Feeding your poults
Q In the last couple of years I have always lost birds in the first week of release because they fail to find feed. How can I avoid this happening this year?
RITA ALVES of Dalton’s Game Consultancy replies: When pheasant poults are first put into release pens, it is essential that they are able to find feed and water straight away. Moving to a new environment is already stressful enough, so ensuring that their water and feed consumption doesn’t drop is vital.
When birds fail to feed, they tend to eat fibrous vegetable material or seeds, which they are not able to digest, but will fill their gizzards and make them feel full. As a consequence, they may lose weight and be more vulnerable to disease.
In the first week of arrival, feeders should be placed throughout the pen, ideally feeders which birds are familiar with (such as manola feeders). If birds are not familiar with the type of feeders, they require more time to learn to use them and consequently feed less, or might look for other sources of food. If you hand-feed your birds, you should still start them on feeders as they need time to adapt to a different feed strategy. If you aren’t sure how many birds can feed from them, check with the supplier. Usually, one manola feeder is recommended per 100 birds.
A few feeders can also be placed immediately outside the pen in case there are any birds escaping the pen and needing time to learn to use the popholes. Several small feeders are a better option than one large feeder as it will reduce the competition between birds. They are also easier to move around, to avoid fecal droppings building up around them, which can lead to the spread of disease.
Another reason why birds might not be feeding is if they are not drinking. Make sure you have enough drinkers (usually one drinker per 100 birds) well spread throughout the pen and another few outside.