Beltsville turkey great for backyard farmer

Rick McKinney (L) holds a Ridley Bronze, a Canadian turkey that was developed by John Richardson in Saskatchewan. These birds are large, reproduce naturally and have a relaxed temperament. Bo McKinney (R) is holding a Beltsville turkey. This gentle breed is listed as critically endangered as its smaller size makes it unattractive to commercial demands. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Rick McKinney (L) holds a Ridley Bronze, a Canadian turkey that was developed by John Richardson in Saskatchewan. These birds are large, reproduce naturally and have a relaxed temperament. Bo McKinney (R) is holding a Beltsville turkey. This gentle breed is listed as critically endangered as its smaller size makes it unattractive to commercial demands. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
This gentle bird looks to be in bliss as Bo McKinney strokes its head. Beltsville turkeys are very gentle and placid by nature and would make a delightful pet for a backyard farmer. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)This gentle bird looks to be in bliss as Bo McKinney strokes its head. Beltsville turkeys are very gentle and placid by nature and would make a delightful pet for a backyard farmer. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

If you are allergic to dogs you might want to consider a Beltsville turkey as a backyard pet.

Proud owners of a flock of Beltsville Whites and another of Ridley Bronze turkeys, Bodhi (Bo) McKinney and Rick McKinney are the face of McKinney Acres, a hatchery and family farm, in 100 Mile House.

The couple, who have family living locally, moved to the area in the spring of 2020.

The affordability of a house and farm in the Cariboo made the decision to move from Squamish an easy one.

“Nice at end of day having all this here,” said Rick.

“It’s been a blessing,” agreed Bo.

When they are not busy with their day jobs, Bo and Rick can be found outside on their farm tending a variety of dogs, sheep, chickens and horses.

It’s the turkeys, though, who are the stars of the farm.

“Someone drives by with music on and the turkeys start to sing along and do a little dance,” laughed Rick.

He also enjoys it when they have a treat like crab apples for them; the birds get so excited they just come running.

Bo wanted to get Beltsville turkeys specifically due to them being considered critically endangered. Bred to be smaller size birds that would easily fit in a household oven, they were eventually judged not large enough to satisfy commercial demands.

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“They’re a cool breed to work with,” said Bo, adding that he wants to see the breed succeed.

According to their website “the breed is very charming and kind in nature” making it an excellent choice for a backyard farmer.

The Ridley Bronze is a Canadian turkey bred in Saskatchewan. Bo liked the connection as his family is from there. Plus, he said it is good to have both a small and a large breed of turkey. 4-H likes a bigger turkey so it is good being able to cater to more people said Bo.

They are raising the Beltsvilles primarily to help reestablish the breed.

Bo understands the risk of selling birds. “I’m not naive. I know some people are probably growing them up to eat them.”

Others though want to start their own flock. He said that if every two out of 10 people are keeping them and breeding them then the breed goes on.

They hatch quite a few birds each year – more than 100 at least. The laying season is shorter here due to the temperatures running from April to July. They have sent eggs as far away as New Brunswick.

Bo said they currently have a mom turkey stealing chicken eggs to sit on.

“Good luck with that, mom,” he laughed.

Several offspring of their turkeys have won ribbons at shows. If babies are winning ribbons maybe that would be a cool thing to try out, said Bo.

They support the barter system. If an electrician needs to feed his family, they might have a light that needs fixing, they said. Once a sheep was traded for turkeys.

According to Bo, chickens are high maintenance unlike the Beltsville, which is more like a fun dog you can play with.

He said he does not play favourites with his turkeys.

“Each one is special.”



fiona.grisswell@100milefreepress.net

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