Bourbon Red Turkeys
The Bourbon Red turkey is named for Bourbon County in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region where it originated in the late 1800s. It was developed by J. F. Barbee from crosses between Buff, Bronze, and White Holland turkeys though the initial steps actually took place in Pennsylvania, where Buff turkeys of darker red hues – called Tuscarora or Tuscawara – were bred and then taken west with settlers bound for Ohio and Kentucky. These dark Buff turkeys would be the primary foundation for the new variety.
Bourbon Red Turkey
After some years of selection, Barbee was able to produce consistently good-sized, dark red turkeys with white wings and main tail feathers. He christened these “Bourbon Butternuts.” For some reason, perhaps because the name did not appeal to the public, the birds did not attract attention. Barbee rechristened them “Bourbon Reds,” Bourbon for his home county, and red for the rich, chestnut color of the plumage. The name change seemed to work, and better sales were reported.
The Bourbon Red variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1909. It was ambitiously selected and promoted for utility traits, including a production-type conformation with a heavy breast and richly flavored meat. Early breeders of the Bourbon Red also claimed that their birds would grow as large as any Mammoth Bronze, a precursor to the Broad Breasted Bronze. The Bourbon Red was an important commercial variety through the 1930s and ’40s. But as time went on, it declined in popularity as it was unable to compete with the broad-breasted varieties. Since 2002, renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor of the Bourbon Red has captured consumer interest and created a growing market niche.
Bourbon Red turkeys are handsome. They have brownish to dark red plumage with white flight and tail feathers. Tail feathers have soft red bars crossing them near the end. Body feathers on the toms may be edged in black. Neck and breast feathers are chestnut mahogany, and the undercolor feathers are light buff to almost white. The Bourbon Red’s beak is light horn at the tip and dark at the base. The throat wattle is red, changeable to bluish white, the beard is black, and shanks and toes are pink. Standard weights for Bourbon Reds are 23 pounds for young toms and 14 pounds for young hens. Since, however, she has not been selected for production attributes, including weight gain, for years, many birds may be smaller than the standard. Careful selection for good health, ability to mate naturally, and production attributes will return this variety to its former stature.
The Bourbon Red is an attractive bird for either exhibition or just for the backyard. They are active foragers, and would probably do well in a pasture production system, either as purebreds or when crossed with white turkeys. They also present an attractive carcass when dressed, since the light pinfeathers leave no residue of dark pigment showing the feather follicles as with the Bronze. Unfortunately we have no recent information on growth rate, feed conversion or egg production for any of the rare varieties. Documentation of performance information is urgently needed so that this variety can be promoted for use in sustainable agriculture as well as for backyard breeders.
Bourbon Red Turkey Characteristics, Origin & Uses
The Bourbon Red turkey for sale 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.
1. Size and Weight
Bourbon Reds are relatively larger than many breeds of turkeys, which is what makes them more ideal for meat production.
A fully matured tom turkey can be expected to reach up to 32 pounds. Your turkey could be bigger than your dog! Fully grown hens weigh approximately 18 pounds.
Nearly all turkey keepers report wonderfully friendly and sweet demeanors in their Bourbon Red turkeys. There can be an occasional aggressive or territorial male, but that’s mainly towards rivaling males.
Are Bourbon Red turkeys mean?
Bourbon Red Turkey Profile
The feathers on the chest and neck are chestnut mahogany, and the low-colored feathers are light to almost white in color. These birds are very active and tend to fly around the yard, however, they are docile, but the males tend to be aggressive if intimidated.
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