It has now been several weeks since my first partridge egg. I have ten clutches either hatched or due to hatch and was finally beginning to feel a little exhausted by it all when I found that one pair had finally stopped laying. A hint of relief crossed my mind, and I imagined that the others would soon start to peter out and stop altogether.
Two weeks later, I realised that it was not going to be as easy as that. The other birds continued to lay without a pause, and I began to worry that something was wrong with the pair that had stopped laying. Their pen is not so complex as to allow for the concealment of anything more than a couple of eggs, and depending on where you stand, you can see more or less under the entire shelter without even having to enter the pen.
Going inside to top up their feed this evening, the thought occurred to me that there might be an egg or two under the drinker platform which lies at the far end of the pen and allows the cock to stand up and keep tabs on the garden. Although I wouldn’t have believed it a few months ago, my heart sank to find a neat nest containing nineteen more eggs. I see no sign that she was about to go broody or sit on the eggs, so I have replaced them with plastic dummies and started the real eggs in the incubator. If she does go down, I’ll try her with some real eggs but I won’t hold my breath.
Breeding partridges is hugely enjoyable, and there is a real satisfaction in seeing a job through from season to season. I knew that grey partridges were extremely fecund little birds, but this is starting to go well beyond everything I expected. Four pairs have produced almost 140 eggs, and I have just been out to find another two lying in the darkness.