey Breeds?

As stated earlier, there are several types of turkey breeds and all of them serve different purposes.

Hey!! Let’s not forget that they are birds and still end up as meat or produce eggs for consumption.

Here, we have a list of some common domesticated turkey breeds that we can easily find around.

But first, let’s begin with the rarest variety of turkey.

1. Auburn Turkey breed:

Auburn turkey variety

This is one of the rarest of all available turkey varieties.

It has its origin in the northeastern part of the United States in the late 1700.

The Auburn turkey is a heritage breed and it is also known as the Light Brown.

Being a heritage breed means that it is one of a variety of strains that retains historic characteristics that are no longer present in the majority of domestic varieties.

So, if you ever own one, keep it well.

One known variant of the Auburn turkey breed is known as the Silver Auburn.

You will love this article: How to Start Poultry Farming Business For Beginners.

2. Beltsville Small White turkey variety:

beltsville small white turkey breed

The Beltsville Small White turkey is a breed of domestic turkey which is originally from the United States.

It was developed in the 1930s to fill a clearly identified consumer need.

The Beltsville Small White turkey are similar in size to the Midget Whites, however, they have wider breasts than the Midget Whites.

Beltsville small white turkeys make a nice table bird but are blander than Midgets or some other heritage birds. 

They are prolific layers and mature hens are good sitters and can hatch eggs well.

The only challenge with this breed is that they are not very social when you compare them with other heritage turkey breeds.

3. The Black Turkey Breed:

The black turkey breed, just like the name implies, has black plumage or feathers.

It is a domestic breed that is also known as the Black Spanish Turkeys or Norfolk Black Turkeys.

This breed was developed in Europe in the 1500s.

It is an improved version of the wild turkeys brought from Mexico to Europe by the first Spanish explorers who visited the USA. 

Currently, this breed is now very common throughout Europe.

4. The Blue Slate Turkey Breed:

The blue slate turkey breed is another domestic breed that comes in three color phases: blue with black specks on the feathers, solid black, and solid bluish-grey.

It is a rare heritage turkey that was first domesticated in Mexico over 2000 years ago.

Because of the beautiful color gradient of their plumage, this breed is among the most beautiful heritage turkey breeds available.

5. Bourbon Red Turkey Breeds:

Bourbon red turkey

The Bourbon Reds is also a beautiful turkey breed, just like Blue Slate because of its very attractive red plumage.

They originate from Kentucky and Pennsylvania in the late 19th century as a result of crossing Buff, Standard Bronze, and White Holland turkeys.

This breed is popular for its full flavor and delicious meat.

As a result, is considered one of the best tasting heritage turkey breeds.

Just like most other turkeys, a mature Bourbon hen weighs about 12 pounds and a mature tom can reach about 23 pounds.

6. The Broad Breasted Whites:

broad breasted white turkey

When it comes to commercial turkey farming, the Broad Breasted White is the most widely used breed of domesticated turkey. 

They are available everywhere in almost every country around the globe.

These birds have shorter breast bones and larger breasts and have the highest food to meat conversion ratio.

This high food conversion ratio is what makes them the best breed of turkey for commercial turkey farming purposes.

7. Midget White Turkeys:

The Midget White turkey is a product of crossing the Broad-Breasted Whites with the Royal Palm turkey breeds.

It was created in the early 1960s by Dr. J. Robert Smyth at the University of Massachusetts.

This turkey is the smallest breed of turkey among other standard varieties of turkeys.

An adult tom weighs around 13 pounds and a hen weight 8-10 pounds. 

So, if you are to judge this turkey relative to the size of other breeds, then it’s just about the same size as a chicken.

8. The Narragansett Turkey Breed:

Narragansett turkey breed

The Narragansett turkey was originally from the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, USA.

They serve mostly for commercial agriculture across the United States and are most popular in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

This breed of turkey is the result of crossing wild Native Eastern turkeys and the Norfolk blacks.

On average, adult toms of the Narragansett turkey weigh about 30 pounds while mature hens weigh about 18 pounds.

Alright… Let’s go to the next breed.

9. Standard Bronze Breeds:

standard bronze turkey

The standard Bronze turkey is a large heritage turkey breed and the most popular turkey breed in American history. 

They are also known as the Cambridge Bronze Turkeys and the color of their plumage is bronze-like.

Bronze turkey is the result of crossing domestic turkeys brought from England, with wild turkeys.

The outcome of this mating is a bird that was larger and more robust than the European turkeys, and tamer than wild turkeys.

On average, an adult hen weighs about 16 pounds and a tom can reach about 25 pounds.

Although birds which are available nowadays may be smaller than this.

10. Royal Palm Turkeys:

Royal palm turkey

The Royal Palm Turkey breeds are ornamental birds mostly because of their unique appearance.

They are very beautiful with largely white plumage with bands of metallic black.

Due to the small size of this turkey breed, most breeders who rare them do so for beautifying the home and the farm.

However, they still produce suitable meat for consumption actually, they taste the best among heritage breeds.

In addition to its beauty on the farm, the Royal Palm can help to control insects as a result of its fierce foraging ability.

An adult Royal Palm tom can weigh about 16 pounds while a mature hen weighs about 10 pounds.

11. White Holland Turkey Breed:

White Holland Turkeys are an old variety of domestic white turkeys that have their origin in Holland.

This breed is the result of crossing white European turkeys with native birds in North America.

A mature White Holland hen can weigh up to 20 pounds and a mature tom can weigh up to 30 pounds.

The hens are calm in nature and make good mothers as they sit very well on their eggs.

People mostly eat this turkey as meat in the 1800s.

But today, they are considered a heritage turkey breed and are currently listed as threatened species by The Livestock Conservancy.

What Is The Largest Turkey Breed In The World?

The largest turkey breed in the world is the broad-breasted white turkey breed.

The turkey is so large that it can not mate naturally to be able to lay eggs.

It has to be artificially inseminated for it to reproduce.

In addition, they are usually less intelligent, can’t fly nor walk well, and are more prone to diseases. 

The major advantage that they have is that they grow abnormally fast.

In about 12 weeks, they have reached table size for slaughter.

As a result, they are the best breed of turkeys for commercial purposes.

In fact, this turkey breed has become the most common turkey that Americans raise and eat.

What Turkey Breeds Are The Best For Meat Production?

Farmers who raise turkeys for meat production go for the commercial type turkeys because of their high breast meat yield, fast growth, and high feed efficiency. 

So, the most popular varieties for them include the Broad-Breasted Bronze (also called Bronze) and Broad-Breasted White (also called Large White).

These two turkey varieties are part of the largest and heaviest turkeys available for commercial purposes.

They have an excellent feed to meat conversion rate and an adult turkey of this breed weighs between 16 to 25 pounds. 

This makes them an excellent choice to raise for meat production.

What Is The Best Turkey Breed For Egg Production

From a business point of view, raising turkeys for just eggs is not a feasible option.

Compared to layer chicken farming, turkeys cost more to keep, they lay fewer eggs (up to 100 per year), and they lay eggs at a later age (7 months). 

However, if you raise turkeys for meat, it is a good idea to get the eggs too.

A good option for the turkey breed that lays more eggs is the Beltsville Whites.

This breed of turkeys are prolific layers, however, they may have trouble with fertility without sufficient daylight hours. 

The Bronze and Jersey Buff turkeys are also good egg-laying options for egg production

What Types of Turkey Breed Are Great As Pets?

All turkeys are naturally beautiful and you can keep almost any domestic breed as a pet. 

It all depends on how you raise them from when they are poults.

The more you work with them when they are poults, the more people-friendly they will be as they grow. 

If you are going to keep a turkey as a pet, then you should at least go for one that can lay many eggs.

At least, they can serve the dual purpose of providing companionship as well as food for the family.


There you have it…

The different types of turkey breeds.

Now, over to you…

Which of the breeds do you find more fascinating and which are you going to start raising?

Will you raise the Broad-Breasted Whites for meat production or will you go for the Blue Slate or Royal Palm turkeys because of their beauty?

Leave a comment below, and let’s chat.

Don’t forget to share this post.


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  1. Good insight into the production of turkey thsnks

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      You are welcome

  2. Thanks for educating and informative write up

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      Aweosome. I hope you stay tuned for more information about this topic.

  3. Fred kowark says:

    could you please name some heritage turkey breed that resists flying fences.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      I will need you to further explain this request.

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