Narragansett Turkey – A Perfect Meat Breed For Backyards

At one point, the Narragansett Turkey dominated the meat turkey industry in many areas of the United States. While it is no longer as popular as it was in the past, this is a turkey which is still fairly common.

Let’s take a little look at the Narragansett turkey in a bit more depth, shall we?

Narragansett Turkey Facts at a Glance

Let’s take a look at the Narragansett turkey facts:

Weight – Youngmale: 23 lbs (10.5 kg)
female: 14 lbs (6.5 kg)
Weight – Oldmale: 28 lbs (12.5 kg)
female: 16 lbs (7.5 kg)
Eggs~ 50 eggs per year
TemperamentVery calm
ColorBlack and gray
StatusRare, Threatened
CountryUnited Stated
Narragansett Turkey Facts

Where Do Narragansett Turkey Come From?

This breed of turkey originates from Rhode Island, the place of origin of the famous Rhode Island Red chicken. While we do not know exactly when ti was developed, we do know that it would have been sometime before the 1870s.

Narragansett Turkey
Narragansett Turkey (photo source)

This is because during the 1870s, it became an officially recognized breed of turkey. Actually, it was admitted to the APA in 1874. It may even have been developed in the 1600s or 1700s.

The Narragansett turkey was developed from various birds sent over from Europe. These birds were crossed with the wild turkeys in the Narragansett region.

For a long while, the Narragansett turkey was the ‘go to’ breed of turkey for the mid-western states in the United States. However, eventually, this heritage turkey breed started to be replaced commercially.

Most commercial farming operations found the Bronze turkey to be a much more viable breed. As a result, most Narragansett Turkeys are now raised by small scale farmers and homesteaders, but we will talk more about that in a short while.

The Look of the Turkey

For the most part, the Narragansett turkey doesn’t actually look that different from the Bronze turkey. In fact, if you looked at this breed, you would be forgiven for thinking it is the Bronze.

Perhaps the only real difference between the Narragansett turkey and the more popular Bronze turkey is the coloring of the bird.

The Narragansett turkey has black and gray feathers, with a small amount of brown and white mixed into it. The beard will be black, and they will not have any feathers on their head or on their neck.

This breed can weigh up to 28 lbs, with hens capping out at the 16 lbs mark.

It is worth noting that there is also a silver version of this bird, although it is not an official breed. It is incredibly rare to find this variant now, and there is every indication that it is on the brink of extinction.

The Narragansett Turkey as a Show Bird

As this is now regarded as a heritage breed of turkey, and becoming increasingly rare, you can bet your bottom dollar that there are regular turkey shows for it.

It probably helps that this is a breed of turkey that looks pretty decent too. After all, who can turn their nose up at that beautiful feathering?

Narragansett Turkey
Photo by Glenn Kraeck

We wouldn’t really recommend raising the Narragansett turkey purely for show purposes. It is still going to be mostly a meat bird.

However, as you start getting into the breeding of this turkey, you may find that shows will start to catch your attention.

Since it is brighter colored than the similar Bronze turkey, it would also make a fantastic ornamental breed of turkey, which just so happens to give you a bit of meat too.

Narragansett Turkey Eggs

The Narragansett Turkey is one of the better turkeys if you want eggs. It lays a sizeable number each year.

However, as with most turkey breeds, this will not be enough to sustain a flock, as well as giving you some eggs to eat. As a result, we tend to suggest that most people use the eggs for breeding.

This will ensure that you have a steady flow of meat.

Luckily, this is a breed that is well-known for being quite fertile, with most of their eggs hatching. They make good parents too, as this is one of the broodier of turkey breeds.

In fact, they are so broody that many people actually use the Narragansett Turkey to raise the eggs of other less-broody birds in their flock.

The Narragansett Turkey For Meat

The Narragansett Turkey could have been the most important turkey in the United States for meat. For starters; it tastes a whole lot better than most popular turkey breeds.

The problem with this bird is the coloring of the feathers. The pin feathers are simply too dark, which makes it a bit more difficult to create a presentable carcass. The Bronze Turkey doesn’t have this problem.

As we said; the meat on this turkey is absolutely fantastic. Many people claim that it is one of the best tasting turkey breeds there is.

So, if you are looking to raise a turkey purely for the meat, then you are probably not going to find a better turkey than this out there.

Raising Narragansett Turkeys

This is a dreadfully simple bird to raise. In fact, it is regarded as one of the simpler turkey breeds out there. It tends to care for itself. That is why it was so close to dominating the meat industry.

Narragansett Turkeys
Photo by mswine

This is a bird that does need a lot of space to roam about. This is because it is a forager. In fact, it is one of the best foraging turkeys around.

We assume that this is tied to the wild turkey roots of this bird. If it can get its beak on them, then it will eat all sorts of insects and plants. It is so good at foraging that it will consume surprisingly little feed in comparison to other breeds.

You may also be pleased to know that this is a bird that does well with human interaction. Some people claim that this is one of the friendliest of turkey breeds.

Obviously, you will get the odd turkey that won’t be a fan of humans but, for the most part, they can be hand-reared.

Your main issue with this bird is that they absolutely love to fly. Despite their heavy size, they are good flyers. They need trees to roost in.

Ideally, you would keep them nice and secure to prevent them escaping. However, if you do feed them a decent diet, they are always going to return to the turkey coop.

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