A heritage farmer talks turkey

NEW YORK - Peter Davies walked through his poultry yard on a sunny, wind-whipped afternoon. At his approach, with visitors in tow, his flock of heritage turkeys set up a racket of gossip. So did a small gaggle of eight gray Toulouse geese, another bird of heritage breed.

Heritage means old-fashioned, in much the same way that heirloom seeds mean old-time types that are likely to disappear if they are no longer planted. Heritage birds, striking in pattern and color, closely resemble native wild ones.

Those uncommon turkeys that were raising a ruckus on Davies' 40-acre Turkana Farm in Germantown, N.Y., numbered more than 100, with only three common white birds among them. The differences between them were vivid and went well beyond color.

The big white birds were so heavy that their legs looked almost deformed by comparison with the sprightly Bourbon Red turkeys, sporting white feathers adorned in reddish-brown, and the handsome, energetic slate-gray Blue Slates, another heritage breed. The white birds had trouble walking and did not take an active interest in courting the hen turkeys, as their heritage counterparts were doing.

The white birds have breasts so broad that they cannot breed naturally, Davies said; these birds, Holland Whites, are bred artificially. "Often their legs collapse and they have heart problems," he added. "It's a very weak breed." Such birds are "commodities," he said. (He raised these three only because someone from whom he bought heritage hatchlings insisted on throwing them in.)

Source: newsday.com
calendar icon 8 November 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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