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Heritage Turkeys Breed Facts

No one can deny that a fully mature Tom turkey puffed up and strutting seems majestic, and handsome. Heritage breeds are naturally reproducing and look like what most people imagine a turkey to look like. When we chose turkeys we choses Heritage Turkeys.

If you’re wondering, “What is a heritage turkey?” I’ll be happy to tell you. According to the ALBC, a heritage breed must meet 3 qualifications.

1. They must breed naturally. We all understand what this means. It’s interesting to note a heritage breed turkey must have naturally mated grandparents and parents.

2. They must be able to endure a lengthy, natural, outdoor reproduction system. A breeding hen is productive for 5 to 7 years on average. A breeding Tom is productive for 3 to 5 years on average.

3. They must have a slow growth rate. It takes a heritage breed turkey 28 weeks to reach its marketable weight. The slow growth rate gives them time to develop their skeletal system and internal organs so they can handle the weight of their muscle mass.


Nature: Very friendly and Hardy

Egg Lay Rate: Seasonal Egg Size: Extra Large 

Egg Color: Speckled Cream

Size: Heritage Turkeys weight in at Females 13-15 lbs Males 20-25 lbs 

The Narraganset Turkey -

This turkey originates in Narraganset Bay Rhode Island. It was there that this breed was standardized for production. These rare turkeys are medium sized and calm. Turkeys matures at around 20 weeks.

The Royal Palm Turkey

This turkey is a remarkably attractive bird, displaying some of the nicest colors of all turkey varieties — with bright white feathers banded with metallic black. This contrast is truly radiant. The Royal Palm is not a common variety and is available in limited supply. Royal Palm Turkeys are relatively small compared to other turkey breeds.

Blue Slate Turkey

These turkeys are named for their ash blue coloring. Blue Slates are also called Blue or Lavender turkeys. They can have a few black flecks on their feathering. Hens are lighter in coloring than toms. Like the Blue Andalusian, the blue gene can produce several colors: solid black, solid blue and blue flecked with black spots. Often Blue Slates are a combination of these colors.

The Blue Slate is a rare, Heritage breed fowl and a very old breed recognized as a standard breed in the U.S. in 1874. These beautiful birds are medium-sized.

Chocolate Turkey 

We discovered they were the main turkey breed in our area before and during the Civil War. They were eaten and lost their breeders during the war. The breeding stock was almost completely depleted. Even today they remain on the critical list. Most of the Chocolate Turkey flocks of today have some Bronze, Bourbon Red, or Narragansett DNA. This is because of the depleted number of breeding stock. However, the breed is pure enough for The Livestock Conservancy to accept them as a true heritage breedbet you couldn’t guess, but the name “Chocolate” comes from the color of this chocolate turkey’s feathers, shanks, and feet. They are all three a solid milk chocolate color when the bird is mature. They are considered the largest of the heritage turkey breeds. Yet they are known for their gentle nature.   

Heritage Bronze Turkey

The Bronze has been the most popular turkey variety for most of American history. It originated from crosses between the domestic turkeys brought by European colonists to the Americas and the eastern wild turkeys they found upon their arrival. The hybrid vigor of this cross resulted in turkey stocks that were larger and more vigorous than the European birds, and they were also much tamer than wild turkeys. The coppery-bronze colored metallic sheen, which gives the variety its name, was part of the inheritance from its wild ancestors.

Bronze-type turkeys were known by the late 1700s, but the name 'Bronze' did not formally appear until the 1830s. Throughout the 1800s, breeders standardized the Bronze, and occasional crosses were made back to the wild turkey. The Bronze variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874.

Naturally mating, long-lived, slow growing strains of Bronze turkeys, known as the Standard Bronze, have been left even further behind by the turkey industry. A few tenacious breeders maintained small flocks, participating in poultry shows, and raising a few for family and friends. The Bronze was not used for commercial production for decades until the early 21st century, when renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor captured consumer interest and created a growing market niche.

Much to our surprise, turkeys are the friendliest birds in our farm. Turkeys like to visit and sit with me on the porch during morning coffee. They have the most entertaining personality of all of our birds.  the Heritage (Standand) Bronze turkey has been around for most of American History. It originated by crossing the Wild Eastern Turkey with the domesticated turkeys brought over by early European Colonists. The cross resulted in a vigorous, larger turkey than the one brought over by the colonists and was tamer than the wild Eastern turkey. Colored the same as the Broad Breasted Bronze turkey they were known in the early 1700s but did not take the name of Bronze until in the 1800’s. It was recognized into the American Poultry Association in 1874.

The Heritage (Standard) Bronze took a back seat when the Broad Breasted Bronze became the commercialized favorite breed; however there were dedicated breeders who kept the Heritage (Standard) Bronze turkey alive with their efforts. The Heritage (Standard) Bronze is a longer living, slower growing turkey than the Broad Breasted Bronze; but is able to breed naturally and is very good at foraging. This makes them a favorite of the homesteader or family farmer. 

Silver Sebrights

Breed Facts

Conservation Status: Critical


Comb: Rose with a leader on males

Use: Ornamental

Egg Color: White

Egg Size: Small 60-80 per year

Average Weight: Hen 20 oz. Rooster 22 oz.

Temperament: Active spunky, hens are not broody-nor good mothers. Friendly and easily tamed.


Like to fly. Do not tolerate cold. Not many eggs.

APA Class: British Origin Clean Legged Bantam

Color Description: Silver, with white base and black lacing 

Breed Details

The Sebright is a British breed of bantam chicken. It is a true bantam – a miniature bird with no corresponding large version.

It is named after Sir John Saunders Sebright, who created it as an ornamental breed by selective breeding in the early nineteenth century.

The Sebright was developed by Sir John Saunders Sebright, the 7th Baronet of Besford, Worcestershire and a Member of Parliament for Herefordshire in the early 1800s, and is one of the oldest recorded British bantam breeds.

Saunders was a “gentleman farmer” who wanted to create a bantam breed that had well-defined lacing. His “recipe” for creating the breed is unknown, but in the process, he traveled the countryside collecting “odd” and “gamey” birds from the local poultry flocks, and may have imported birds from other countries. Some believe he may have used the Nankin, Polish, and Hamburg chickens. The most difficult part of the creation of the bird was getting it to have the desired lacing and breed true. The Sebright was finally introduced in 1810 – after 20-30 years of work.

The first poultry breed to have its own specialist club for enthusiasts, Sebrights were admitted to poultry exhibition standards not long after their establishment.

Light and Dark Brahmas

Breed Facts

Conservation Status: Recovering

Comb: Pea

Use: Dual Purpose

Egg Color: Brown

Egg Size: Medium – 150-160 a year 

Average Weight:  Rooster 10-14 lbs, Hen 8-10 lbs

Temperament: Docile, Gentle and Quiet

Characteristics: Heavy Breed. Good forager in confined area. Slow to develop.

APA Class: Asiatic

Color Description: Light Brahmas are mainly white, with black hackles & white edging on each feather. Their tails are also black. Brahmas have feathered shanks & feet.

Breed Details:

Brahmas have long been prized for their size and who hasn’t seen that video floating around the internet; be honest!

As with most very old breeds, its early history is not completely known. We do know that while the ancestors of the modern Light Brahmas likely came to the United States on 19th Century sailing ships, the breed as we know it today was developed in the United States.

In the 1850s, some Brahma roosters reached as much as 18 pounds in weight. That’s a lot of chicken! The average size, then and now, is a bit smaller and birds today may be closer to 10 pounds but some males do get heavier. This chicken breed is named after India's Brahmaputra River, it is believed that Brahmas originated in India, but no one really knows for sure. We strive for birds of a nice size in our flock too if we ever see 18 pound roosters you will be the first to know.

Brahmas are one of the heaviest breeds and are great for a small flock because they are excellent dual-purpose chickens. Their docile, gentle, and quiet temperament makes them one of the best breeds around children and they are very easy to handle. They have a regal appearance in the chicken world.

Hens sometimes go broody, and are attentive mothers. They are also excellent winter layers, producing most of their eggs between October and May.

They get along well with other chickens and people. Brahmas have a pea comb, with yellow skin and are a cold hardy breed. Feathers cover their feet and shanks, keeping them warm in winter. These gentle giants have profuse, fluffy feathering. Originally in India, these birds were developed for meat production, but are too slow growing to be regarded as "meat birds".

They do like to forage nevertheless, they are not good fliers due to their size. So, they do quite well in a large confinement; compared to free-ranging.

Light and Dark Brahmas were both included in the first printing of the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874. They were prized across the country until the 1930s when their fairly slow rate of maturity led them to fall out of favor.

Brahmas are BIG birds and deserve BIG coops and BIG runs … lower, stronger perches and roosts; along with custom built nest boxes for “…Baby (who) got Back….” They're so much larger than most other breeds that they may end up near the top of your pecking order by default. The other thing to remember about their size is that you should gather eggs frequently. Ensure your hens have supplemental calcium to develop strong shells. Weak-shelled eggs left too long in the coop can get inadvertently broken. That's a danger with any breed but particularly so with extra-large birds.

Brahmas are so gentle and absolutely huggable you should always have them by your side…literally waist high! 


NPIP Codes:






Comb: Walnut Comb

Use: Ornamental

Egg Color: Cream

Egg Size: Small – 100 per year

Average Weight: Rooster 1.2 lbs, Hen 1.1 lbs

Temperament: Gentle, calm, friendly

Characteristics: Broody, Flightless, Black Skin

APA Class: American Bantam Association Feather Legged

Color Description: Multiple varieties with Blue Ears Pom Pom & dark mulberry comb

Breed Details: The Silkie Chicken is the fluff ball of the chicken world. 

The Silkie (also known as the Silky or Chinese silk chicken) is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk and satin. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens only have four. They are often exhibited in poultry shows, and also appear in various colors.

In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. It is one of the most docile birds. Hens are also exceptionally broody, and care for young well. Although they are fair layers themselves, they are commonly used to hatch eggs due to their broody nature.

It is unknown exactly where or when these fowl first appeared, but the most well documented point of origin is ancient China centuries ago. Other places in Southeast Asia have been named as possibilities, such as India and Java. The earliest surviving Western written account of Silkies comes from Marco Polo, who wrote of a "furry" chicken in the 13th century during his travels in Asia. 

In 1598, Ulisse Aldrovandi, a writer and naturalist at the University of Bologna, Italy, published a comprehensive writing on chickens which is still read today. In it, he mentions "wool-bearing chickens" and ones "clothed with hair like that of a black cat".

Silkies most likely made their way to the West via the Silk Route and maritime trade. The breed was recognized officially in North America with acceptance into the Standard of Perfection in 1874. Once Silkies became more common in the West, many myths were perpetuated about them. Early Dutch breeders told buyers they were the offspring of chickens and rabbits, while sideshows promoted them as having actual mammal fur.

In the 21st century, Silkies are one of the most popular ornamental breeds of chicken. They are often kept as pet chickens by backyard keepers.

This is a docile and friendly chicken breed. In fact they are so friendly they often get bullied by more assertive birds like Rhode Island Reds. They will do well mixed with other docile breeds (such as Polish, Cochin or similar types) and enjoy a peaceful coexistence.

Nevertheless, they really enjoy interacting with humans and are a pushover for lap time, where they frequently have a nap. Silkies love being carried around or having cuddles.

If you want a chicken that lays lots of eggs, the Silkie is not your bird. They are considered poor layers averaging 2-3 small eggs each week – around 100-120 eggs per year. However they excel in the broodiness department and are fabulous mothers.


Comb: Single Comb

Use: Eggs

Egg Color: Chocolate

Egg Size: Large – 150-200 per year

Average Weight: Rooster 8-7 lbs, Hen 6.5-6 lbs

Temperament: Gentle, active, docile.

APA Class: Continental (French)

Color Descriptions: APA recognizes White, Wheaten, Black Copper. Several Other Not recognized: Birchen, Blue, Salmon, Blue Silver Salmon, Silver Cuckoo, and Golden Cuckoo

There are so many varieties or Marans with only a few recognized by the A.P.A. which are White, Wheaten and Black Copper. We are not giving up hope because any day now other colors, just as popular, might join the rank and file of the A.P.A. too.

Marans lay the darkest-colored eggs of any chicken breed. They are very friendly, beautiful and make a nice dual purpose backyard bird too.

The birds that made up the original Marans were wild “swamp hens” and roosters who were released from English ships when they docked in port French port towns, in the 12th and 13th centuries. Generally, the roosters were victorious fighting game birds which were common during that time.

Farmers and breeders began crossing those local birds with others, selecting for egg size and color, in the 19th century. Interest in the breed spread across France, a club was formed and standards were established.

For a short time, the breed flourished. However, waned around WWII.

Individual breeders continued working to keep the breed around. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 1990s that breeders came together to set firm standards and a true interest in the breed sparked.

In 2010, Black Copper Marans were accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection. Black Copper Marans are one of the most popular breeds, mostly due to their beautiful range of dark brown eggs.

Colors: The male Black Copper Marans is black with copper on his head and saddle, while the female is almost completely black, with just a bit of copper coloring on the head and neck.

Blue Splash Marans are one of the oldest color varieties of Marans. They laying lots of big, dark brown eggs and grow to be a good dual purpose bird.

The blue Marans comes from the original crossing of English game roosters with the local, wild, “swamp hens” around the port town of Marans, France in the 12th and 13th centuries.

While Blue Splash Marans are beautiful, practical birds, the blue will not breed true so you may get black, splash or blue chicks. Although highly popular, no poultry association recognizes the Blue Splash Marans. Nevertheless we hold out hope. There have been several groups working toward that goal.

Orpington Breed Facts

Conservation Status: Heritage Breed and we are no longer on the list!






Comb: Single Comb

Use: Eggs, Meat

Egg Color: Light Brown

E​gg​ Size: Large – 190-200 per year

Average Weight: Rooster 10 lbs., Hen 8 lbs.

Temperament: Friendly, great personality, very docile but prone to go broody

Characteristics: Large and Bantam size full thick plumage, deep massive body, cold hardy

APA Class: English

Color Description: APA recognized Black White Blue Buff…but why stop there? The colors are growing by the year.

Breed Details: Now they came to be around 1850 in England oddly enough in the village or Orpington and originally they were black. They were introduced as a breed in 1886 by William Cook he crossed black Minorcas with Black Plymouth Rocks and bred the offspring to Langshan's had clean legs. Once the Black Orpington was created additional colors came White, Buff, Blue, Jubilee, Cuckoo, and others. Today there are 2 lines though; the English line and the American line. Well since we had a European Great Dane you know we prefer the look of the English line. 

Why? Well, preference only all birds are beautiful but we just like big butts and we cannot lie (oh terribly sorry that went a bit sideways) English Orpingtons tend to look more robust; with fuller feathers, a larger body and resembling a larger cochin. The American Orpington is just as pretty but the plumage is not quite as thick. 

Orpingtons joined the APA in 1902 with four official recognized colors: black, white, blue and buff. 

However, we all know we don't stop there in Orpington land: Chocolate, Chocolate Cuckoo, Jubilee, Isabel, Lavender, Isabell Cuckoo, Black Mottled, Chocolate Mottled, Lavender Mottled, Lavender Cuckoo, Crele, and we want them ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you do not already have Orpingtons in your flock, you are truly missing out. They are a good dual-purpose bird and very winter hardy. Orpingtons are great layers (and setters so be ready) But they make the best moms too! We find them to be very lovable and easy going in our flocks.