Game Bird Books

Modern Partridge Farming

Modern Partridge Farming Details

A comprehensive book about rearing and releasing partridges in the UK. It is written by one of England's foremost rearers of both Grey and Red-legged partridges and describes breeding pens, egg collection, incubation, and hatching. There are chapters on rearing partridges from day old through to 14 to 16 weeks when they are released into the wild.

This book is also for those people who rear a few pheasants and want to try partridges as well; it describes the rearing field, the pens, shelters, houses, water, food and explains the importance of monitoring the birds through to release. There is also an excellent chapter on partridge diseases by one of England's foremost avian vets, Alan Beynon.

Sample chapter


The English Partridge

Perdix perdix, sometimes Perdix cinerea.

The English partridge is sometimes called the Common or Grey partridge.

It is non-migratory.

These birds are found mainly on farmed land, especially on light soils and

arable land where they frequent the rough ground bordering cultivation. In

coastal areas, they like to feed on the shoreline. They avoid heavy clay soils,

which crack in hot summers and would cause the loss of many chicks down

the crevices. English partridges are not as widespread as 50 years ago, due

to intensive cultivation, hedge removal, and above all the use of chemical

sprays which is an ongoing problem. They are found on large estates and

keepered farms (where people are aware of the partridges’ needs) in the

South of England, East Anglia, parts of the Midlands, and scattered areas

across the rest of the British Isles.

Partridges are a prey species and their presence shows a good equilibrium

between prey and predator, a healthy sign of balance in the countryside.

They are easily recognizable, being smallish round birds, weighing about

350gms, with orange-brown heads, greyish underparts, chestnut barred

flanks, and grey legs. The two sexes look alike from a distance, but in fact,

the crown on the cock bird is brown, with the rest of the head and neck red;

the hen bird just has a brown head. The cock bird also has a bold brown

horseshoe on his chest which can be seen on hen birds as well although to a

lesser extent. The horseshoe markings vary according to the age of the bird and

the season. Cock birds have no spurs and are more upright in appearance

than females.

English partridges have the largest vocabulary of all game birds, as they

cluck, chatter, hiss, bill snap and use a guttural note of alarm “br-r-r-r”. The

most common call is a loud, hoarse, “karwit, karwit” or “kirr-ie, kirr-ie”.

They are found in coveys, small groups, or pairs, but rarely singly except

during the breeding season. They pair up before French partridges, and this

can be any time from the end of November through to February. They are

great fighters over territory and can be seen in springtime running to and

fro, engaged in furious battles, quite oblivious to the passing danger. They will

nest in fields of corn or grass and on roadsides but prefer sunny banks out

of the prevailing wind that catches the early morning sun; in the old days when


fields were much smaller than today, it was fairly easy for an experienced

eye to spot a nest. There is normally a run through the grass, similar to a

rabbit run but not so marked, and this will lead to a shallow scrape in the

ground and an exit run. The hen bird does like some light cover overhead.

The eggs are olive/khaki/brown in color, normally about 10 to 14; this

will vary if a hen bird has lost a nest and is laying for the second time when

it could be as few as 8 eggs. There are records of more than 16 eggs in a

nest, but this is due to a second hen laying in the same place.

The cock bird plays little part in the incubation of the eggs which takes

23 to 24 days. Once the chicks hatch both birds are very attentive: the hen

will do the broken wing act to draw away a person, a dog, or a fox from the

brood. The young will flutter at 10-11 days, fly a little at 16 days, and at 3

weeks will fly quite well. Later, when they are disturbed, they will burst into

the air, shouting, and with a series of quick wing beats followed by a glide,

will be away. They do tend to know where they are going and how to keep

safe, much to the chagrin of the hunter. At some times of the year, particularly

late summer, it is almost possible to step on a covey accidentally as they will

sit so tight that they are nearly invisible. They are ground birds, preferring

to walk or run rather than fly to cover. They love to dust bath.

Food is varied depending on the season. It can be as high as 60% vegetable

matter – weed seeds, cereals, buckwheat, clover, grasses, sugar beet, brassicas

etc, and 40% animal foods which include earthworms, slugs, beetles, ants,

spiders, snails, etc.

English partridges do not perch, although there have been rare sightings of

this. At night time they roost or ‘jug’ close together on open ground well

away from hedges and cover, lying in a rough circle or arc, heads turned

outwards. If disturbed, they will scatter in all directions, thus foiling the

intruder as well as avoiding collision among themselves. Evidence of this is

quite easy to see when the ground is frosty. They were frequently poached

at night because they sat so tight.

Mutations in color are rare but do occur in English partridges. Albino birds

are seen from time to time, and a covey of black partridges was spotted in

Warwickshire near the village of Barton in 1970.

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Modern Partridge Farming

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