Game Birds are a practical and entertaining way to keep poultry for eggs and meat. Chickens are great, but sometimes it’s good to have some variety. Game birds are typically hardy species and can possibly have large returns if you plan to sell or trade them in the future.
The first step in keeping game birds is to select the species you would like to keep; here’s a quick run down on the species that are typically ok to keep at home:
- Pheasant typically provide two to three pounds of meat when mature and lay eggs at about 7 months; they are also a good provider of long feathers.
- Bobwhite quail are great layers and mature for meat, particularly breast meat at about 18 months.
- Guinea Fowl are versatile and can be prepared like any other game bird, but they are loud and may need a little more space for perching.
- Coturnix or Japanese Quail are small but plump, good layers and ready to eat in less than a year; they have a familiar and pleasant call too.
- The Chukar Partridge like warm weather and are mature in 2 years or so and should be kept in smaller pens.
Game birds will adapt best if kept from hatchlings into adulthood. They will become more comfortable with you and their surroundings and produce more if you get them before they start maturing. Game hatchlings can be ordered eFowl, and shipped directly to you!
There are a couple types of housing for wild game birds. Most people start hatchlings in off ground pens in order to protect their stock from predators. Most birds are slaughtered or culled after this stage of housing but some will remove birds from here and place them in a larger ground pen to be kept as brood stock. Off-Ground pens should have a good roof that prevents constant sunlight or rainfall from harming the birds and feed. The legs of the stands should have at least 4×4” diameter legs and if possible those should be posted into the ground.
Ground Pens are common for larger adult stock due to their larger size but must be partitioned, especially for pheasant since they may be cannibalistic. Ground pens should have a pit layer with poultry wire as to protect from raccoons and cats. Some areas should have some rock for good drainage and some should have sand for the birds to rest. Small areas of cover like tires or crates will provide the birds with additional shelter for laying. Rake the pens daily and be sure to lock the main door or gate to protect from HUMAN predators. Poultry are typical an easy keep and provide some sort of return no matter what, enjoy!