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Heirloom Bronze Turkey – Breed Profile

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Are you thinking of adding turkeys to your flock? Why not select a Heritage turkey breed for a more organic approach?

The Heirloom Bronze turkey lives a long life, matures slowly, and they are excellent egg layers. Not only is it the turkey of choice for organic growers and backyard poultry breeders, but it is also one of the largest breeds of heritage turkey available.

Heirloom Bronze turkeys, in contrast to commercial breeds, may contain less white meat, but they are packed with a richer, more intense flavor.

The Heirloom Bronze turkey is an exceptional breed with a history as rich as its taste. Continue reading to find out more!

Commercial Turkey vs. Heritage Turkey

Heritage Turkey

Bronze turkey flock free range

Heritage turkeys, also called Heirloom turkeys, are a group of domesticated birds that have been bred for generations while maintaining their native traits.

As a rule, they are smaller and have less white meat than commercial turkeys, but when rearing them, they remain healthy and robust. Disease is far less common in Heritage turkeys than in their commercial cousins.

Because Heritage/Heirloom Turkeys are often raised on organic farms using non-commercial farming methods, their meat and eggs are healthier and tastier.

People have become more aware of how important it is to eat well for their overall health. The shift toward organic and natural foods is on the rise.

In response, more farmers focus on environmentally responsible breeding practices that respect and preserve Heritage breed animals.

However, to be recognized as a Heritage breed, an animal must have distinct genetic traits and be reared in a sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion.

The following standards set by the American Poultry Association must be met for a turkey to be classified as a Heritage variety.

  1. Natural reproduction
  2. Long outdoor productive lifespan
  3. Slow growth rate

The Standard of Perfection published by the American Poultry Association (APA) includes eight different types of Heritage turkeys:

  1. Bronze
  2. Black
  3. Narragansett
  4. White Holland
  5. Slate
  6. Bourbon Red
  7. Beltsville Small White
  8. Royal Palm

Commercial Turkey

Three young turkeys sitting on the lawn

Commercial turkey breeders have spent years developing a breed that can maximize meat productivity while minimizing overhead costs. 

Regarding industrial turkey breeding, the goal has always been to create the largest converter of white breast meat possible. 

But this “upgrade” eliminates the bird’s natural capacity to reproduce through mating and the fertilization of eggs.

In addition, antibiotics are commonly given to turkeys in industrial poultry farming.

Commercial breeds are less resistant to disease and become sick more often. However, antibiotics are frequently given to turkeys without the necessity for healing but rather as a preventative measure.

Unfortunately, the antibiotics in the meat we consume as humans are not good for our health.

We are putting unnecessary stress on our bodies when we eat meat treated with antibiotics. If we constantly consume antibiotics through the meat we eat, we may develop resistance to them and need stronger medication in the future when the need for antibiotics arises.

Two bronze turkey on a field

Heirloom Bronze Turkey Key Information

Male Size:35-38 lbs (15.8-17.2kg)
Female Size:18-22 lbs (8-9.9kg)
Use:Bronze turkey is mostly used for meat, but it is also one of the greatest turkey breeds for egg production
Egg Size:Large
Eggs per year:75 to 155
Weeks to Maturity:36
Lifespan:3-7 years
Climate Tolerance:Almost all climates
Color:Brown, copper, blue, green, bronze
Temperament:Depending on the individual, some can be aggressive while others are obedient
Price:Chicks: $15 Full-grown birds: $115

Heirloom Bronze Turkey Origin

Bronze turkey stands in the forest

The domestic bronze turkey breed was originally a cross between the domestic turkeys brought by British colonists to the New World and the wild turkeys they found in eastern America.

By the early 18th century, domestic turkeys had spread far over the eastern colonies. However, it was not until the 1830s that the bronze turkey birds were officially recognized as a distinct breed. 

Bronze Turkeys were developed and standardized during the nineteenth century when they were raised free-range for both personal use and commercial sales.

The Bronze breed separated into the Broad-breasted Bronze and the Standard Bronze in the 20th century, but both are still commonly known as just the Bronze Turkey.

Some people argue that there is no discernible difference between the two varieties. On the other hand, their feathers and plumage can vary in size. The Standard Bronze turkey is smaller and has lighter, glossy feathers.

Close up of a Bronze Male Turkey

Heirloom Bronze Characteristics

Size

Bronze turkey is one of the largest heritage turkey breeds. Toms normally weigh 35–38 pounds (15.8-17.2 kilograms), while hens are smaller at 18–22 pounds (8.1-9.9 kilograms).

A Bronze turkey can grow to a maximum height of 4 feet (1.2 meters) with a wingspan of 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Heritage birds mature at a much slower rate, reaching maturity at 23 weeks as opposed to the 14–19 weeks required by commercial varieties.

Health

The life expectancy of a Bronze turkey is 3–7 years.

They’re a hardy breed that can withstand most climates. In fact, they thrive when allowed to spend the day outdoors.

Color

In terms of color, a Bronze turkey is metallic copper color or bronze.

The tail and its covert feathers are black and brown striped, the wings are bronze, and the flight feathers are white and black. The tom’s feathers, however, can display vivid colors, including red, purple, greenish, and gold.

The females are paler and have a hint of white lace on their breasts.

Use 

Bronze Turkey on the farm in Pakistan

Meat production is the primary goal of Bronze turkey farming.

By 18 weeks, Bronze turkeys weigh more than 80 percent of their final adult size. A Bronze turkey is usually slaughtered between 4 and 6 months old.

However, they are unrivaled in their ability to lay eggs.

Because of its potential to lay an average of 75 to 155 eggs yearly, the Bronze turkey is one of the best breeds for eggs.

Bronze turkeys are commonly bred on organic farms, making their meat hard to find in conventional supermarkets.

The breeder, on the other hand, benefits from the increased demand for high-quality turkey products.

Living Conditions

The bronze turkey is a highly resilient bird, able to thrive in various climatic circumstances. In fact, your turkey will benefit greatly from regular exposure to the outdoors.

It is, however, a huge bird that requires a lot of space to live. If you plan on having a big flock of these turkeys, you will need to provide them with a roomy coop and plenty of outdoor areas to run.

Their inability to fly is an advantage when it comes to their maintenance. This significantly reduces their capacity for escape, making it much easier for the breeder to keep them under control.

Temperament

A turkey may not seem like the most obvious choice for a pet, but if you take your time and train it properly from a young age, it may become a great friend.

Bronze turkeys are a highly domesticated breed. But its final temperament will largely be determined by its breeder’s commitment and effort throughout its early socialization.

When the hen has chicks, you need to be extra careful. It doesn’t take much for her to become hostile and aggressive to protect them.

Bronze turkey in the farm in Belize

Nutrition

Turkeys are classified as omnivores since they feed on plant and animal matter and have the greatest protein requirements of any domesticated bird.

Turkeys’ diet varies significantly in the wild, from insects and reptiles to grains, seeds, herbs, and fruits—their diet changes with the seasons and the amount of available food.

Keeping a flock of turkeys healthy and robust requires balanced meals rich in nutrients. 

While it’s possible to try feeding a turkey a homemade diet, the process will go much more smoothly if you use turkey feed. This guarantees that your birds are getting the necessary nutrition.

Many experienced turkey breeders suggest scattering meal bowls around the turkeys’ strolling area. 

As a result, turkeys will eat more food during the day. This is due to their inherent instinct to seek food. If you give them one bowl to eat from, they may eat less.

Egg Production

Mating Turkeys

A decent, robust tom can provide for and fertilize anywhere from six to ten hens. When the number of hens to a single tom is low, you must take special care to ensure the tom’s amorous attention won’t hurt the hens.

Some toms are rough with hens, which is a common issue in a flock where males constantly struggle for females. You should take this as an indication that you need more females in the flock.

Pile of turkey eggs in nest

Egg Quality

Turkey eggs are much bigger than chicken eggs. Given its larger size, a turkey egg contains nearly twice as many calories, protein, and fat as the egg of a chicken! Vitamin B12 and folate (B9) are abundant in turkey eggs. 

They are an excellent source of vitamin A and iron and have useful potassium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc levels.

But remember that one turkey egg has the same cholesterol as two large chicken eggs. 

Egg Laying

The turkey laying season begins early in the spring when the required 14 hours of daylight are available to initiate the laying process. Turkeys may continue to lay eggs even until October.

If you’re looking for a good turkey breed for eggs, look no further than the Bronze turkey. They produce 75 to 155 eggs per year on average!

Egg Incubation

The incubation of fertile eggs can be done in one of two ways: by the hens themselves or artificially with a specialized incubator.

However, the number of eggs you plan to incubate will likely dictate your approach. 

When you remove eggs from a natural mother and don’t return them to her for incubation, the mother lays more eggs. This is when an incubator might come in handy. A broody hen is a great option if you’d rather not use a machine and stick as closely as possible to nature.

The term “broody hen” refers to a hen that incubates her eggs by sitting on them constantly.

The average incubation period for a turkey egg is 28 days. Always give your eggs a little extra time simply in case they are slow developers; it may be because of environmental factors such as a change in temperature.

Bronze Turkey vs. White Turkey 

Bronze Turkey

American Bronze Turkey, female and male displaying with tail fanned out

Bronze turkeys look and taste more like native American wild turkeys.

The Bronze turkey is one of the largest heritage breeds, reaching maturity at a leisurely pace. Typically, a male adolescent weighs between 35.3 and 38.1 lbs. (16 and 17.2kg)!

Bronze turkeys have darker, more flavorful meat than their White turkey cousins and a lower proportion of white meat overall.

Bronze turkeys are bronze in color with a green and gold sheen. 

It’s best to keep them in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible by providing them with plenty of room to run outside. They are hardy, robust birds that will do well to survive in various conditions.

This is the turkey of choice for organic farmers and hobbyist poultry breeders.

White turkeys on a farm

White Turkey

White turkey is the most popular domesticated turkey breed for use in the food industry.

These are typical turkeys used for commercial breeding on a large scale, and they are not able to live without human help. White turkeys, for instance, cannot procreate unless humans intervene.

Usually, a barn is where to raise them. A single barn may house anywhere from a few thousand to ten thousand birds at once.

As the name implies, a White turkey has white feathers. The birds can weigh more than 40 pounds (18 kilograms) and have large chests. 

They are large birds that are bred mostly for their white meat, so they are slaughtered quickly.

Final Thoughts

Bronze turkey is ideal if you wish to raise birds in your backyard or start an eco-friendly turkey farming business. It is a big bird, which makes it great for meat, but it also lays many eggs.

Because these turkeys are raised outside and allowed to grow at their own pace, they reach adulthood slowly, giving the meat a moister and juicier flavor.

With its rich flavor, the Bronze turkey is said to have the best taste of any turkey!

Bronze turkeys are a great choice for beginning breeders because they naturally resist many diseases and environmental factors.

It’s also satisfying to have a role in preserving a breed that has deep roots in America’s development.

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