Turkens are also known as Naked Necks, the name under which they are recognized by the American Poultry Association. Their history is undocumented, with most tracing them to Transylvania in Eastern Europe, but Harrison Weir in Our Poultry (1912) records that they are from Japan. It's not impossible that separate strains with fewer feathers were independently developed. Although they have been around for a long time -- Weir quotes an 1810 source and Lewis Wright mentions them in his 1890 Illustrated Book of Poultry -- they were only added to the Standard in 1965. Four color varieties were recognized at that time: Red, White, Buff and Black.
The Turken name is derived from Turkey Necks, and perhaps the fanciful idea that they are somehow the result of crossing chickens and turkeys. This cross has never occurred. Other names by which they are known are Gillikins and Nudes. This photo by Corallina Breuer shows a Light Brahma rooster and a Red Naked Neck rooster.
The advantage of the naked neck gene is that the birds have half the feathers of other breeds, making them easier to pluck. Nevertheless, they are hardy fowl, withstanding even cold conditions well. They are good layers and dress out as good meat birds, cocks weighing around eight and a half pounds and hens six and a half pounds.
Check my blog entry for February 19, 2008 for a report about a cooking event organized by Frank Reese in Kansas to compare several traditional breeds.
I look forward to following Eatwell Farm's experience and reporting it here.