Narragansett turkey is a popular dual purpose breed that is highly valued for both meat and eggs. Turkey enthusiasts argue that this bird has good meat that is full of flavors.
For many years, these birds have been domesticated widely across America and England. This has led to development of many turkey breeds to satisfy the sky rocketing demand for turkey meat.
In America to be precise, millions of turkeys are butchered on Thanksgiving making the demand for these birds shoot up more than the supply.
So, in this case, let’s talk Narragansett turkey. I will cover everything you need to know about this calm and sweet bird.
History of the Narragansett turkey
The steps of the Narragansett turkey breed can be traced back in the I870s. It is believed that the Eastern wild turkeys were crossed with domestic turkeys and the resulting baby turkeys were Narragansett’s.
At the time the Bronze turkey was sitting top on the throne where it was the popular bird of the time. Many farmers raised them and they were the meat birds on every hotel and restaurant.
However, the Bronze time to reign lapsed the moment the flavorful Narragansett turkey was introduced in the market.
They could mature fast and produce much meat and eggs than the Bronze turkeys. With these features, these birds quickly rose to fame and replaced the Bronze.
In England, many farmers used the Narragansett turkey as the foundation and genesis for turkey farming. These critters became the most common bird in Rhode Island and in the United States they became famous in the Mid-Atlantic.
They were quickly replaced but still dedicated turkey breeders still raise these birds. They enjoy the recognition of the American Poultry Association and are not classified as rare.
Characteristics of the Narragansett turkey
Narragansett turkey is a medium bird with a bluish-white or a red featherless head. They are the type you would choose and love to keep as pets because the toms perform a male chauvinistic display where they fan their tail feathers and sag loose their snoods.
They have a compact plumage that is lay firm along the body like it does in game birds. Narragansett turkeys have black, grey, white and tarn feathers.
Although these birds are very similar to Bronze turkeys, they lack the copper coloring. They have horn colored beaks and dark eyes.
The legs are grey and featherless and on each foot there are four well-spaced toes. They do well when allowed to range on their own where they supplement their diet with tasty grubs and insects.
Narragansett turkeys have some wild instincts and will refuse to return to their coop at dusk but rather prefer to root on trees.
Mature toms weigh 28 pounds while hens weigh 22 pounds. With this weight, these turkeys easily fly and make good fence jumpers.
Temperament and Hardiness
Narragansett turkey is a sweet and calm bird. They are docile, friendly and can be raised as pets. These birds are non-aggressive so keeping them poses no threat to your kids.
If you hand raise your birds, chances are that they will get used to you and come to you when you call them. Always give them tasty treats and hold those cuddly individuals to bond with them.
These turkeys are known for being cold hardy and tolerant even in winter. They reach the maturity early and take good care of their poults.
Egg laying and uses
Because Narragansett turkey poults grow quickly, they also reach maturity early. These birds reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 to 6 months.
Mostly the Narragansett turkey hen will start to lay at spring. During this season, they lay 50-100 large cream colored eggs until the end of the season when they become broody and express the desire to become moms.
They set well but can be notorious and decide to hide their nesting areas in the bush. It is common to see them few hours in the morning when they come to feed and later head back to the eggs.
Once the bunch of poults is hatched, they are well cared for because Narragansett turkeys have good motherly skills.
These birds are also an excellent source for white meat. They mature early meaning you do not have to feed them for long and are ready for meat at the age of 6 months.
Because of their black pin feathers that lower the quality of the carcass, the Silver Narragansett was developed for the market. This variety has white feathers that are less seen once the bird is plucked clean.
An average mature Narragansett turkey hen can give 22 pounds of meat while a tom can offer about 28 pounds.
According to some sources, turkeys that live freely in the wild have a life expectancy of 3 to 5 years. On their own, these birds have the responsibility of finding their own food and taking care of the young.
When roaming in the jungle, turkeys are faced by multiple threats like poachers, predators, elements and constant diseases that break out.
However, the case is completely different for the domestic turkeys. Pet turkeys may enjoy their life and live for more than 5 years succumbing to old age.
When raised in captivity, these birds receive the best care where they are fed, housed and offered security by their masters.
Despite all this, turkeys raised for meat will be allowed to live for just a few months and are culled as soon as they attain the right market weight.
Laying turkeys may not live longer than toms because they are likely to suffer from reproductive tract issues brought about by prolonged laying.
The Narragansett turkey is a strong, healthy and robust bird. They are cold hardy and do well in areas where temperatures plummet.
Despite being healthy, these birds are sometimes infested with the scaly mites and chicken lice. These parasites hide under the feathers where they suck blood and damage the growing feathers.
To control these parasites, small amounts of diatomaceous earth can be mixed in their dust bathing. When this powder comes into contact with the parasites, it dehydrates the body oils and moisture to death.
Internal parasites like worms are another threat to the health of a Narragansett turkey. According to some sources you can deworm turkeys using Flubenvet every 10 weeks.
Sampling the turkeys dropping often will help prevent unnecessary deworming.
Raising Narragansett turkeys
But do you know what they exactly require to grow into big turkeys? Continue reading to learn more.
Just like baby chicks, baby turkeys too do not regulate their body temperature and require to be supplemented with extra warmth.
The best way to make sure your young birds are warm is by the use of a heating plate. This device only produces the right amount of warmth for the poults without causing fire or baking the.
For the first two weeks the brooder temperatures should remain at 95 degrees. From the third week, reduce the temperatures 5 degrees each week until the 6-8th week when they are fully feathered.
After all the juvenile feathers have fully developed, the birds can now be moved from the brooder and integrated with the others.
Unlike chickens that require feeds with protein levels of 22-24%, turkeys require more protein at the rate of 28-30%.
Common chicken feeds do not contain this levels and can only be found in game bird feeds. Turkeys require more protein because they have more muscles and feathers to develop.
Apart from protein, other essential vitamins and minerals are very important for a robust health and proper growth.
Include grit in their feeds to help in digestion. Grit acts like turkey teeth and helps in grinding the food in the gizzard.
Plenty of clean drinking water is also very important. Water helps in metabolism and keeps the body cool and hydrated.
Baby turkeys are slow learners and will require you to place colored marbles in their feeding troughs to help locate food.
If you do not have the colored marbles, you can have a few chicks to help them locate food. Chicks are quick learners and will feed immediately after hatching. You can later remove the chicks after their teaching lesson is over.
A good coop should have draft free bedding that does not retain moisture or harbor molds. Provide enough roost bars and nesting boxes.
In areas where there are many predators like birds of prey, hawk netting can be used to make a perimeter turkey run where they can graze safely.
Narragansett turkey is a good dual purpose breed meaning they are good for both meat and eggs.. They are not heavy like other commercial turkeys and can easily breed naturally.
They are calm, docile and make good pets. Having them in the barnyard, they will help control the number of insect pests like crickets and grasshoppers.
With these birds, some kitchen scrap that would have turned into waste becomes food and tasty treats for your girls.
Do you keep Narragansett turkeys? Share your views on the comment section.
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