Chukar Partridges are a beautiful and easy game bird to raise. Once bred for recreational hunting, they are often bred now for gourmet restaurants.
They make a great homesteading bird because they are easy to hatch, disease-resistant, mature quickly, and provide delicious eggs and meat. Although they are mild-mannered birds, they are still considered ‘wild’ because they have not been domesticated.
You can hatch chukar partridge eggs in an incubator in about 24 days. After they hatch, they need to stay in a warm, draft-free brooder for about eight weeks. They will grow to maturity by about 16 weeks.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how to hatch and breed chukar partridge eggs. Then, we’ll talk in detail about setting the incubator and moving your chicks to the brooder. But first, let’s dig into why you might want to breed your own chukar partridges.
This short video is from the last time I raised a bunch of Chukar Partridge chicks. I do a very brief look at the hatching and brooding process in this video.
Why Breed Chukar Partridges
Chukar partridges are a popular game bird, similar to quail. You can breed and sell them for recreational hunting or to gourmet restaurants for their meat. Because they are hardy and easy to raise, you might want to raise chukar partridge on your own homestead for their delicious meat and eggs.
How to Breed Chukar Partridges
If you already have some mature chukar partridges, you can begin breeding them. They can be kept in male/female pairs, trios, or even small groups of hens per male chukar. If you have too many males together, they will become aggressive towards each other and over-breed the females. Be prepared to house extra males separately.
Chukar are prolific layers in the spring and summer. You can collect their eggs and store them, point down, in an egg carton for a few days until you are ready to hatch them. Keep the stored eggs in a cool room for up to ten days.
The sooner you hatch them, the higher the hatch rate will be. If you wait too long to put the eggs in the incubator, the eggs’ viability will begin to diminish. When storing, tilt one side of the egg carton up an inch or two and alternate sides each day to keep the air sacs in the eggs from getting stuck to the side of the egg.
Ordering Eggs from a Hatchery
If you don’t have mature chukars to collect eggs from, you can order chukar eggs from most major hatcheries.
When you receive your eggs, unwrap them and allow them to rest, point down, at room temperature for at least 12 hours before setting them in the incubator. Giving the eggs time to rest will help them recover from shipping and give you better hatch rates.
Chukars do not brood well in captivity. Since they probably won’t hatch out their own eggs, you will either need to use a broody hen (such as a bantam or silkie chicken) or hatch your eggs in an incubator. Silkie chickens are the best broody hens for hatching small eggs. However, if you don’t want to use a broody hen, you can hatch your eggs in an incubator.
Setting Up the Incubator
For best results, use an incubator with an automatic egg turner. Place the egg turner in the bottom and fill the incubator’s basin with water.
When possible, you’ll want to use distilled water in your incubator so that you don’t introduce any extra bacteria or germs that could infect the delicate chicks when they hatch. If you don’t have distilled water available, you can use boiled water that has returned to room temperature.
Ideally, you’ll start up your incubator two to three days before you are ready to set your eggs. This will give the incubator settings a chance to level off. If something isn’t right, you can fine tune it before setting the eggs.
Temperature and Humidity
Set the temperature at 100˚ F with a humidity level of about 50%. If you need to, you can add damp sponges to correct the level of humidity in the incubator. It is good to place an additional thermometer and hygrometer inside the incubator to double-check that the temperature and humidity levels are correct.
Once the incubator is set, and the levels are constant, you can add your eggs. Set them point down into the egg turner and close up the incubator. It may take a couple of hours for the temperature and humidity levels to normalize after adding the eggs. Check your incubator a couple times a day for the next few weeks to make sure the humidity and temperature are correct. Add water to the basin as needed.
It takes 23 to 24 days to hatch out your chukar. Therefore, day 20 is considered to be lockdown day. On day 20, decrease the temperature to 98.5˚F and increase the humidity to 65%. Remove the egg turner and place the eggs gently on the wire mesh. Do not open the incubator or turn the eggs after day 20.
Your chicks can live in the incubator for up to 72 hours after hatching. However, do not open the incubator for 48 hours after the first chick has hatched. Doing so will kill the other chicks that are not as far along in the hatching process.
Once the chicks are dry, fluffy, and active, you can begin moving them to the brooder. You may want to continue running the incubator for an additional 48 hours if there are any late hatchers.
Moving Your Baby Chukar to the Brooder
You’ll need to keep a few things in mind when you move your chicks to the brooder, where they’ll stay for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Your baby chukar need to stay in a brooder that is warm and draft-free. In the first week of life, the temperature in the brooder should be about 95˚F. After that, you can decrease this by 5 degrees each week until they are ready to go outside.
You can tell if your chukar are comfortable by how they act. For example, if the chicks are huddled up together in a corner, the chicks are probably too cold. On the other hand, squeezing together can put them at risk of suffocation, so be sure to check on the temperatures in the brooder to make sure they are warm enough.
If they are stretched out on the floor of the brooder, they might be too hot. But, on the other hand, if the chicks are active, eating, and drinking, they are probably very comfortable.
Gamebirds, such as chukar, generally require a high amount of protein in their diet. So you can feed your chukar game bird starter crumbles, which should. Be around 28 to 30% protein for the first nine weeks. After that, you can provide them game bird grower food, at 26%.
Chukar need access to water at all times. Make sure it is clean. Use quail waterers or chick waterers to avoid drowning. You may need to show the chicks where the food and water are, but the rest should follow once one chick figures it out.
If chukar do not have enough space, they may become aggressive and turn to cannibalism. You can prevent this by ensuring the birds have enough food, water, and space in the brooder. You’ll need one square foot of brooder space for every three chicks and at least two square feet of space for every adult bird.
For the first week, you can put paper towels down on the brooder floor to use as bedding. Then, as the bedding becomes soiled, simply put another layer of paper towels down over the top. You’ll probably need to do this once or twice per day.
After a week, the birds should be big enough to stand on the mesh floor of a commercial brooder box.
After your chukar reach about eight weeks of age, you can begin acclimating them to their outdoor housing. Since chukar are not domesticated, they won’t be very likely to return to a coop at night as a chicken does. Instead, consider housing them in commercial chukar or quail cages or keep them in an outdoor aviary with plenty of small shrubs to hide in.
Chukar partridge eggs are small like the eggs of a bantam chicken. For this reason, if you are going to have a chicken hatch your chukar eggs, you should use a bantam chicken such as a silkie or a hen that is even smaller.
Chukar eggs have a similar taste to chicken eggs, but there is less of a sulpher taste and the eggs are a little bit sweeter in flavor.
Any type of fowl can be subject to illness and disease, but chukar are known to be hardy. They are native to dry regions, however, and can get worms if their aviary is too damp.