Now that the eggs are in the incubator and the first bantam is starting to show some evidence of turning broody, my partridge project seems to be coming together nicely. I don’t know a great deal about grey partridges, so this area of my work on the Chayne is something of a new voyage of discovery for me.
I was passing by the home of a gamekeeper friend on my way back from work this evening and had a few minutes to spare, so I decided to drop in and pick his brain on the subject of partridges. I didn’t realise as I pulled up at his cottage that he would actually have a few grey partridge chicks in his brooder houses, and I was soon crouched down by the cardboard chick rings, peering at the little stripey bumble bees as they raced in and out from the shelter of their electric hen. In amongst the greys were a small handful of red-legs, and it presented an interesting opportunity to compare the two at such an early age. My ‘keeper friend explained that he mixes a handful of red-legged partridges in with each batch of greys because the sprightly little foreign birds are good at showing their English counterparts how to get by, particularly if they are slightly older. He demonstrated his logic by rattling one of the water filled nipples beneath a hanging bucket. Immediately, the handful of red leg chicks responded by dashing towards the sound, while the mass of greys circulated blandly without seeming to recognise it.
It seems that slightly older red legs are quick enough on the uptake to pass on some handy hints, and it makes sense to mix them in this way. I have heard of the same done for quail in America, and that seems to do the trick. This is not particularly relevant to me this year, since, barring disaster, my birds will be reared by bantams, but it goes to show just what a complex science I’m dabbling in, and just how much more there is to gamekeeping than the popular perception.