Managing Game Birds (E0692)
October 26, 2015 - Author: C. J. Flegal
The wild game bird population in Michigan declined seriously during the 1950s and ‘60s. Pheasants used to be abundant in the lower half of the Lower Peninsula. Currently, pheasant restoration is vigorously being attempted, primarily by the introduction of a new strain of common pheasant from China. Early indications on this project are guardedly optimistic. The bobwhite quail was placed in the songbird (protected) category in hopes that it would be able to continue to survive as a wild bird. Some selected areas of Michigan have had a hunting season for quail.
The purpose of this bulletin is to assist people interested in raising game birds. Most of the information is related to pheasant production. However, the same information, or at least the same principles, can be used in producing chukars (partridges), grouse, wild turkeys, bobwhite quail, ducks, geese, etc.
There are many reasons for propagating game birds. Some fanciers keep birds as pets, or to study the unusual feather patterns, for a “back to nature” feeling or for some other reason.
Other growers produce birds for the meat market. A limited market for game birds exists in the hotel and restaurant business. A grower should investigate market potential before deciding to invest much time and effort in a game bird meat production enterprise.
Still other growers raise birds for release to the wild. In some states, local conservation clubs financially assist young people who raise pheasants for release. Some game bird producers sell to shooting preserves. Shooting preserves are becoming more plentiful as private hunting lands become scarcer, some kinds of game decrease in some localities and urban dwellers have more leisure time.
The shooting preserve operator usually releases birds each day for hunting. This is basically “put and take” because released birds must be harvested in a day or two. If they’re not harvested within two days, they usually escape from the release area or fail to survive in the wild.
Michigan residents interested in raising game birds as a business should contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Game Division, Lansing, Michigan 48926. The state agency will provide a list of licensed Michigan game breeders from whom eggs and/or birds might be purchased.
Whether a game bird fancier selects fertile eggs, hatched chicks or mature breeding stock, it is important to buy with care. The beginner interested in raising only a few chicks might well buy 4- to 5-week-old birds rather than invest in expensive incubation and brooding equipment.
The source of breeder birds should be carefully considered:
- Does the game farm have a good reputation?
- Are the birds disease free?
- What are the details of management and nutrition of the parent flock?
- Do records of numbers of eggs laid and hatched indicate the breeders are prolific?
- Do a high percentage of chicks hatched live to adult size for breeding or release?
- Are the birds true to type for the particular breed or variety?
- Are birds suitable for release on shooting preserves — i.e., fully feathered with long tails and untrimmed beaks?