The turkeys are coming! The turkeys are coming!
One week Friday, the poults arrive. I’ve been on a bit of a ride with regard to the turkeys these past two weeks. If it were my sole intention to raise Blue Slate heritage turkeys to slaughter, I wouldn’t have bothered. But we have a vision to help preserve this endangered species, to help broaden its very limited gene pool, and to breed with an eye to increased vigor, fertility, size and conformation.
Now, I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed. Having spent as many years around Great Dane breeders as I have, I should have realised from the get-go that I should have started out with poults from a reputable breeder, not from a hatchery. Hatcheries breed many, many breeds and even species of birds with an eye to volume and health, but not to conformation. Starting with birds from a good breeder could have shaved years off our own breeding program.
I looked around for breeders of Blue Slates, but was initially unsuccessful. This is an endangered species. I committed myself to my purchase of six poults from a hatchery, and modified The Plan. I would use these six turkeys as my training ground, learning how to raise a different species. In the fall, I will keep the best tom and the best hen, and the rest will go to someone’s Thanksgiving dinner. (Oh, yes, they will, Gail.) I will make my choices based on vigor, size, colour, conformation and temperament. The poults I’m getting are straight run, so I have no idea how many of each gender I’ll get.
The tom and hen I keep will come to maturity through the winter. Come spring, the hen will likely wish to brood, as turkeys are famously good mamas. I will then buy hatching eggs from the two breeders I have been able to find, and let her brood them, with her own if I think it’s she and her tom have genetic potential. This would, with some luck, give me poults next year from three gene pools, which I, in my complete innocence, believe is a good place to start.
I have a tremendously steep learning curve ahead of me. Blue Slate poults come in three colours: slate, blue and black, and the genetics are tricky. From this website:
– a Slate bred to a Slate will produce all Slates, breeding true
– a Blue bred to a Blue will produce all three colours
– a Blue bred to a Black will produce Blues and Blacks
– a Black bred to a Black will produce all Blacks, breeding true
That is, unless you go by this site:
– a Slate bred to a Slate will produce all three colours
– a Self Blue bred to a Self will produce only Self Blues
– a Self Blue bred to a Black will produce only Slates
– a Slate bred to a Black will produce Slates and Blacks
– a Self Blue bred to a Slate will produce only Self Blues and Slates
– a Black bred to a Black will produce only Blacks
Adding to the confusion is that I think different people may call different colours by different names. It seems there’s a difference between “Blue” and “Self Blue”, which can also be called “Lavender”. Argh! I need help.
There are much more complicated discussions online about recessive and dominant genes around which I cannot yet begin to wrap my tiny pea brain. Baby steps.
Just to make it more interesting, I’ve read that if you don’t breed to a Black every now and then, your Slate colour will fade. I’ve also read that it is the tom that gives the colour, and the hen that gives size and conformation.
You can see a short video about the three colours of poults here. Warning: cuteness!!
So, not only do I not know how many of each gender I’m getting, I don’t know what colours they will be. I placed a request for all Slates, but they didn’t know what I was talking about. Which is why one goes to a breeder.
It’s gonna be a big adventure, folks. I’ll know which colours I got as soon as I lay eyes on them, of course, and it turns out I’ll know gender pretty quickly, too. This video shows a couple of jakes strutting their stuff at only 11 days of age.
Fasten your seatbelts…it’s going to be a bumpy summer.