Bourbon Red Turkey

Interesting story on why we choose the Bourbon Red Turkey to add to our homestead. In years past, we always wanted fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so around September would go to the local poultry auction buy three nearly grown jakes, It didn't matter the breed, just some turkeys to finish raising and have ready for the holidays.

One year we made the mistake of getting broad breast bronze. They were pretty to look at but had to two flaws in our eyes; one, when dressed out because of the black feathers it did not have the presentation we were looking for when it was on the table and two, the crazy things dressed out at 35lbs! After baking one for hours in the oven, we got ready to remove it, the juices spilled from the pan and caught the oven on fire. Luckily we got it put before any major damage but that was just too much bird.

Starting in December 2014 and through mid-June of 2015 the US poultry was plagued with avian influenza and caused millions of commercial poultry and thousands of private poultry, mainly chickens and turkeys, to be destroyed, we decided to raise our own. So during the spring of 2015, we bought our first poults.

After the experience with dark feathered birds, we knew that we wanted a light feather breed. Doing some research, we decided the Bourbon Reds were the best fit for our homestead.

The Bourbon Red was developed by J. F. Barbee and named for Bourbon county Kentucky where he lived. They were admitted into the APA in 1909.

As with other turkeys, they are a seasonal layer, typically laying eggs in the spring months to early summer. They have a 28 day incubation period. Once hatched, the poults are fairly clueless and have to have extra care on showing where to find the food and water. One of the biggest mistakes people make with poults is not giving them the correct type of crumble. A high protein crumble is required for a healthy growing chick of at least 24% protein. The hens can and will go broody if given the chance and are fairly good mothers.

Our experience with this breed is that are fairly calm and people tolerant birds. Other breeds we have had are not people friendly at all.


These three jakes were named, "Thanksgiving, Christmas I, and Christmas II". At 7 months old their live weight averaged 24 lbs.

Their average processed weight, pre-baked, was 18lbs. We feel this breed delivers a better presentation compared to dark feather breeds. It is a personal preference of course.

We artificially incubate most of our eggs, but, hens can and do go broody. Towards the end of their laying season, we allow them to go broody and hatch one clutch. A word of caution, too many hens in the nest will lead to broken eggs.

At 30 days old, the little jakes, a juvenile male, are starting to show their "snood", the long piece of skin that hangs from above their beak.

Baby turkeys are called "poults". These are just hours old, straight from the hatcher.

At 4 months old, no mistaking the males and the females.
As juveniles, they do fine in a group like this, once they reach breeding age the Toms will fight unless a large amount of space is given and multiple hens.
For the small flocks, 1 male to 4 females seems to work out best. it is recommended 50sq ft per adult bird in a confined run or 250 square feet.