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Midget White Turkey
The Midget White turkey was created in the early 1960s by Dr. J. Robert Smyth at the University of Massachusetts. It was developed to meet an anticipated demand for a small version of the broad breasted turkey. Since this market did not develop as predicted, the Midget White never become widely popular.
Soon after the development of the Midget White, the University of Massachusetts had to reduce its poultry holdings. The Midget White turkeys were dispersed. Dr. Bernie Wentworth, a former graduate student of Dr. Smyth’s, never forgot these turkeys. Much to his surprise, Dr. Wentworth, who had taken a position on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, found some of these turkeys, with University of Massachusett’s wing bands in the flock of a backyard fancier. These birds were added to the University of Wisconsin’s poultry program, which continued to refine and then fix the standard for the Midget White variety we know today. Dr. Wentworth is largely credited in preventing the breed’s extinction. As Dr. Wentworth prepared to retire in the late 1990’s, the university decided to disperse the flock. Some were passed to poultry hobbyists, but the majority of the flock was sent to the USDA poultry facility in Beltsville, Maryland. The Beltsville flock was dispersed in April of 2005 and the remaining birds were distributed to poultry enthusiasts located in the eastern US. The survival of this breed now lies completely in the hands of private individuals. It is important to note that the Midget White turkey does not have any genetic relationship to the Beltsville White and that the two breeds are distinct and should be managed separately.
The Midget White, with its broad breast, has the appearance of a miniature of the commercial Broad Breasted White turkey. This quality provides the variety with good meat production and makes the Midget White a fine table fowl. The variety was developed from a cross of a commercial Broad Breasted White turkey and an exhibition Royal Palm. Midget White toms average 13 lbs., hens average 8 lbs. In Wisconsin, the birds were selected for higher egg production, fertility, and hatchability. The hens laid an average of 60-80 large eggs per year, weighing only three to five grams less than those of the broad breasted white turkey. Hatchability was 75-80%.
When breeding Midget White turkeys, care should be taken in the selection of breeding stock to retain the small size of the breed. Once the young turkeys are well feathered they have the ability to fly, so care must be taken to prevent escape. Adult Midget Whites are less likely to take flight as they get heavier. These diminutive turkeys are unusually friendly and will approach people and pets without much concern.
Status: See CPL