The Norfolk Turkey (commonly referred to as Black Spanish Turkey) is a domesticated breed of turkey from Britain. Learning about this turkey breed can provide you with a deeper insight as to what this turkey has to offer both large- and small-scale farmers. They have a long history in the UK and are even considered to be the oldest domesticated turkey.

When choosing the right turkey for your production needs, you need to consider the climate which ties in with the origin of the breed, the type of production this turkey can provide for farmers, and the ease of care they require.

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Quick Facts about Norfolk Black Turkey

Breed Name:Norfolk/Spanish Turkey
Place of Origin:Europe
Bull (Male) Size:18-25 pounds
Cow (Female) Size:11-13 pounds
Lifespan:10 years
Climate Tolerance:Variety
Care Level:Easy
Production:Meat and eggs

Norfolk Black Turkey Origins

This is a thoroughly domesticated breed of turkey that originates from Europe. They are derived from the Aztec turkeys originally bought to Mexico by Spanish explorers entering the new world. These types of turkeys naturally live in European nations even though their name labels them as ‘Spanish’ turkeys.

These black-colored turkeys were originally a relative rarity among new world flocks and the Europeans have heavily selected them for this trait until it finally became predominant.

These turkeys made the voyage back to the Americans with early European colonists after being selected for meat production for more than two centuries.

Norfolk Black Turkey, Kew Gardens (Image Credit: Jim Linwood, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Norfolk Black Turkey Characteristics

The Norfolk black turkey has many desirable characteristics which are why they are such a popular turkey breed for farmers to own and raise for production purposes in America. The basis of the Black turkey variety was formed in America once the variety was crossed with the Eastern wild turkey.

Through the twentieth century, the black variety was commercially viable, but they were not as popular as the Bronze, White Holland, and Narragansett varieties.

Today this breed is common in Europe but considered as an endangered variety of heritage turkeys according to the Livestock Conservancy and this breed is included in the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which is a catalog of heritage foods that are in danger of extinction.

In terms of characteristics, the Norfolk Black turkey is a medium-sized bird with an attractive appearance and silky black plumage. This turkey breed is mainly raised for meat production and rarely for their eggs.

Furthermore, this turkey breed is hardy and adaptable which allows them to live in a wide range of climates which makes this easy for farmers from various countries to successfully raise and breed them. They have not been selectively bred for production attributes for years which makes them highly dependable on selection by a breeder.

Careful selection for good health and their ability to mate naturally without much human intervention will help return this turkey breed to its former stature. Most farmers will agree that the Norfolk black turkey is docile and calm in terms of temperament, but they can be aggressive and loud in some instances.

Norfolk Black Turkey Close Up
Image Credit: Roninnw, Shutterstock


In today’s time, most farmers raise these turkeys for their meat production. Their meat has a superior flavor that does well with the agricultural market and in combination with their undemanding care requirements, fast growth rate, and overall healthy genetics, this turkey does well on farms. This flavor is delectable amongst consumers, making the demand for their meat increase which is why so many farmers choose this turkey breed over others.

Appearance & Varieties

The Norfolk black turkey has a shiny metallic black appearance. They are stocky and covered in thick plumage which has a greenish sheen on the top and a duller black undercoat. This turkey breed shouldn’t have brownish or bronze cast to their feathers, but young turkeys (poults) will have a white or bronze color to their feathers which will disappear soon after they molt into their adult stage.

The beak of this turkey is entirely black, and their wattle is a striking red color which can change to a bluish-white. The adults have shanks and toes that are pink, and their eyes are dark brown to a glossy black color.

Even though their plumage is black, the skin is white or very light pink with the average body weight of a healthy adult male being between 18 to 25 pounds and the females being between 11 to 13 pounds. Males are always bigger than females and are referred to as a ‘Tom’ or ‘gobbler’.


Norfolk black turkeys are predominantly kept in captivity on farms, and this is where most of their breeding and distribution is. They are plentiful and common to own in captivity and it is relatively easy for farmers to acquire a decent-sized flock of these turkeys to breed and raise for meat.

They can adapt to a variety of different climates as they are strong and tolerant to a range of different weather conditions, meaning a flock can successfully reproduce and remain healthy in various countries. The main habitat that the Norfolk black turkey will encounter in the wild is grasslands in Europe where they will rummage in search of food, mate, and take shelter in grassy nests during the night.

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Is Norfolk Black Turkey Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Norfolk black turkeys can be raised successfully both on small farms and large ones. Since these turkeys are so plentiful on the agricultural market, it is easy to get a flock and breed them with ease. Little effort goes into their care and farmers find them easy and undemanding to work with.

Whether you own a small or large farm, you will be able to own this turkey breed and reap the benefits of their meat for the production industry while experiencing the joy of keeping them on your farm.

Featured Image Credit: Smiler99, Shutterstock