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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Oo! Blue Turkeys! (for the Week of Nov. 18, 2007)

November 14, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: Are there really blue turkeys? My friend I met at the fair this summer said there really are. I think it would be kind of cool to raise one for a 4-H project.

A.: Blue turkeys, eh? Are they really cold? So cold their beaks are chattering, chik-chik-chik? No.

Are they really sad? Sad because their BFF Tom-Bob, not them, got picked to be the model for those giant inflatable Thanksgiving turkeys that people stick in front of their houses? (OK, I admit it, they are rather stunning.) Nein!

Nope, blue turkeys aren't cold. Aren't sad. Aren't blue like a bluebird. Blue like a blue jay. Nor even blue-green like algae or Squidward or Squidward covered in blue-green algae and the algae is cold and sad. Nuh-uh.

But, yes, in fact, blue turkeys exist. They belong to a breed called Slate or Blue Slate, a rare, old breed indeed. Their feathers are ashy or slaty blue-gray or sometimes even lavender.

See them in their bluey blueness, which, I must say, is bluetiful, at



P.S. Store-bought turkey for Thanksgiving dinner? The breed is called Broad-breasted White.

Notes: The Web site given is for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which places the Slate turkey in the Watch category, as opposed to, for example, the Critical or Threatened categories. The Watch category means this: "Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 10,000." Slate or Blue Slate turkeys fall into the general category of "heritage" turkeys, as do such others as Bourbon Red, Royal Palm and Narragansett. Read how a group called Slow Food USA is helping develop a heritage turkey 4-H project at

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776. Online at


Kurt Knebusch