We have been raising Hungarian Partridges since the 1990s, and they continue to be a popular choice for MacFarlane Pheasants' customers. We buy Hungarian Partridge eggs from France and hatch them in our hatchery. We generally raise about 50,000 of these beautiful birds each year at MacFarlane Pheasants.
The Hungarian Partridge is also known as a gray partridge, an English Partridge, and are often just called Huns. They are a small bird with a short neck and tail. Juvenile Huns are pale brown with some darker streaks. Mature birds develop a dark reddish patch on the belly, a brown back, and chest, and have chestnut coloring on the flanks. They also develop a reddish hue on the face and throat.
Raising Hungarian Partridges is more challenging than raising pheasants because they are a much smaller bird. A baby chick is about the size of a quarter! Full-grown Huns weigh about one pound and are about 12 inches long.
Once our Hun eggs hatch, we raise them on a table for the first week because they are so tiny. Then we move them to the A room where they spend the next few weeks, rapidly growing until it is time to be bitted and moved to the B room. They stay in the B room until they are big enough to be moved outside at 6-8 weeks. The Hungarian Partridge is mature at 20 weeks.
The tables where chicks are first placed after hatching are covered with wire mesh and plastic siding, and we have between 250 and 300 chicks on each table. We have an electric brooder over each table to keep the chicks warm. By day two, the chicks have doubled in size! We start on day three with small feeders on each table and mason jar waterers. The feed is ground very fine, almost like powder. The feed is kept very fine for about 12 days. Every couple of days, we change the type of waterers we use. We transition from the mason jar waterers to one-gallon waterers before they are moved into Room A. In Room A, we switch out the drinkers every morning, and water is topped off every afternoon and night. We make the feed slightly coarser at around days 12-18. The Huns are moved to room B at about four weeks, and on day 18 the Huns begin eating a fine crumbled food.
Since Huns are flightier birds, we keep their lights lower in the barns and always walk the barns in the same direction, so they don't get spooked and fly, all the time. We take these precautions to avoid stressing them because stress can affect mortality.
Sometimes Huns pick at each other to establish a pecking order. But most of the time, picking is due to stress, from not getting enough feed, or water, or maybe not having enough space in the pen. Overcrowding birds is a significant reason for picking. We make sure our Huns do not get stressed by giving them constant attention and following basic procedures.
Molting is another attribute of Huns. Molting happens when a bird loses its old feathers to make way for new feathers to grow. It happens naturally and it can also happen due to stressors, like picking. But Huns, unlike pheasants, will sometimes go through a winter plumage molt, naturally, when they are 5 months old.
You can't do anything about natural molting. You can check and make sure it's not stress-related by checking all causes of stress. But, for the most part, we just let it run its course and watch as the molting ends and their beautiful feathers grow to maturity. Years of practice in raising the Hungarian Partridges have helped us to raise the finest Huns available.