Game birds are sometimes kept as exotic pets, raised for food, or raised specifically to be released, where allowed. Some are bred and kept for exhibition. Some of the most common game birds are the pheasant, partridge, quail, and guinea fowl.
This is a very basic introduction guide on keeping game birds, a person who is serious will want to do more research specific to the species they are going to be keeping.
There are many kinds of Pheasants, from the Ring-necked Pheasant, to the more exotic varieties such as the peacock pheasant. Pheasants require the most space of all the game birds, and some species require extra winter care.
©Swinhoe Pheasant, Authors husband photographer
Partridge and Quail
These are smaller birds, sometimes even kept as caged house pets (quail more than partridges), or kept in large aviaries with other birds specifically to keep the ground clean so mice are not attracted. Quail are often kept for egg production. There are many species of both the partridge and quail.
These are not always thought of as game birds but are gaining popularity as such. In addition to being used as food, guinea fowl make a great alarm, they tend to be quite loud when intruders (foxes, coyotes) come near, and may even try to chase them off. Guinea fowl come in several varieties, all of which are great foragers, eating insects, and being noted for controlling ticks.
©Guinea Fowl, Authors husband photographer
Care of Game Birds
For the most part game bird species are more “wild” than chickens. A person who is just new to keeping poultry should probably tackle ducks or chickens first, before getting too far involved in raising game birds.
Game birds need more room per bird than chickens, and are more prone to stress if over crowded.
If you intend to raise them to release them, check with the laws in your area about doing so.
Most game birds like warm weather but require shade, as many originate in jungle regions.
If you are going to raise quail or partridges remember their smaller size will require special fencing.
The area used to house the birds should be dry, with good drainage.
The birds should have a shelter in the form of a coop, with laying boxes and roosting areas.
Feeding Game Birds
It is best to feed a commercial ration for game birds but in some areas this can be hard to find and a chicken ration, or turkey ration, can be substituted. Scratch can be given later in the day, and may help “tame” your birds. They will also eat any insects that enter their pen so insecticides should not be used on your property at all.
Game birds can also be fed some fresh fruits and vegetables, no onions or grapes though. Most game birds may like dandelions too.
Breeding Game Birds
Breeding game birds is more of a challenge than breeding chickens, if you had no success with raising chicks, game birds may prove even more difficult.
It is very uncommon for a hen to brood her own eggs unless you have an ideal (stress free) situation. Many people incubate and brood their own eggs.
Incubation times are as follows:
- Quail – 17 days for Japanese Quail, 23 for Bobwhite
- Partridges – 23 – 24 days for Chukar
- Pheasants – 23 – 24 days for Ring-necked, others may be longer
- Guinea Fowl -26 – 28 days
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