Bourbon Red Turkey Poults for 2020

Bourbon Red Turkey Poults for 2020



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I can’t even begin to express how much I love our Bourbon Red Turkeys.  They are vicious little things when they’re babies (if you don’t believe me, watch one baby turkey drag another baby around by it’s little toothpick leg) and then they turn into funny, proud, beautiful birds as adults.  It’s hard for me to say what my favorite animal is on the ranch, but our Bourbon Red Turkeys are really up there.

Bourbon red turkeys are what finally took us from city people to country people.  We had raised a few birds and butchering them was hard.  That is until we tasted how good the bourbon red was.  After that thanksgiving, we never bought turkey (or any meat) from a store again and we were on board with truly farming.  You absolutely can’t compare store bought from farm fresh and grass fed.

These birds proportionally have much smaller breasts, darker leg meat and are generally gamier in flavor than broad-breasted whites raised on large, modern poultry farms. Heritage birds are also typically older than faster-growing, broad-breasted birds at the age of processing — 26 to 28 weeks compared to 14 to 18 weeks — which can result in a more textured or flavorful meat.


Our breeding policy

We breed all of our animals for production and increased meat and profitability, going as far as to measure weight and breast size at 8 weeks, 4 months and 6 months.  We keep the top 10% of our flock every year to ensure the next generation is even better than the past.

We are also careful to not inbreed.  Turkeys seem to deteriorate much faster in terms of size and stamina if they are bred within the same lines continuously.  Our goal is to breed for vigorous stock and hence we carefully select the most vigorous specimens to keep for breeding stock.  We also look for a “quiet, contented disposition, with great native strength of constitution and absence of susceptibility to contaminated soil, and strong resistance to disease.”

After vigor, we look for table form and quality as without this, there is no point in having the turkey.   We want a turkey that grows fast and grows big, however, we don’t want them to grow too fast or too big.  Excessive growth creates a turkey with more bone and tougher meat,  for instance the chewy, tasteless Broad Breasted White you buy at any grocery store.

We definitely breed to the show standard, but we select for utility quality first.  Often the utility qualities are overlooked, but we consider these qualities the primary thing to look for when selecting heritage turkeys, particularly when they are already endangered.  Utility qualities we look for are their abilities to mate naturally, incubate and rear their own young and are healthy enough to live in a natural outdoors environment.  We are located in the harsh and extreme climate of the southern california high desert so any birds that thrive here are very tough birds.  We believe the ability for heritage varieties of turkey to be able to fully and independently manage themselves, as well as meeting a show standard, is fundemental to their wellbeing and surviving into the future.

What do we mean by a ‘Traditional Turkey’?

Turkeys are native to the Americas and were originally domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico.  They were taken to Spain around
1500 and were introduced as a Black turkey into England in 1524.  This Black turkey eventually became known as Norfolk Black and is generally accepted as the first variety of turkey in Britain.

Today’s commercial turkey is generally selected to efficiently produce meat at the lowest possible cost, and they are undoubtedly an excellent converter of feed to breast meat.  But the result of this ‘improvement’ has generally been the loss of the bird’s ability to successfully mate or produce fertile eggs without intervention.  In short, most commercial turkeys are unable to sustain themselves naturally.

The few commercial varieties that can still reproduce naturally are rarely left to do so, and as they are genetically predisposed toward intensive management, being excellent feed converters and efficiency driven, they have lost the ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor systems.

Essential Requirements:

Naturally Mating:  The traditional turkey must reproduce and be genetically maintained to an agreed standard through natural mating and have an expected fertility rate of 70-80%.
Long Productivity:  The traditional turkey must have a long productive lifespan with breeding hens remaining viable for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years.
Outdoor Capability:  The traditional turkey must have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.
Slow Maturity: The traditional turkey must have a slow to moderate growth rate of about 28 weeks to table weight as this gives
the necessary time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.



North America
Stag Adult:
14.90kg / 33lb
Stag Young:
10.40kg / 23lb
Hen Adult:
8.10kg / 18lb
Hen Young:
6.30kg / 14lb
Red, changeable to bluish-white.
Light horn at the tip, darker at the base.
Dark brown.
Throat & Wattle:
Red, changeable to bluish-white.
A rich dark, chestnut-mahogany.
Rich, dark, chestnut-mahogany with each feather from point of shoulders to base of main tail having a very narrow edging of black.
Main tail: pure white, with an indistinct bar of soft red crossing each main tail feather near the tip. Coverts: deep brownish red.
Fronts, bows and coverts: rich dark, chestnut-mahogany each feather having a very narrow edging of black. Primaries and secondaries: pure white.
Rich, dark chestnut-mahogany, feathers having a very narrow edging of lustrous black.
Body and Fluff:
Body: deep, brownish-red; each feather edged with a very fine line of black. Fluff: a lighter shade of brownish-red.
Legs and Feet:
Lower thighs: dark, chestnut-mahogany. Shanks and Toes reddish pink in all adults; deep reddish horn in young.
Undercolour or all Sections:
Red, shading to a light salmon at base.
Colour Female:
Similar to that of the male, except there is no black edging in any section. On the breast, each feather has a narrow thread-like edging of white.
More than one third any colour other than white showing in either primaries, secondaries, or main tail feathers. Entire absence of black edging in plumage of stag on breast, wing fronts and saddle. Entire absence of white edging on feathers in upper breast and neck sections of hen.
Day-old Poult:
Head is a light reddish-brown with a darker brown mark on the back of the head. The neck and back is a light yellowish-brown with three dark brown stripes running from the shoulders, with the middle stripe being the broadest of the three. The wings go from dark brown at the front through to cream at the tips. Throat, breast and thighs are a pale yellowish-white. As feathering appears the growing poult takes on a pale beige colouring with white markings, these disappear as the adult feathers emerge.
Plumage in both sexes:

About Bourbon Red Turkeys

The Bourbon Red turkey is a breed of domestic turkey from United States. It is named for Bourbon County, Kentucky and also for it’s unique reddish plumage. Previously, it has alternatively been called Kentucky Reds and Bourbon Butternuts. And it was actually originated in Kentucky and Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century. The breed was actually created by crossing Buff, White Holland and Standard Bronze turkey. And it was first recognized as a different turkey variety by the American Poultry Association in 1909.

The Bourbon Red turkeys were selectively bred for utility traits as a meat bird. And throughout the 1930s and 1940s it was a very important variety in the turkey industry. The breed declined after the commercial adoption of the Broad Breasted White, like most other turkey breeds. In the early 21st century, total population of the Bourbon Red turkey began to recover. And currently the breed is one of the most popular heritage turkey breeds in the United States. The breed is still listed as ‘watch‘ by The Livestock Conservancy, despite it’s relative popularity as a heritage breed.

Currently there are fewer than 5000 breeding Bourbon Red turkey birds in the United States. And it is also included in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste (a catalog of heritage American foods in danger of extinction). Read some more information about this domestic turkey breed below.

Bourbon Red Turkey Characteristics

The Bourbon Red turkeys are large birds with very beautiful appearance. Their feathers are of a dark base color with white primaries in the tail characterized by a soft red band and white flight feathers. Both the wings and tail feature chestnut coverts. They have white flight and tail feathers and brownish to dark red plumage. On the toms, the body feathers may be edged in black. Feathers on the breast and neck are of chestnut mahogany, and the undercolor feathers are light buff to almost white.

Beak of the Bourbon Red turkey is light horn at the tip and dark at the base. The throat wattle is red, which is changeable to bluish white. The beard is black, and the shanks and toes are of pink color. The mature toms on average can weight around 15 kg. And average live body weight of the mature hens is around 8.2 kg. Photo and info from The Livestock Conservancy and Wikipedia.


The Bourbon Red turkey is a meat breed, and it is raised mainly for meat production.

Special Notes

The Bourbon Red turkeys are hardy and very beautiful birds. They are a very attractive variety for either exhibition or just for the backyard. These birds are very active foragers, and they generally do very well in a pasture production system. Either as purebreds or if crossed with white turkey, their foraging ability remain same.

In case of breeding, they are highly dependent on selection by breeders. Some birds are of docile temperament, and some can be aggressive. Today the breed is raised mainly for meat production. However, review full breed profile of the Bourbon Red turkey in the chart below.

Bourbon Red Turkey | Breed Profile
Breed Name Bourbon Red
Other Names Previously called as Kentucky Reds and Bourbon Butternuts
Breed Purpose Mainly meat
Special Notes Very strong and hardy birds, docile temperament, but some birds can become aggressive, highly dependent on selection by breeder, today raised mainly for meat production, very attractive variety for either exhibition or just for the backyard, active foragers, foraging ability remain same if crossed with white breeds
Breed Size Large
Weight Tom Around 15 kg
Hen Around 8.2 kg
Climate Tolerance Almost all climates
Color Red with white
Rarity Common
Country/Place of Origin United States


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