Our Bourbon Red Turkeys at approx 20 weeks

I have grown very fond of our Bourbon Red turkeys – they are real characters, and are growing very quickly since their arrival in december (I’m cutting down their rations to a lower protein mix so they don’t grow too large as it might cause complications when it comes time to breed… but that’s issue is one I’ll save for another post)

I thought I should find out a bit more about the Bourbon Red – it’s origins and the story of this particular domesticated bird. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned:

  • Bourbon Red’s are listed as ‘critical’ on the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia’s endangered list, meaning there are less than 100 breeding birds left in the country.
  • They’re originally from Bourbon County in Kentucky USA, and were developed in the late 1800’s from crossing buff, bronze and white holland turkeys.
  • In the US it was used as a commercial variety up until the 1940’s, but then numbers dropped due to eat not being able to complete with broad-breasted varieties more popular with consumers and farmers.
  • They were once named Bourbon Butternuts, which I think is a delightful name, but was apparently a commercial failure, so they were renamed Bourbon Reds.
  • The breed is listed in the US Slow Food’s Ark of Taste and described as such: Bourbon Red turkeys are handsome in appearance. They have brownish to dark red plumage with white in the flight and tail feathers. The tail has soft red bars crossing the main feathers near the end. Body feathers on the toms may be edged in black. The neck and breast feathers are chestnut mahogany, and the undercolor feathers are light buff to almost white. The beak is light horn at the tip and dark at base. The throat wattle is red, changeable to bluish white, and the beard is black.
  • According to Mother Earth’s Turkey Taste Test they score very well for their performance on the plate.
  • A mature Bourbon Red male can weigh up to 15 kilos, with a female around 8 kilos.

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