This past week I was able to help install one of many guzzlers that are being placed to help the local chukar populations. It was a fun project with a great bunch of guys who all volunteered their time. This guzzler was funded in part by the Utah Chukar and Wildlife Foundation that does a lot to improve habitat for Chukar Partridge in Utah. The guzzlers are placed in key locations to gather rainfall and store it in an underground tank so the birds will have access to water during dry spells. The tank has a small opening on one side with a ramp leading down into the water. We are hoping to see improved chukar numbers as a result of these efforts. Barbed wire is placed on the perimeter to keep cattle and big game from using the sites. The sites are so remote that a helicopter had to air drop the building materials.
I love to see these guys watching out for the safety of the covey. Reminds me of how it takes good neighbors and friends to help raise your kids and keep an eye on them. This little covey of valley quail has been living and multiplying on the farm property where I guide pheasant hunters. We don’t hunt them but we love to have them around. For nearly a decade this covey has been growing and propagating successfully in the river bottoms and foothills near the pheasant farm.
We have updated our recall pen and built a new updated model. This one is a little taller to accommodate a 5 gallon water fount and feeder to make maintenance a little easier. We used 6-7 2X4 studs and ripped them down to nice straight 2×2′s. Also, this new design uses only one sheet of 1/2″ plywood due to the smaller shelter in the back. The new shelter is only 18-24 inches wide and has a platform for roosting. They seem to like this better.
These valley quail chicks hatched out today from some eggs I got from Travis Proctor in Nephi, UT. It was fun to visit his gamebird farm and see his small quail and chukar operation. I also got some french red leg partridge eggs from him but the hatch was not as good as the valley quail. The next day I had a dozen bobwhite quail chicks hatch from some of my breeder that I got from Travis last summer. If you are in Utah and need some birds or chicks for dog training give Travis a call. Email me for his phone number or you can check out his page on the game bird breeders directory.
Got around a thousand day old pheasant chicks this month to raise for the fall hunting season.
Also had a hundred or so chickens hatch out in my incubator today.
On the morning of the 23rd day in the incubator the first chicks began to hatch out. After another 24 hours there were 460 chicks that hatched out of 800 eggs set. I was a little disappointed in the hatch rate and I am pretty sure it was low because of the shipping problem from Cumberland Gamebirds. The eggs were supposed to arrive on Thursday or Friday and were delayed in arriving until the following Monday. The additional 3 days in the box combined with the cold weather and sitting in a cold truck over the weekend didn’t help matters.
The chicks seem to be adjusting well under the heat lamps and are eating a custom feed that we ground up for them in the wheat grinder. The feed is medicated to help fight off disease and illness. For the first week they are drinking sugar water from my nipple drinkers.
I got my shipment of 800 quail eggs yesterday from cumberland gamebirds. I was a little disappointed because they were supposed to arrive on Friday which means they sat in a cold truck somewhere over the weekend. I am hoping the hatch will turn out okay. I am using the old GQF Sportsman 1202 incubator with the updated float and humidity pan. My friend came over to help set the eggs since he knows a lot about raising birds. After a little tweaking into the evening I got the temperature and humidity stabilized at 99.5 degrees and 51% relative humidity. I am anxious to try this strain of bobwhite quail called Georgia Giants. They are supposed to be nearly twice the size of normal bobwhite and stronger flyers.
Now I need to get my plans together for building a better flight pen. I have read that it is important to keep the birds isolated as much as possible to keep them wild. One online quail farmer even suggested feeding the birds at night with the use of a headlamp. I have been looking at some very cool quail pen designs like this one at quail ranch ok or this one from Mississippi State University extension service. One of the nicest quail pens I have found is at Fozzies Game Birds in Indiana. I like their sight barriers and their innovative waterer.
We ended up with 52 chicks hatched out of 80 eggs set in the incubator. On day 29 we cracked the remaining eggs and here is what we found. 3 eggs began to hatch but were too weak to finish, they died in the shell from general weakness. 14 eggs had somewhat developed embryos that did not grow to full term for one reason or another. 11 of the pheasant eggs had yolks and were infertile. I felt pretty good about the results of our first try hatching pheasant eggs with an incubator.
The birds are one week old now and are settling into a routine. We lost 4 chicks on day 2 but haven’t lost any since. They are eating well and staying nice and toasty in my insulated shop. I like to use paper plates for feeders for the first week or two so they have plenty of eating opportunities. After that we switch to the small trough-style feeders. For water I am just using the simple quart jar waterers. With such a small batch I didn’t want to set up the big brooder rooms with nipple waterers and the whole nine yards. There are 63 more eggs in the incubator but I doubt we will have great numbers since we are so late in the season. The roosters seemed to lose interest towards the middle of July.
Today when I was checking the birds in the flight pens I noticed this old Mutant Hen sitting pretty tight in the weeds. I thought it was odd that she was holding so tight while the other younger birds scattered as I approached. This hen is a hold-over from last years hunting stock. I gathered most of them up and put them in a breeder pen, but opted to leave the mutants out of the mix.
Upon further inspection I found the reason why she was holding so tight. She was sitting on a nest full of her own eggs. I got in for a closer look and felt that the eggs were quite warm to the touch. The nest site was in some heavy weeds that were over 3 feet tall. You can see the stalks are bare where the pheasants have been grazing as high as they could reach.
I was thrilled to hear a little peep while I was down on my hands and knees inspecting the nesting site. I had heard that sometimes hens will actually set on their nest with enough commitment to get a hatch. Most of the time though, these captive birds just lay their eggs and never come back to them. This mutant hen obviously was doing a great job. I found this little chick a few feet from the nest, and then the mutant chick about 20 feet further in the weeds.
My daughter Hannah helped me gather them up and take them back home to the brooder where we are caring for some pheasant chicks that are about the same age. Before throwing them in with the rest of the chicks I marked their legs so I could keep track of their progress. I always wondered if mother nature did it better. We’ll see if they turn out to be stronger or healthier than the chicks that I hatched out.
Today marks day 23 on my incubator calendar. I went out this morning to check on the eggs and noticed a few with small crack forming on the tops of the shells. Out of about 80 eggs I only noticed about 25 that were starting to crack. I went about my chores and did some weeding around the garden.
I came back two hours later and couldn’t see any change. I was getting ready to go to work when I heard a bird cheaping. I opened my GQF 1202 incubator and way in the very back row there was this guys busting out early. He is the guy in the video, my early bird pheasant chick.
I came home a few hours later during lunch and there was a second bird out of his shell. I moved them both into the hatcher where they could dry off and get some fresh food and mostly rest. When I went to bed there was some progress but no more hatches.