The Ridley strain of the Standard Bronze turkey was initially developed by John Richardson of Saltcoats, SK during the 1940’s. At that time he was looking for a calm, hardy, meat turkey that was prolific and could reproduce naturally. He travelled all over Canada and possibly the US to obtain stock which, over the next decade, he bred and developed into his own strain. Once he achieved his ideal, he never again added in outside stock.
During the late 1940’s several members of the Ridley family became involved in the breeding and selling of this same strain of turkey. Maree Willis (nee Ridley) and her husband Fred first started their own turkey farm also in Saltcoats, SK, in the late 1940’s. They were later followed by her brother George Ridley who developed his own turkey breeding farm in Leslie, SK during the mid ‘50’s. They each continued to raise these turkeys for the next 20-30 years.
During the late 1970’s/early ‘80s, the University of SK obtained breeding stock from George Ridley for study. It was at this time that this turkey variety was labelled the “Ridley Bronze” turkey by the university, likely due to the fact that they came there by way of George Ridley.
By 1981 the Ridley families had stopped turkey farming and so the Ridley Bronze turkey remained almost solely in the hands of the university as well as a handful of private breeders. In 2008, due to budgetary constraints, the University of SK breeding program shut down and their flock was dispersed to a number of private breeders across Canada. Unfortunately this dispersal did not go well, with the result being that they have now all but disappeared. Today, the Ridley Bronze remains Canada’s only surviving homegrown strain of heritage turkey, and their numbers are critically low and at dire risk of extinction.
As of 2015, three separate Ridley Bronze turkey surveys have been conducted across Canada. In 2010 it was determined that there were only about 90 breeding females remaining. In 2012, the numbers had improved slightly with 225 breeding females, and 50 breeders involved. The most recent survey conducted in March 2015 did not show a significant improvement with only 250 breeding females counted, and determined that the number of individuals actively breeding is now only 30.