Worth reporting the successful arrival of five partridge chicks. As an indication of how this brood has worked out, I started with twenty four eggs. Six were discarded after a week in the incubator showed that they were either clear or had developed blood streaks – a sign of early chick death. Eighteen then proceeded to full term under the broody hen, but only six hatched and one died almost immediately.
These are pretty poor odds, but they vindicate the breeder and confirm how fragile partridge eggs are in the postal system. These eggs came from East Yorkshire, and while there were no visible signs of damage to the shells, they must have been bumped or knocked during transit and the air sacs became detached. Serious damage prevents any development altogether, but light damage can allow the chick to develop perfectly to full term before fatally restricting the hatching process. The unborn birds pip their shells and peep heartily, but ultimately they wither and die without ever seeing daylight. Previous attempts to “rescue” these chicks by carefully opening the shell has never really been worthwhile – small birds like partridges and quail exist on a knife-edge in their early days, and I’ve never had much success with “going in there after them”. It’s a delicate operation which can end up drawing blood and usually leads to death.
So without dwelling on the 75% which didn’t make it into the world on Monday morning, I can report that the surviving birds are hale and hearty – it has been an underwhelming return to partridge breeding for me, but vastly rewarding to see them nodding off happily beneath a powerful glare of Galloway sunshine.