Are nipple drinkers in release pens worth the cost if you are only running a small shoot? Graham Cocker imparts some pheasant rearing wisdom...

Q: Should I bother using nipple drinkers in release pens? I manage a small shoot and am not sure I can justify the cost.

GRAHAM CROCKER replies: With the reduction of antibiotic use, nipple drinkers are, in my opinion, essential for the modern keeper in release pens. Some people in the industry say the poults can’t get enough water from them, but in my experience this only occurs if the wrong flow rate nipples have been fitted. Look for drinkers that have a high flow rate as this ensures there is a nice blob of water hanging from the nipple so that the pheasants and partridges can easily find it and access the water.

If nipple drinkers aren’t within your budget, and you are planning on using open water drinkers, I would recommend you use an organic acid or water sanitizer at all times. Bell-type drinkers with hoods or guards will only prevent droppings from entering the water, but will not do anything to prevent pathogens passing from one bird to another via their beaks and saliva.