(If any turkey can really be called Exotic???)
BASIC TURKEY INFO:
Turkeys are a WONDERFUL addition to a backyard or farmyard flock. They have a totally different personality than chickens and, in an almost dog-like manner, will follow you around as you work outside. They are very curious which sometimes get them in trouble as they checkout and even taste things like pans of used motor oil!
Turkey poults ARE harder to raise than chicken chicks. They require more vigilance in maintaining the proper temperature and making sure they do not get damp or wet. A wet poult will lose its body heat and die quickly. Turkeys are also more susceptible to disease than chickens and will often be beyond saving by the time you realize something is wrong.
The statement that turkeys cannot be housed with chickens is based on the fact that chickens can carry Blackhead but are not affected by it, where it will kill turkeys. The fungus that causes Blackhead is carried by earthworms, so having your flocks penned apart really does nothing unless they are FAR apart. Also, since there is not a test for Blackhead, other than an expensive necropsy, many turkey illnesses and deaths are blamed on Blackhead when they are often due to parasites or other diseases. IF you have the fungus that causes Blackhead in your soil it is there and you will not be able to raise turkeys (though your nextdoor neighbor might have great success).
Since turkey hens normally nest on the ground, they must be penned during breeding season or they become an easy target for foxes, coyotes, etc. Large owls and eagles can also be a threat to even adult turkeys if allowed to free range.
Do be aware that over-interacting with poults as you raise them CAN cause the toms to lose respect for humans and make them become aggressive later. There is no "fixing" a tom once he has learned to be aggressive towards humans and at 40-50 lbs an adult tom can inflict real injury, especially to a child.
Turkeys are alot of work but they are worth it!
This is the Classic Bronze Turkey. They are calm, friendly (in most cases) and good as egg & poult producers and as medium sized meat birds. The bronze is one of the original natural breeds of turkey (domesticated way back from wild turkeys) and their genes are the base for most other breeds.
It is only possible to tell Eastern Wilds from Heritage Bronzes by DNA testing as they look identical. However, state and federal game regulations and laws apply to keeping and raising WILD turkeys, but not to domestic varieties.
Bronze poults are light and dark brown striped (On left in photos above.)
Royal Palms are a favorite with many people due to their flashy color. Their genes are the base of many newer breeds of turkey such as the Pencilled Palms and Sweetgrass. Royal Palms are slightly smaller/finer than the Bronzes. The hens lay well and set their eggs well.
Royal Palm poults hatch yellow and begin getting some black markings at about 2-4 weeks old (in my experience, hen chicks usually get their color later than jakes). (in middle of top photo)
The Narragansett breed is thought to have been developed in colonial New England when wild toms kidnapped and bred with domestic hens. The resulting bird is a large, calm, friendly bird. Narri toms LOVE to strutt and show off, their whole attitude shouts, "Look at Me!!"
Narri hens can lay heavily and the eggs hatch out nice, big poults that are nearly indistiguishable from Bronze poults until their colors start to mute at a few weeks old.
IF I ever had to go back to just one breed of turkey, it would probably be a hard decision between Narragansetts and Bourbon Reds.
The Bourbon Red was developed in Kentucky (bourbon country)by selectively breeding redder colored Buff turkeys. Then in the 40's they were used as the base genes to create the Jersey Buff when Buffs all but became extinct.
Bourbon Reds are flashy, intelligent birds with loads of personality. They are large birds that lay well but - in our experience - are not quite as prolific as the Narragansetts. It is said that BRs can be sexed when the breast feathers start to come in as the hens, when young, have white edges to their breast feathers.
The Bourbon Red poults are a reddish color on top with darker brown patterns mixed in and yellow underneath (on right in photo at the top of this page).
Pencilled Palms are a "newer" variety developed by Porter's. They look similar ot a Royal Palm but where a Royal Palm should be only white and black, Pencilled Palms may have some tan mixed in. They also have thin, black swirls "pencilled in" between the heavier "normal" black lines of the Royal Palm. It can be difficult to tell a Royal Palm hen from a Pencilled Palm hen unless you are looking for the differences, toms are easier! I will post photos of our adults soon.
We waited years to be able to get a breeding flock of this type of turkey and it was worth every minute. Our PPs lay HUGE eggs, even for a turkey, and though they were a little older when they started laying, they lay a massive number of eggs each year. Because of the genitics of our flock, they produce Pencilled Palm, Royal Palm (split for Pencilling gene), and Tiger Bronze poults.
Pencilled Palm poults can be anywhere from almost solid white to a cool looking, white with tan and black patterns as seen in these photos.
This is a new breed for us this year, we started with a pair and liked them so much we have added more hens for next year. They are VERY mild mannered, pure white birds and the toms grow an impressive Black beard. Size-wise they are about the same as the Royal Palms or Bourbon Reds. So far the hen we have has laid eggs like crazy, if the young hens follow suit this maybe our best laying flock of turkeys.
The poults are yellow and indistinguishable from Royal Palms until the Royals start getting their black markings at 3 or 4 weeks old.