#Repopulating #RidleyBronze: Raising #endangered #turkeys is more fun than work

Repopulating Ridley Bronze: Raising endangered turkeys is more fun than work

Raising Ridley Bronze turkeys may seem like a lot of work, but to Marie-Josee, it is completely worth it. “They have such friendly personalities and love to follow you around,” she said. “I think they actually know their names!” She and her boyfriend Matt raise Ridley Bronze turkeys at their home in L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec. They have other breeds of birds on site; Coturnix quails, Barrad Rocks chickens, Rhode Island chickens and even Pekin ducks. Not to mention their adorable cats; Minnie Mouse the grey tabby and a pure white Persian named Mr. Grinch. They care for and love all of their pets equally, but they raise their Ridley Bronze with a purpose.

The Ridley Bronze is a heritage turkey and Marie-Josee’s goal is to restore the population that has been reducing mostly due to habitat loss and overhunting. According to the 2015 census there are just 218 of the Ridley Bronze hens across Canada.
“There are very few pure bred Ridley Bronze turkeys left,” said Marie-Josee. “They are the closest breed of turkey to wild turkeys in that they really resemble wild turkeys.” According to Marie-Josee she also likes birds “because they are weird,” and raises them as pets- not for food. She cares for both Ridley Bronze and Narragansett turkeys. Her goal is to give these birds an amazing life; one where they are happy and safe from natural predators.

Because of this, she and her turkeys are like family. “They talk back when you talk,” said Marie-Josee. They are very interactive and accustomed to people. Although they can breed with wild turkeys, they are fully domesticated. “They stay around; they don’t fly away and they are low maintenance,” she said. They are playful and at times full of mischief; they will jump up on the car, and even jump up on Matt’s shoulder.

Most of her turkey’s eggs are hatched, but occasionally they do eat some of their bird's eggs. When it comes to eating eggs Marie-Josee has a very organic approach. She eats her bird’s eggs because she knows they are clean and cared, and she can control what they eat and what they are subjected to. They are safe, fresh and essentially organic.

“I don’t believe in buying grocery store eggs from a bird in a cage with 10, 000 other birds,” Marie-Josee said. She says having her own eggs is much like growing her own food. “I will purposely not buy something if I consciously know that is where is came from.” Factory farms that have birds on top of birds, all in tiny cages produce unhealthy livestock, unless they are on life-long antibiotics. Marie-Josee’s birds are happy and healthy, with room to roam and larger pens. She often has them out with her in the backyard. “They can go out and roam the yard any time they want,” she said.

When she does hatch the eggs things get a whole lot cuter. She enjoys having baby birds around because it just adds to her family. She has her own incubator on site. She has one large Ridley Bronze tom and two Narraganset hens that she breeds him with. It is so hard to find pure bred Ridley Bronze eggs in her area, but she prefers to raise her birds from eggs. This way she can ensure their whole life is happy, comfortable and safe. She hopes to eventually hatch a female Ridley Bronze to mate with her tom.

Organic Week is about so much more than just food- it is about humane treatment of animals. “We selected this breed of turkey because they are endangered and we want to repopulate them,” said Marie-Josee. That is why she puts so much care into each one. “They are obviously loved.”

Turkey shenanigans:
Photos by Marie-Josee

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