Hatching Heritage Breed Turkeys and Raising Pasture Poultry

Final report for YNC10-056

Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2010: $367.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
JoAnn Grum
Small-scale farm
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Project Information


I would like to explore poultry production by hatching and raising heritage breeds of turkeys, including Blue Slate, Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, and Bronze. I have always been fascinated by heritage breed turkeys for their beauty, and I'm interested in raising them for breeding pairs and meat production. I have raised Blue Slate turkeys and market turkeys in the past, but I would like to expand my eexperience to lean about incubating and hatching eggs, as well as raising the birds to the adult stage as pastured antibiotic-free poultry. 

Raising heritage breed turkeys is important to my family because we live on a small acreage and would like to use this land efficiently by producing and promoting small-scale farming. I am also interested in preserving the heritage breed turkeys and providing breeding pairs for other enthusiasts to enjoy.

This aspect of Sustainable Agriculture is important to my community due to an increasing demand for antibiotic-free food with a higher quality and better taste. The smaller dressed size of heritage turkeys is perfect for smaller families not wanting the larger commercially bred turkey.

Finally, I would like this project to be a source of income; recent antibiotic-free, pastured turkey prices in my area were $3.49 per pound dressed, and breeding pairs sell from $50 to $75.


So far, my Hatching Heritage Breed Turkeys and Raising Pasture Poultry project has experienced great success. My original plan was altered slightly due to delay in funding until after turkey breeding season. Funds originally for hatching eggs were used to purchase 8 Blue Slate, 2 Royal Palm and 2 Heritage Bronze poults from a local breeder.

Project Objectives:
  • Explore poultry production by hatching and raising heritage breeds of turkeys
    • Blue Slate
    • Bourbon Red
    • Bronze
  • Learn more about preserving heritage breeds
  • Provide breeding pairs for other heritage breed turkey enthusiasts


In November at the Ohio National I purchased my incubator and automatic turner. My Blue Slate hens are now laying so I currently have 14 eggs set to hatch in the next month.


I plan to buy an appropriately-sized incubator with automatic turning system and humidity control. I will obtain fertile eggs from Eagles Nest or Meyer Hatcheries as well as some from my breeding pair of Blue Slate turkeys. When hatched, the poults will be raised in the poultry house until large enough to survive outside. I will acclimate them to a pasture-raising system consisting of an electric fenced area to keep predators out and a shelter for protetion from the weather and roosting at night. As the birds mature, I will sell some as breeding pairs and others will be processed at a local poultry processor to be sold as dressed birds. Throughout this project, I may shadow Bill Karcher of Eagles Nest Hatchery for a hands-on learning experience of large scale poultry production.

I have budgeted for the purchase of an incubator, fertile eggs for hatching, and some poultry equipment to supplement what I already have.




Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Other educational activities: Turkeys were displayed at local petting zoos.

Participation Summary:

2 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

See Impacts and Contributions.

Project Outcomes



I displayed my turkeys at a Farm Day for elementary students hosted by a local farm family. I had the opportunity to talk to about one hundred children about my poultry. My turkeys were also displayed at local petting zoos where they attracted a lot of attention.


Once raised, I exhibited some of my Blue Slate at the Ohio National Poultry Show. My show birds placed well (Reserve Champion Youth Turkey) and I sold 6 breeding birds to heritage enthusiasts. In addition, I constructed a pasture hoop house to contain my birds. I made a poster documenting the construction and displayed it at fair, even winning second place in the educational poultry poster contest.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.