Okay. Turkeys. Really. I mean it this time. She said.
For those who are a bit late to my turkey party, heritage turkeys are, for the most part, endangered. These turkeys, which, seventy years ago, were all Americans knew of turkey, are now rare. The development of the Broad-Breasted Turkey in the 1950s appealed (and continues to appeal) to the desire for a bird which matures more quickly (read: more cheaply), with an unnaturally-high percentage of breast meat. This bird can’t fly or mate, can have difficulty even walking, and its popularity pushed the Heritage breeds to the brink of extinction.
You can read more about the differences between Heritage Turkeys and what you buy in the store here.
Let’s look at the math. An endangered breed has, by definition, a small breeding pool, and a small breeding pool lacks genetic diversity. Getting a good hatch, ergo, can be challenging. After my hopes were dashed by two poor hatches from two different sources this past spring, I decided to place my fragile turkey dreams in the hands of the specialists: Porter’s Heritage Turkeys.
Turkey poults are shipped April through August from Porter’s, but these poults are limited in number, and must be ordered (and paid for) well before they are born. Order-taking for 2013 poults began in August, and I wanted to have mine next May, when the nights warm up a bit, and in time for my birthday on the 9th. If I waited too long to place my order (and pay for it), I wasn’t going to get my poults until June, or even later.
But the money just hasn’t been there. I’ve thought it would be there, a number of times, and then it would evaporate, as money does. When I turned to the Porter’s Turkeys ordering page today, and saw they are now taking orders for poults to be delivered in mid- to late-May, something in me snapped. Hard.
Some gut-wrenching financial finagling later, I have now ordered (and paid for) fifteen poults from Porter’s Turkeys, to be delivered mid- to late-May. I may be sorry for the next week or two, but it is done. Selah. The trigger, she is pulled.
One must order a minumum of fifteen poults from Porter’s, because that is the minimum number that can keep each other warm in transit, to maximise survival at the other end of shipping. I have had my heart set on Slate/Self-Blue Turkeys (the latter also known as Lavender), and was fully prepared to commit myself to this line as a breeder, until I saw these:
Above is a White Holland tom and hen, respectively. Are they not sublime, gentle reader?! I must have.
The White Holland was instrumental in the development of the White Broad-Breasted turkey, the one that 99.99% of Americans now find in grocery stores. Sadly, it, too, is now endangered.
Some people fear raising white birds because they are highly visible, and, it is said, more vulnerable to predation. We have hawks here, but they have not yet taken any of our girls, even when they’ve been free-ranging dawn to dusk from the age of eight weeks. We do have some white birds, and I’ve always said that the hawk who can pick up Tallulah and fly away with her has earned his dinner. She’s big girl.
So, this change of plan is not without risk. The Man wanted me to choose a breed right off and settle on it, but we’re married now, so I can do what ever the damn hell I want, right, honey? That’s what I thought.
Und, so. I ordered ten poults from the Slate/Self-Blue combo, and five of the White Holland. I’ll see how it goes, and call an audible some time before Thanksgiving 2013. Because that’s how I roll.
Those of you who are paying attention might have noticed that Porter’s asks you to include a breed you might accept as a substitution, if the hatch rates do not allow them to complete your entire shipment as ordered. I selected Lilac, which is an related breed to the Slate:
So, stay tuned, chickeneers and turkeynauts. The turkeys are coming…