Narragansett turkey

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Narragansett turkey

The Narragansett turkey is a breed of Meleagris gallopavo which descends from a cross between the eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) and the domestic turkey. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Narragansett turkey is a “historic variety, unique to North America” and is named for Narragansett Bay.

Descriptions

The Narragansett turkey was developed in Narragansett Bay, its namesake, Rhode Island. It was most likely developed from a cross-breeding between wild Native Eastern turkeys and Norfolk Blacks. The Narragansett is most popular in the Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was recognized by the APA in 1874. Its popularity started declining in the 1900’s when the Bronze turkey was standardized.

The plumage of the Narragansett is unique with tan, black, white and gray patterns throughout. The wings have black and white barred feathering. It has a grayish black beak, orange-pink legs and feet, red wattles and a black beard. The tom weighs around 23 lbs while the hen weighs around 14 lbs.

Different type of color

The Narragansett color pattern contains black, gray, tan, and white. Its pattern is similar to that of the Bronze, with steel gray or dull black replacing the coppery bronze. White wing bars are the result of a genetic mutation which removes the bronze coloration and is not known outside the United States.

Facts

These same birds were brought to colonial New England with British and European settlers in the 17th century. As a result of cross-breeding with native Eastern wild turkeys, a new breed of so-called “heritage” turkeys emerged.

These breeds—including the Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Buff, Black and Midget White—retained many of the characteristics of their wild brethren. They were lean and muscular with a large appetite for foraged bugs and grass, able to fly away from predators and reproduce naturally.

Characteristics

The Narragansett has plumage with black, gray, tan, and white feathers. It resembles the Bronze turkey but has feathers of gray or dull black replacing the Bronze’s distinctive coppery coloring.

The Narragansett sometimes has bars of white feathers on its wings due to a genetic mutation not found outside the United States. It has a black beard, a horn-colored beak, and a mostly featherless head and neck which range in color from red to blueish white.

Lifespan

Heritage turkeys are capable of the full normal lifespan of wild turkeys. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5–7 years and breeding toms for 3–5 years.

Diet

They are renowned for their delicious meat and eggs, friendly disposition, classic coloration, thriftiness on pasture, mothering abilities and overall hardiness. We started out also raising Midget White and Bourbon Red turkeys but found the Narragansetts to be superior in every respect.

History

While never as popular as the Bronze turkey, this breed was still valued for commercial agriculture across the United States. According to an account from the early 1870s, flocks of up to two hundred birds were common. Narragansett turkeys were successful at foraging for crickets, grasshoppers and other insects, and could be maintained with little supplemental feed.

Narragansett turkey became the foundation of the turkey industry in New England and was especially important in Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was also popular in the Mid-Atlantic States and the Midwest. This breed was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874.

In the early 20th century, the popularity of the Bronze turkey grew even more and the Narragansett turkey soon became a rarity. It was not commercially cultivated for many decades until the early 21st century when a growing niche market was established for consumers with a “renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor” of the Narragansett.

Narragansett turkey images

Also more: Bourbon Red turkey

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