Heirloom Turkey Tale

ImageA couple of years ago I raised a pair of heirloom turkey chicks – a Bourbon Red and a Spanish Black. The Spanish Black Tom was roasted, the Red still struts and preens in my chicken yard. I’ve taken to calling him MOLE.

Along the way we gave shelter to a Narragansett turkey hen from Ilse and Meeno’s Sky Farm. (The hen, hatching from an egg that was shipped overnight from Amherst, MA, and slipped under a brooding Silkie.) The hen began laying eggs last year – none fertile.

This year in March, old Mole garbled and squawked all night long, and come summer, there were fertile turkey eggs in our coop. (I know this as I cracked open an egg with a partly formed chick inside-ugh.) Aside from laying eggs, the turkey hen had no mothering instincts. She was not interested in nesting.

ImageThankfully a golden, fluffy Buff Orpington went broody and sat on a clutch of twelve turkey eggs for over three weeks. Two eggs hatched in August. One chick survived.

See the tiny turkey chick hiding in the Buff’s feathers?

The photo at the top features the modern heirloom turkey family: Bourbon dad, Narragansett egg donor, Buff surrogate mother and Bourbon-Narragansett blend baby.

May the family that gathers around your Thanksgiving table be heirloom and modern and blended and full of thanks and joy.



Jeanne Kelley is an established food writer, recipe developer and food stylist based in Los Angeles, California. Integrating locally grown produce with globally influenced flavors, Kelley’s approach to cooking is both simple, festive and fresh. Her recipes can be found in her latest book is Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden and on her blog Eat Fresh.