Raising Game Birds
Tips for Starting Your Flock
Game birds can be a rewarding and profitable addition to your farm. They can be raised for meat enjoyed at home, to help train hunting dogs, and for release back into the wild for repopulation/hunting. Many people raise these birds because of a local demand for eggs, which are not only a delicacy (especially quail eggs) but also sold to other farmers to incubate for their own game flocks. This beginner’s guide will cover the basics of legality, starting with young birds vs incubation, housing, and proper care and feeding.
Investigate Game Bird Regulations
Game birds fall under specific legal circumstances depending on each state. Some states require you to have a Game Breeders License and others do not. You also may need to have a Game Warden inspect your operation and animals. Some states (even those without breeding or Game Warden regulations) have laws about how and when the birds can be released into the wild. Unlike domesticated fowl, game birds require some extra legal homework before you take the plunge.
Before you take any steps to raise game birds, consult your wildlife authorities and laws. A phone call to your state’s Special License Department will provide the answers you need. Make sure you are abiding by all local laws and are aware of your limitations when raising game birds.
Purchasing Game Birds From a Hatchery vs Incubation
Getting a supply of just-hatched birds from a hatchery costs more but saves time. You can also have the added security of knowing hatcheries do their best to honor safe shipping of day-old chicks. Many hatcheries have satisfaction/survival guarantees that cover replacement if anything happens to the birds in transit. When incubating eggs there is always the chance of loss due to temperature changes, fertility of the eggs, and other variables. You will save money collecting quail or pheasant eggs from a local raiser and hatching your own, but the risks in doing so in regards to animals produced are far greater. Do what makes the most sense for your operation and its goals.
Brooder Pen And Flight Run Setup
For a smaller farm, the same brooder set up you would use for chicks will do. Kits are available to make part of your garage or outdoor shed a temporary brooder for a small amount of birds, as well. But if you are raising these game birds in larger numbers, a draftless brooding pen with an attached outdoor run is the most successful model.
For your flock of game birds, you can use a small shed with clean bedding, such as wood shavings or dry leaves. As long as the space is able to be closed with a secure door and not exposed to rain or drafts it will do as a large brooding area. Heating the small, young, chicks will require special attention to avoid suffocation from crowding around heat sources. Offer several heating stations with bulbs meant for brooding poultry. Give these brooding heat lamps the ability to be raised higher as the birds start to feather out and learn to moderate their own body heat.
The birds’ space outside is a pen, or flight run. It is open-air containment setting with special netting on all sides, including a netting roof, which stops birds from flying out. The outdoor run will also be where the feeding station and watering stations will be set up.
Game Bird Feed And Supplies
Game birds can be raised much like other poultry but their needs (especially regarding nutrition) are very different. They have a higher protein demand that common layer feeds cannot achieve. Since these birds are fairly common, finding these feeds isn’t hard but may require special ordering. Quails are already fully-grown and laying eggs around eight weeks of age. It takes a high-powered feed to create fast growth like that!
Be sure you are using the right styles of feeders and waterers for small birds like quails. If you are raising a small flock for your home supply for meat and eggs, consider using feeders and waterers designed for chicks, not adult chickens.
For larger birds like pheasants, many of the supplies used for chickens and turkeys suffice. However, there are specialized watering systems specifically for game birds, too. Smaller birds like quail can walk into larger chicken watering stations and soil them or even drown. Gravity/Nipple systems are a safer bet.
What kind of setup do you have for your game birds? Tell us about it in the comments.