The Hatch (at last)

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Basking in the sun

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.

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One thought on “The Hatch (at last)

  1. For some reason I like your partridge posts best of all, having done it myself with minimal success. I wish your famous five all the best, and look forward to hearing about their progress in due course. I remember my father’s old gamekeeper back in the early sixties, helping out hundreds of of pheasant chicks that were three quarter hatched already but he never bothered with those pipping but not making further progress. We had three still air parrafin ‘atcherbators as he used to call them, and two great big American electric commercial Incubators which did most of the incubation work before on the 18th day pre- pipping eggs were transferred to the still air to hatch, he said they hatched them off better. If I remember correctly we were the first shoot in Sussex to use artificial rearing methods, back in the day.

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