Avoid the common pitfalls and get yourself a reliable, quality game bird supplier with this expert advice from Graham Cocker of Quill Productions

Q: How do I choose a game bird supplier?

GRAHAM CROCKER replies: Although the price of the chicks or the poults will be a big factor in your choice, the biggest factor should be the quality of the birds.

If a game farmer is offering birds at a much cheaper rate than anyone else then question why. If they are late in the season then they might not develop as well or as quickly and might not be ready for when you want to shoot.

The biggest mistake I made several years ago was not putting my order in quick enough with my usual supplier who became fully booked. It meant that I had to source my pheasant chicks from a different game farm –one that I thought had questionable biosecurity.

After a few days, the chicks started dying off in scarily high numbers and it turned out they had yolk sac infection. This is caused by bad hygiene in the laying through to the incubation stages. The only way to save the chicks was to pump them full of medication from the vets.

The pheasant chicks that survived turned into poor-quality birds right the way through to shooting. I find that the distance chicks have travelled isn’t a problem because as soon as they arrive I give them an electrolyte combined with vitamin B. The vitamin B mix is essential to ensure that the chicks can utilise the available energy – not having it is like watching damp fireworks that go ‘phut’ rather than ‘whoosh’.

I’ve been in the industry a long time and I know a lot of really good game farmers (and those to avoid) so if anyone wishes to contact me for my own independent and personal view on a particular supplier, then I’m happy to try and help. I can be contacted directly on graham@quillprod.com.