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Thread: Alternative/additional feeding for pheasant poults?

  1. #1

    Alternative/additional feeding for pheasant poults?

    Alright folks

    Bit of a strange 1 but i was eventually getting round to flickng throu the pages of the last copy of Modern Gamekeeping (usually never even bother to open them) but there was a bit of an article on a study carried out by the GWCT on pheasant chicks and using alternative feeding feeding meal worms and other things plus some fine seeds etc, basically a more natural diet as well as there stanard pellets and found the chicks/poults feed this way seemed to survive better in the wild and were in better condition in spring for breeding.

    Does anyone know any more info about this? And would feeding meal worms etc to 'normally raised' poults have the same positive effects on them?
    I would off put the researchers name in but left the mag up shoot hut last nite (my version of shoot porn, sad man) just had a look on the GCWT website but couldn't find anything. Althou possibly looking in the wrong place as so much info on there

    Our birds are arriving anytime depending on weather (latest i had them for years and it is great having an extra 2-3 weeks without worrying about the little f**kers) and was just wondering if worth adding meal worms or anything else as well as the normal pellets, i already add a wild bird seed mix into straw rides. Happy to try anything if it improves the birds and esp if will potentially help them breed more succesfully in the long term

    Recently heard of somone putting their chick crumbs on top of streched cling film over an egg tray to get young grey partridge chicks to eat as it makes them move like there alive, seemingly they had no intrest in eating and were straving in first few days. Must admit was confused that chicks never punctured the cling film but i supose are far too small fo that at that stage


  2. #2
    That would be me and my student!

    There are some more data, this time demonstrating improved survival and altered gut morphology following varied feeding, that we are getting ready to publish. We've also been looking at the benefits of adding perching opportunities during early rearing and find that this improves bird survival post release, likely due to increased roosting off the ground. Good to see that someone is taking note of the work. We should definitiely meet up and chat.

    I'm travelling up to Scotland around 28 August if you're about.

  3. #3
    Bloody hell it is a small world Aye should not be too far away if u want a coffee.
    Infact after i typed this thread i had a brain wave and hunted out this years GWCT review and found the report, the name did not click althou knew something was familar with exeter uni

    So i take it u know jist a bit more about it How were u adding the meal worms? Just in a seperate hopper/egg tray? Or mixing in wih pellets in same hopper, althou i would imagine that may not really help the desired result?
    Thought that cling film trick was quite clever, think it was years ago they used it but was only speaking to him at a dog trial recently, think the crumbs bounce about like a drum skin when pecked by other birds so look like alive/moving
    Have heard of the old keepers trick to hang gutted rabbits up in the pens so the maggots drop off and the birds stand below waiting on them, but obviously possibly attracts vermin closer to the pen due to the smell. Never tried it as can't get enough rabbits nowadays

    Do u think just scattering meal worms around the pen would help the poults if they've never seen them before? Or are poults at 6-7 weeks old already too deeply ingrained on just tapping away at hoppers for there feed
    I already add a mix of wheat and expensive game seed mix (split maize,millet quinola, sunflower etc) and tiny bit of pellets in to straw rides. Seems to keep them occupied

    Is there any other top tips for poults to increase there chances later on in life, althou only come Feb, don't want them all surviving or i'll get kicked out/sacked

    Must admit thought it was a long shot posting this on here, just shows wot a varied bunch are on here


  4. #4
    To cut to the chase, missing out all the fascinating science and mechanisms as to how the diet improves survival (increased speed catching novel live prey, more efficient gut digestion, hence shorter foraging time in the open and hence more time spent in cover or watching for predators etc etc), we found that adding a handful of mealworms (<1% of the total diet) and a scoop of mixed seed mixed in with the standard feed from 4 days old significantly increased post release survival, both before and after the shooting season. We decided against the maggot idea to stop fly build up and strike. Simply add the seed in with your normal feed mix, and throw a handful of mealworms in each day onto dishes with normal crumb/pellets on it. We did this for ~1000 birds and it cost around 40 for the season in mealworm costs. You can buy cheaper worms (live, not dead) and they get cheaper in bulk, but they need to be kept in a fridge or they pupate. The seed cost around the same for 3 sacks - nothing special, budget garden bird seed in 25kg sacks from a garden centre. So adding around 8p/bird to rearing costs in total. We hope to publish this in the autumn and I guess GWCT will publicise it then.

    I don't know what effect adding a varied diet would have later in life e.g. 6 weeks. Much gut and brain development has happened by then. To be honest, once they're in the release pen, they'll be encountering live prey anyway. The question is can they catch and eat and digest it?

    Other tips: we added perching branches (we tested both natural hazel boughs and artificial 20mm piping - no difference) to pens from 1 week old. The birds don't use them until around 10 days old, but we found that those raised with perches were more likely to roost off the ground when released (following birds round at night and reading tags with NV gear!) and these too survived significantly better than control groups. THe perches can get in the way a bit if you are accessing the huts, but with some careful thought, this can be minimised. No additional cost to you. Again, this was all done pre-release at 7 weeks.

    The research was funded jointly by GWCT (putting your subscriptions to good use) and Exeter University (academics do something useful and interesting shock).

  5. #5
    I was only dealing with a pen of about 150 poults but I used to shoot rabbits and hang them up in the pen. There used to be a scrum underneath for the maggots which would develop and fall to the ground. It was more for the purpose of keeping the poults occupied - I hadn't thought of it as a way of teaching them to forage more.

  6. #6
    Have no real input to this, but some might find it of interest, when I was a boy my father and most other keepers made their own pheasant food as commercial foods were not really available some fed chicken or turkey crumbs and pellets but right or wrong most said that they lacked in something for pheasants.

    Home made pheasant food , pinhead oat meal, ground hard boiled eggs, minced cooked rabbit, custard powder, ants eggs.

    never mind feeding the birds gathering the ingredients and making the food was just about a full time job.

    It was also believed that young pheasants could not digest wheat when wheat was first introduced it was kibbled when they went on to whole wheat it was soaked.

    After you fed in the morning you soaked the evening feed after feeding in the evening you soaked for the next day

    The wheat was soaked in old cast iron boilers the sort that used to be seen in wash houses, it was then strained through hessian sacking to remove the water and dry off the grain a little.

    All of which has now been proven to be unnecessary, and a hell of a lot of work, the good old days were not always that good.

  7. #7
    We had heard about the rabbit method, but also that many keepers disliked it becasue it could lead to large fly populations which in turn could lead to fly strike on any injured birds. Hence we tried the alternative of mealworms, but I guess that the mechanisms for improving the foraging ability of poults would be similar.

    Our use of seeds to broaden diet is not prompted by the idea that the current commercial foods lack anything. I'm sure that the firms have put in a lot of effort into getting high growth rates etc. But if you only ever eat one thing - crumb or pellets - especially early in life then your gut only develops to process that food type effeciently. By adding variety (seeds and insects) the birds guts develop to be more effective generalist processors and so they can utilise a wider range of food types and get more nutirents out of them. This means they can eat less bulk and get the same nutrient input, and so both reduce time spent in the open foraging (and at risk of predators) and feed in a wider variety of locations. THis may not be a good thing if you are trying to hold birds tight to a hopper, but does mean that they can use your land at lower densities and perhaps with less feeding.

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