Friday, November 12, 2010

Is it a chicken? Is it a turkey? No, it's a Turken!

Years ago, before we moved to our farm, Farmer Boy and I spent a few weeks studying up on chickens.  I read books, he made a chart, and together we curled up on the couch, slowly leafing through the pages of a chicken hatchery catalog.

There were big chickens and little chickens, meat chickens and egg chickens, white egg layers and brown egg layers.

And there were Turkens.

Turkens are, well, ugly.  They are true chickens, but have a naked neck and look turkey-like, hence the name.  We could not figure out why anyone would want to raise Turkens, when there are scores of beautiful, highly productive chicken breeds.

Fast forward five years.  Extreme drought.  Chickens picked off left and right by coyotes.  Our free-range chicken population was slowly and tragically whittled down to zero.

A friend decided to downsize her chicken operation and offered to sell us some full grown layers for a good price.  We ordered some portable electric poultry netting to create a movable fence, and bought a dozen chickens from her.  They were random breeds; whatever she happened to catch while we were standing there.  And we ended up with one Turken.

Honestly, it was kind of a pity buy.  She asked us if we wanted her, and I felt sorry for her.  So I said yes.  I couldn't imagine someone else actually wanting her.

We were in for a surprise.  Our Turken was gentle and sweet.  She was also smart and brave (for a chicken).  And she ate fire ant eggs.

After a little while she no longer seemed ugly to us.  We loved her, and that made her beautiful. {cue violin strings}

Last spring, when it was time to bring a new family of chicks to the farm, we included five Turkens in our order.  They are all grown up now, strong and healthy, and laying eggs happily.  We love the new Turkens too. 

There may be a special advantage for Turken hens here in Texas.  I expect they are considerably more comfortable than the rest of the girls on a hot August day!

photos  © Patti Brown 2010


Kim Beauchamp said...

I can see how the Turkens could grow on you! Great pix!

Mom said...

can we make some scarves for them?

sandra said...

Anything that eats fire ant eggs is a thing of beauty!

Patti said...

LOL! I love the idea of making scarves for them! Not terribly practical but hysterical!

And I agree, the fire ant egg consumption is definitely a beauty enhancer. Although not for people (ew!)

d said...

Surprisingly enough, the naked necks (as show poultry enthusiasts say is their correct name) do well here up north, too. We only have the bantam varieties, but they are a surprisingly versatile bird. If you let some set, or incubate their eggs, you will find that they are not a bad meat bird, either. They can't hold a candle to cornish rocks, but no standard breed can. Glad to find another naked neck enthusiast!

Patti said...

I had no idea that they worked well as a meat breed also. Even more reason to love them!