Is it a turkey? Is it a chicken? Is it a cross between the two? It’s so ugly it’s cute – the Naked Neck Chicken, otherwise known as a Turken – is quite a bird. Want to learn more? You are in the right place at the right time. Let’s do this!
This specialty bird is quite comical in appearance. I remember the first time I laid eyes on a Naked Neck chicken. I remember saying what was in my mind out loud…”What IS that??” The owner kindly told me.
She went on and on about how much she loves her Turkens and planned on getting more. My next question was “why?” and this started a journey of learning all about his breed.
What Exactly is a Naken Neck Chicken?
It’s an understandable question. What is it? At first glance, it sure looks like a turkey, but as you continue to look you figure out that it just can’t be. After that, you might find your mind wondering if it could be a chicken, but that defies what you know about backyard chickens. Lastly, you might wonder if they are molting or sick due to their lack of feathers.
Don’t worry, this is normal for most of us. And if you are like me and you research everything, you quickly learn that a Naked Neck Chicken, also known as a Turken, is NOT what you think.
Many people think it’s a cross between a turkey and a chicken. Indeed, this is actually where the nickname “Turken” came from. But a Naked Neck Chicken is 100% chicken. Once you know this, your brain can rest at ease…right? Wrong! Why is the neck naked??? We thinkers NEED to know. But before we learn why the neck is embarrassingly naked, let’s learn about the history of this breed.
The history is actually short and sweet. We don’t know who developed this breed originally, but we can trace it back to Transylvania Romania. It is often called the Transylvanian Naked Neck. We have been aware of the breed since the early 1900s. Read more speculation about the history here.
Why is the Neck Naked?
THIS my friend is a question worth asking. And here is the answer…if you are ready for a science lesson that is. I’ll keep it simple. I think National Geographic sums it up best and in the simplest fashion.
The Transylvanian bird’s naked neck results from a random genetic mutation that causes the overproduction of a feather-blocking molecule called BMP12, a new DNA study shows.
The mutation first arose in domestic chickens in northern Romania hundreds of years ago. The naked neck chicken—also dubbed the churkey or turken—has a chicken-like body but a turkey-like head atop a long, deep-red neck.National Geographic
Want to learn more science nerd details on the BMP12 blocking molecule? I thought you might. Click here.
Can the Naked Neck Gene Be Passed to Other Chicken Breeds
Yes, you can create a hybrid that possibly has a naked neck too (notice I said possibly). Apparently, the naked neck gene also improves breast size which is one of the reasons people like these funny little birds. It could be a motivating factor in cross-breeding your other chickens as well.
There are plenty of good things about this Naked Neck Chicken breed. For one thing, they are entertaining. You’ll be the talk of the town (or at least of the neighborhood). Owning one of these quirky birds with featherless necks is akin to having an exotic pet.
Besides the Naked Neck hens are docile and friendly little birds to boot. Chicken keepers constantly talk about their goofy personalities which adds to their entertaining spirit. You really can’t help but fall head over heels for these entertainers (especially naked neck chicks…they are irresistibly cute).
The roosters are usually friendly too but can be aggressive at times (this is something most all roosters can be from time to time).
These fun-loving chickens make up for the lack of neck feathers with eggs. That’s right, they are are pretty good layers. According to Cackle Hatchery, they can lay from 180-240 eggs per year which is as good or better than the average chicken. Their egg color is light brown.
Beyond that, these sweet birds are not very broody. This is great if you don’t want to fight for eggs with a broody hen.
Meat to Eat
This is one of the very reasons these funny-looking chickens are popular on homesteads and small farms. Their genes are geared toward larger breasts, which makes for a great meat bird.
And think, you’ll have fewer feathers to pluck on butchering day (thinking positive thoughts here). They do have 50% (or so) fewer feathers than many other chicken breeds.
Naked Neck chickens pay their way quickly with all the foraging they do. If you can let them free range that is. They love to hunt and peck and find all the goodies they can. They are pretty crafty about avoiding predators too.
This is not only good for their health, but it’s good for the nutritional value of your eggs and meat (if you choose to eat it). And it will reduce your feed bill as an added bonus.
That being said, if you can’t or don’t want to let them free range – they are not super active chickens and will do well in confinement. However, you will want to supplement their diet with protein-rich treats if you do keep them cooped up. The bonus is that they will be all the more friendly if they know you are the almighty treat distributor! 😉
Due to having fewer feathers to weigh them down, they are exceptionally heat tolerant. If you live in a hot climate, this might be a great choice. But don’t be discouraged if you live in a cold climate because they do surprisingly well in cold weather too. Just an all-around great bird, right?
They will need a really good shelter to protect them from extremely cold temperatures though.
I could, like any good debater, simply reverse all the pros into cons. You know how that can go, right? I could, but I won’t.
I’ll just tell you that there really aren’t that many cons for these friendly birdies. I mean, if their nakedness running around in your backyard flock bothers you then I would skip on down the line to the next breed on your list. Other than that, they are pretty much a decent chicken breed to try out.
They can be a little loud, so consider that.
Naked Neck Chicken FAQ
How Large Do Naked Necks Get?
Naked Neck chickens are pretty meaty. The hens weigh about 6 1/2 lbs and the roosters weigh around 8 1/2 pounds.
What Colors Do Naked Necks Come In?
Red, white, and buff are the colors recognized by American Poultry Association. However, they come in different colors such as black, blue, cuckoo, golden-salmon, and more.
Can I Hatch My Own Naked Neck Chicks?
Sure! In fact, they aren’t that broody by nature…they are pretty low on the broodiness scale. So incubating their eggs to hatch chicks is the best route to take. If you want to learn more about hatching your own chicks read these articles: How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators) and Why Don’t All Incubated Eggs Hatch?
Can Naked Neck Chickens Go In My Coop?
Yes, they can go in the coop with the rest of your flock. If you are just introducing them to an already established flock you will need to be cautious (but this is the case when introducing any new chickens).
They can get picked on, especially their naked necks. Keep them separate but where they can see the rest of the flock for a few days so they can get acclimated to each other.
Are Naked Necks Good For Kids?
They are docile and known as friendly chickens, often being reported as lap chickens. They are good companions for kids as well as adults.
How Do I Care For a Naked Neck Chicken?
You care for them just like any other chicken (except you knit them a scarf for their naked necks…just kidding…maybe).
You will want to be sure they have fresh water and high-quality feed like this. Don’t forget to befriend them with nutritious Chicken Candy (yes, there are chicken treats). Finally, be sure they are safe from the elements and predators with a sturdy coop.
Naked Neck chickens are oddballs, that is as true as anything I’ve ever said. That being said, they have a lot of great qualities that many, many breeders are addicted to.
If you’ve read this far, then I’d say you should go for it. See what all the hype is about and fall in love with a bird that is so ugly it’s cute!
A happy wife, mother, teacher, writer, hobby farmer, lover of chickens, and contributor to Pampered Chicken Mama!