Choosing a Feeder & Feeding Game Birds
Selecting the most appropriate feeder for your game birds is more critically important than ever before, due to the rising cost of game feed.
How to choose the appropiate feeder
CHOOSING PHEASANT FEEDERS
In the early stages of rearing, many young pheasant chicks are kept in a brooding ring. In these situations is it important to ensure high levels of light so that young chicks can see to feed.
Some people choose to use chick paper in the first few weeks. Chick paper makes a great rustling sound, a good way of helping weak chicks to quickly find food and eat. If you choose not to use chick paper, it is important to use plenty of pheasant feeders, making it easy for young chicks to find food.
Red plastic chick trays are a cheap and popular option for many. The low side allows young birds to hop into the tray and the textured surface gives chicks grip underfoot. Unfortunately though, pheasant chicks are able to dust bath, scratch and mess in the chick trays. This inevitably results in a certain amount of the feed being rejected or wasted.
Alternatively, disposable cardboard chick feeders are a hygienic and labour saving option. Each feeder holds up to 7Kg of chick feed and eliminates the possibility of waste through dusting.
To reduce the number of different feeders that you may need, it is also possible to use just the base tray of the Quill Midi Feeder. The plastic base tray acts just like a normal chick tray, with the advantage of an anti-spill lip. The Quill Midi Feeder was designed to be flexible; just the tray may be used initially and as the pheasants grow, the main feed tube and top tray or top hat can be added.
After the initial few weeks and as the feed consumption of the pheasant chicks rises rapidly, Manola type feeders or Quill Midi Feeders can then be used. By this time, the pheasants will recognise where they can source feed in the pen and so the number of feeders may be temporarily reduced.
The longer that pheasant feeders can be used indoors the better; bedding indoors can easily be changed and disinfected but as soon as outside runs become soiled, disease pressure on pheasant poults will build.
Good quality pheasant feed that is not too dusty should be used at all times. When feeders are used outside, it is important to ensure that they are weatherproof to avoid feed becoming wet and therefore being wasted. Our most popular outdoor pheasant feeders are the Quill Feed Bin Kit and the Outdoor Quill Midi Feeder, both of which were designed using first hand experience rearing game birds. The Quill Feed Bin Kit consists of a plastic 'top hat' and tray that convert a 45 gallon metal drum into a large capacity, weatherproof feeder. The large top hat provides a sheltered area to keep food dry and protect the pheasants when they are feeding. The plastic tray catches the food and provides a clean surface for game birds to feed from. A tyre or similar object can be used to raise the Quill Feed Bin Kit slightly higher if required. The Quill Midi Feeder is a smaller version of the Feed Bin Kit and features a plastic feeding tube, instead of using a metal drum. The Outdoor Quill Midi Feeder is weatherproof, features an anti-spill lip on the feeding tray, holds 2 bags of feed and is easily stackable for transport, movement and storage.
When pheasant poults are transferred to release pens or woods, it is important to provide a generous number of feeders, to ensure that feed can always be found in the unfamiliar environment. Ideally some feeders should be placed around the internal perimeter of the pen, where the pheasants are likely to be walking when lost. If conditions are dry, feed can also be scattered on the floor inside the fence line.
Feeders that are spread around the release pen should be placed in both covered areas, away from predators and in open areas likely to catch the sunshine. This give pheasants the best chance to find plenty of food, in all situations.
Plastic Chick Trays are probably the best feeders to start young ducklings on due to the chicks' messy drinking habits; paper and cardboard feeders can easily get damp and damaged. The chick trays should be placed around the brooder, at the edge of the brooding zone. If placed too close to the brooder, ducklings could become trapped against the plastic trays when lying together in a group to brood.
A peculiar habit that ducklings often have, is the tendency to run around the brooder ring or rearing pen in an anti-clockwise direction. If feeding trays are placed around this edge in the path of the ducklings, they are often encouraged to stop and feed.
After about a week, ducklings can be moved onto larger feeders, such as the Indoor Quill Midi Feeder, as their food intake rapidly increases. It is important not to place the feeders too close to your drinkers; if water is present in the ducks' bills from drinking and then carried back to the feed container, food can become damp which may block the feeder.
Remember to choose a high quality duck feed - Duck starter crumbs and pellets generally have a protein level at around 19-20%, as opposed to partridge and pheasant feed that starts at the high 20s. The quicker that ducklings can be moved from crumbs to pellets, the better as food wastage will almost certainly be reduced.
When the ducks are moved outside to encourage feather growth, the feeders provided must be fully waterproof. Outdoor Quill Midi Feeders or Quill Feed Bin Kits are ideal for this, depending on the size required. If smaller feeders, such as Manola Feeders are used, a larger quantity will be required to meet the increasing demand for food.
Once released onto ponds, feed for the first 24 hours should be easy to find, close to the edge of the pond in the relevant weatherproof feeder. The ducks' feeders should then be moved to at least 10m, to minimise pond water being transferred to the food by the ducks' bills.
Partridge chicks are extremely small but very agile little game birds. Ideally chick paper or open chick trays should be used initially. It is of paramount importance that these small birds take on food quickly after arriving in the brooder ring; this is particularly true if they have travelled a long distance after hatching. Young chicks have a limited time in which to take on food and water before becoming very weak.
The rustling noise of chick paper seems to be an excellent way to attract the partridge chicks' attention to the starter crumbs around them. Rustling noises stimulate their natural instincts as it mimics the noise mother birds make by tapping objects to call the chicks back.
Another, but more unfortunate, natural instinct of partridge is the tendency to brood and huddle very tightly. This increases the possibility of extensive chick losses if they are able to get trapped in feed trays. When huddling on open bedding, a warm chick can wriggle out but this is not possible when crowding occurs on a solid surface such as feed trays.
To avoid such problems, ensure that the chick trays are filled adequately and place outside of the immediate brooding zone.
Partridge chicks should always be started on a super fine chick crumb, high in protein, This is imperative and a simple pheasant crumb should not be used.
Partridge seems to spend a lot of their time dusting and will do so at any opportunity. If the feed trough used is too wide, they will scratch out huge amounts of feed.
After a few weeks, feed should be put into enclosed feeders. Partridges are very susceptible to coccidiosis and so keeping feed clean and mess-free will help to reduce the risk. At this stage it is also important to ensure that your feeders are fitted with good, secure lids. Partridge are renowned for flying around hysterically on mass and it would be very easy for them to become trapped in an open feeder.
Once partridge are released, it is important to continue to provide high quality release pellets. Using an Outdoor Quill Midi Feeder, Quill Feed Bin Kit or other similar feeder will not only keep expensive feed dry, but will also protect the vulnerable partridges from predator attacks, allowing them to feed safely. If you have pheasants and partridges released in the same area, you may want to stop your pheasants from feeding on the more costly partridge pellets. This can be done by surrounding the feeders with pig wire or pen sections, leaving small gaps for your partridge to access the feeder whilst deterring the pheasants.
For any advice or more information on any of our feeders, please get in touch with us at Quill Productions - Tel: 01258 818239
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