This big boy is the King of the hill around here. His name is Jr.
And I don't turn my back on him, as he likes to catch you without an eye on him, and he will put all his weight into a rear assault. 25 pounds of turkey plowing into your back with both feet is a wake up call for sure! Strangely enough, he is not aggressive in any way to my wife or my daughter...hmmmm. Must be a macho male thing he is trying to prove.
Otherwise, he is as gentle as a dove; as long as he knows you are looking directly at him.
Aside from his overtly protective attitude, he is an excellent breeder; something that heritage breeds still have as a distinct advantage. Most turkey's raised for meat today are of the broad-breasted type and are so huge, they cannot reproduce naturally. They have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce.
(Does this seem like a problem? Am I the only one who thinks so? Something is not natural with that picture!)
The American Poultry Association doesn't even recognize the Broad Breasted Franken-Turkey as a breed, but defines them as a "non-standardized commercial strain that do not qualify as a variety."
Hmmm, It can't breed on its own, it is not a variety, yet it is the only one you can buy at the grocery store at Thanksgiving??? Sounds scary, but hey, you can eat what you want. I will stick with something natural.
So what is a Heritage breed? Simply put, Heritage breeds are the breeds of farm animals that existed before large farm operations started raising animals for bulk and quantity production. These Heritage types were created by farmers who crossed various breeds and got a hardy, healthy animal that could reproduce after its own kind. Most Heritage breeds are considered on the "critical list" or the "watch" list for endangered farm species. According to an article published by Sustainable Table, "Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct." This is one of the reasons why it was important to us to raise a heritage breed.
Large industrial farming that focuses on volume realized that by manipulating the animal further than natural breeding practices would produce an animal that would produce an amazing amount of eggs, milk or meat. The trade off was that often that animal would be subject to various inherent problems such as an inability to breed naturally, or would become subject to disease. Many would have to undergo heavy hormone treatments to jump start their growth. Genetically Modified anything is still open to many questions, so I just avoid it completely.
So why the Spanish Black? The Black Spanish is one of the oldest turkey breeds recorded. They were recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. The breed was popularized in Spain, where it was so named. They have a calm temperament (HA! They have not met Jr.) and great reproducing abilities. They are a stunning bird with black shiny feathers that turn an iridescent green in the sun. They are also noted as one of the tastiest breeds, with juicy, self-basting meat and great flavor.
Honestly, my other Spanish Blacks are quiet gentle. In fact, Tig, our smaller Spanish Black insists on being rubbed, petted, and loved on every time someone is outside! We are taking him to a petting zoo for the weekend in May because of his docile spirit.
If you are ever in the area, give us a call and stop by and meet our Spanish Blacks, buy some turkey eggs and try your hand at "turkey herding!" You will find the Spanish Black to be a rewarding, enjoyable breed.
Check out the Turkey Slide show.