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Canadian Rare Turkeys Fly To UK

Canadian Poults arriving in the Animal reception Centre at Heathrow Airport July 11 , 2001
Canadian poults arriving in the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow Airport, July 11 , 2001

Thanks To Canadian Pigeon Fancier

By Silvio Mattacchione

On January 5, 2000 Janice Houghton-Wallace contacted me by mail and requested my assistance in a very important project. What was this project? Well it was a turkey project! It seems that most purebred turkeys in the UK have been closely bred. I was astounded to find out that there were only 200 Bourbon Red turkeys in the UK and most of these originated from the same bloodline. In fact, from only one parentage.



Dr. Liz Schickle, the vet at heathrow Airport inspecting the newly arrived Canadian poults, July 11, 2001.  
Dr. Liz Schickle, the vet at Heathrow Airport, inspecting the newly arrived Canadian poults, July 11, 2001.

A plan was hatched, by UK breeders, to save the turkeys. The first turkeys introduced into England, were imported by William Strickland in 1524, Spanish Blacks, I believe, directly from Spain. These Spanish turkeys were descendants of Mexican birds that were exported to Spain. So here we were 476 years later essentially doing the same thing, and in the process making great new friends!

Ms. Houghton-Wallace former BBC producer, PR person and turkey lover without equal, was not after just any turkey, they needed to be show quality, of a particular required standard! The breeds that were of interest to her were Bourbon Red, Slate Blue, Narragansett, Lavender, Beltsville Small White and Crimson Dawn. Janice Houghton-Wallace was secretary of the Turkey Club of the UK. A group dedicated to the propagation, conservation and breeding of rare turkeys. Hopefully, these Canadian turkeys would be used by UK breeders to replenish and  improve existing UK bloodlines.


First day in England Canadian poults in quarantine July 11, 2001.
First day in England! Canadian poults in quarantine, July 11, 2001.

This project was quite an undertaking, as we were required to locate, purchase, arrange air cargo transportation of and purchase day old chicks of pure breeds and of show quality. Further we needed to make arrangements with the relevant department of Agriculture officials in two totally different countries, that is in both Canada and the UK. While at the same time Janice in the UK had a crash course on the preparation and disinfection of "isolation quarters" as well as preparation of the MAFF Import License (IM391 Rev 1/99). The requirements were exacting, very much like a military operation. After landing in England the poultry or hatching eggs must be moved directly into isolation at the premises of destination recorded on the health certificate without coming into contact with any other poultry, birds, hatching eggs or other animals en route. Further imported poultry must remain in isolation for a period of at least six weeks from the day of arrival, and on and on. As in any really worthwhile project, an enormous amount of determination and patience was required by all parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Daily Telegraph photographer had special permission from the ·Ministry· to enter the quarantine and take pictures, July 12, 2001.  
The Daily Telegraph photographer had special permission from the “Ministry” to enter the quarantine and take pictures, July 12, 2001.

Our first attempt in the year 2000 breeding season was a total disaster, as the breeding season in Canada for these special turkeys was so poor that the Canadian breeder was unable to spare any chicks at all. Needless to say after waiting day by day for news of the hatch we were all totally disappointed. The weather in 2000 made a good hatch impossible. However Janice was totally committed to this project and she knew that getting these Canadian turkey chicks was extremely important to the future of turkey breeding in the UK.


Canadian poults growing like weeds!
Canadian poults growing like weeds!

We agreed to try again in the 2001 breeding season, and so we did. Needless to say it was not looking good. I kept in close contact with the breeder for any updates. We did not know how the hatch would go. We were in fact worried that this second season would again be a failure. Failure was not meant to be and thankfully I got the critical call on July 10th and it was a go. "Silvio, it's full steam ahead." We were able to get 60 day old chicks as follows: 16 Bourbon Reds, 15 Blue Slate, 12 Narragansett, 10 Black Spanish, and 7 Royal Palm. The 60, day-old turkey chicks, departed for the UK via British Airways on Tuesday, July 10, 2001. On arrival in the UK and upon inspection at Heathrow by veterinary surgeon, Liz Shickle, it was found that one little turkey had suffocated during the trip. Over the following few days a further seven were lost, but the remaining 52 were healthy and gorgeous.


Canadian poult featured on Janice·s 2001 Christmas card.
Canadian poult featured on Janice's 2001 Christmas card.

As they matured it was obvious that these were show quality turkeys and their subsequent results at the UK shows have now proven it! Janice proudly related to me recently, how she has won "Best In Show" two years in a row now. Janice as well as  the Canadian breeder and I are very proud of the following successes that she has attained, at major shows in the UK:

Lavender female: Champion Turkey at the National Federation of Poultry Club's Championship Show, December 2001.

Bourbon Red female: Kingsbridge Fur & Feather Club Champion Turkey (42 turkeys entered) in Devon, January 2002

Narragansett stag: Champion Turkey at the Turkey Club UK National Show, Dember 2002 and the National Federation of Poultry Clubs Championship Show, December 2002.

Narragansett and Spanish Black hens summer 2002.
Narragansett and Spanish Black hens, Summer 2002.

At various shows throughout the year, the birds have won Best Blue, Best Bourbon Red on numerous occasions.

The Royal Palms have improved with age and the generation hatched last year have produced some very nice females.

Bronze, Royal Palm, Narragansetts, and Spanish Blacks summer 2002
Bronze, Royal Palm, Narragansetts, and Spanish Blacks, Summer 2002.

Janice told me that her favorite turkey is the Narragansett, "It is a stunning bird." The turkeys are not only shown, but are very important in education as well.

The turkeys are taken to displays at flower shows, agricultural shows, and garden Centers where the public are fascinated by them and they are immensely popular. Janice also regularly has taken them on visits to schools, for geography, history and nature lessons.


Last morning of freedom before entering the breeding pens, spring 2002  
Last morning of freedom before entering the breeding pens, Spring 2002.

With these exceptional new bloodlines, a healthy demand and growing turkey club membership now totaling 200 members, a successful help line

and widespread support it seems that the turkeys, in the UK, have a very bright future ahead of them. Thanks in part to the efforts and dedication of a Canadian racing pigeon fancier, Silvio Mattacchione, who has a love of all our feathered friends, pigeon, poultry, parrot and yes...even turkeys!

We are currently discussing the possibility of another shipment to the UK for 2004. Should you need expert help on your next rare breeds project Silvio might be just the man to help you!


Narragansett stag spring 2003.  
Canadian stags discover snow in England February 2003.
Canadian stags discover snow in England, February 2003.
Narragansett stag, Spring 2003.

Racing Pigeons Section Contents

Ashdon Farms

Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.


A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.

Pigeon Books

Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.

Pigeons For Sale

Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.

Pigeon Consulting

Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.

Charity Events

Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.


Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.

Pigeon Links

Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!

Contact Us

Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.

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